with me. I had had no direct official relations with him. My instructions all came through General Meade, and to him all my reports were made. If General Grant had ever expressed himself displeased with me to General Meade, the latter had kept it from me; and he ever showed, by intrusting to me the advance of the army on many vital occasions, and often by sending me on detached expeditions, the highest confidence in me, and this is well known. I shall further reply to the imputations of General Sheridan while giving the narration of the events to which they relate, which narration, I hope, will possess an interest of its own, independent of its defence of me.
Narrative.In order to introduce the battle of Five Forks intelligently, I will first describe the previous operations of March twenty-ninth, thirtieth, and thirty-first, and shall do so but briefly, in order to confine attention particularly to the first of April and the orders of the night before. My command, on March twenty-ninth, consisted of General Crawford's division, five thousand two hundred and fifty strong; General Griffin's division, six thousand one hundred and eighty strong; and General Ayres' division, three thousand nine hundred and eighty strong. I took with me, as directed, only five four-gun batteries, under General Wainwright. I had no cavalry, except an escort of forty men, under Captain Horrell. All the cavalry of the army, except headquarter escorts, was with General Sheridan, whose operations were to be so distinct from mine that I was ordered to act entirely independent of any protection he could give my flanks. My position throughout was on the left flank of the infantry and artillery, army of General Meade. To facilitate the understanding of the subject, I have added to my narrative a reliable map, on a scale of one mile to an inch. The region represented is of the character common in Virginia, level, much covered with thick and tangled woods, and well watered by numerous small, swampy streams. The soil was clayey or sandy, which, when commingled in wet places, partakes of the nature of “quick-sand,” and where, up-heaved by the winter frosts that now had left it, presented little less support to wheels or hoofs than would a bank of snow. I enumerate here the officers of my staff, not merely because it is due to them whenever the operations of the Fifth army corps are considered, but also to point out those to whom any one can specially refer for the correctness of what I write. This staff has probably had as much experience in the actual warfare as any other that could be named. It consisted of Colonel H. C. Bankhead, Inspector-General, and Major Wm. T. Gentry, Commissary of Musters, both graduates of the United States Military Academy; of Colonel F. T. Locke, Adjutant-General, which position he had held from the organization of the corps, in May, 1862; of Colonel A. L. Thomas, Chief Quartermaster; of Colonel D. L. Smith, Chief Commissary of Subsistence; of Colonel T. R. Spencer, Medical Director; of Dr. Chas. K. Winne, Medical Inspector; of Captain Malvern, Chief Ambulance Officer; and of Captain G. B. Halstead, Assistant Adjutant-General. To these, for the time, was added Captain Wm. H. H. Benyaurd, of the Regular Engineers, detached from General Meade's staff to accompany me, and who gave me most important assistance, as also did Major Van Bokkelen, of the Volunteer Engineer Brigade, who joined us with a light canvas pontoon train. My personal aides-de-camp were Major E. B. Cope, a most valuable topographical officer; Captain James S. Wadsworth, son of the lamented General James S. Wadsworth; and Captain Gordon Winslow, son of the like lamented Rev. Gordon Winslow.
Battle of Quaker road.We left our camp, in rear of the lines at Petersburg, at three A. M., on March twenty-ninth. We moved south, across Rowanty Creek, below the junction of Gravelly and Hatcher's Runs, took the road thence to Dinwiddie Court House, as far as the Quaker Road, then turned up this latter, and crossed Gravelly Run. A sharp engagement took place between a division of the enemy and my advance, consisting of General Griffin's division, at the Old Saw-Mill site, in which General Griffin drove the enemy back to the junction of the Quaker Road and Boydton Plank-road, inflicting upon them a severe loss, and losing himself three hundred and sixty-seven killed and wounded. It commenced raining in the night, and continued to rain heavily all day on the thirtieth. During this day, General Griffin's line was advanced, with heavy skirmishing up the Boydton Plank-road, so as to confine the enemy, near Burgess' Mill, to his breastworks along the White Oak Road. A reconnoissance by General Ayres' division was also made, as far west as where the enemy's line along the White Oak Road turned northward to Hatcher's Run, and our picket line was established near the White Oak Road. Finding, on personal examination, that, though we could see the road, our pickets did not occupy it, I directed this occupation to be made that evening.
Battle of White Oak Ridge.Toward daylight on March 31, General Griffin's division was relieved by a portion of the Second army corps. At 7.35 A. M., in answer to a dispatch of General Webb, requesting to be informed of the location of my troops, I sent the following:
General Griffin's troops will be massed near Mrs. Butler's; General Ayres' near S. Dabney's; General Crawford's about half-way between. They are along a wood-road running from near Mrs. Butler's to W. Dabney's, on the White Oak Road. It is not practicable now for wheels, and there is a very difficult branch of Gravelly Run