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[352] of General Bartlett's brigade to support it. I, therefore, sent the following dispatch to General Webb, at 6.30 P. M., which explained what I did:

I have ordered General Pearson, with three regiments that are now on the Plank-road, right down toward Dinwiddie C. H. I will let Bartlett work and report result, as it is too late to stop him.

It was then nearly dark.

Having previously reconnoitred the enemy's breastworks on the White Oak Road, I added the following, concerning them, to my dispatch of 6.30 P. M.:

We can see the enemy's breastworks for two miles east along the White Oak Road. If they are well manned they cannot be carried. I am within two hundred yards of where they turn off northward from the White Oak Road.

I then gave directions to secure the position we had gained by intrenching, and proceeded, with my staff, back about two miles to the Boydton Plank-road, at which place I could communicate by telegraph with General Meade during the night. General Meade's headquarters were distant four and a half miles, being near where the Vaughan Road crosses Hatcher's Run. General Grant's were near Dabney's Mill, about four miles from me. General Sheridan's at Dinwiddie C. H., distant five and a half miles, and separated from me by a stream not fordable for infantry where it crossed the Boydton Plank-road, and the bridge was broken down. General Grant and General Meade were about ten miles from General Sheridan.

At eight P. M., I received the following dispatch from General Meade, written 7.30 P. M.:

Dispatch from General Sheridan says he was forced back to Dinwiddie C. H. by a strong force of cavalry supported by infantry. This leaves your rear and that of the Second corps on Boydton Plank-road open, and will require great vigilance on your part. If you have sent the brigade down the Boydton Plank-road, it should not go farther than Gravelly Run, as I don't think it will render any service but to protect your rear.

General Pearson had been compelled to stop at Gravelly Run on account of the swollen stream and broken bridge.

At 8.20 P. M., I wrote to General Webb:

I sent General Bartlett out on the road running from the White Oak Road and left him there. He is nearly down to the crossing of Gravelly Run. This will prevent the enemy communicating by that road to night. I have about two regiments and the artillery to hold the Plank-road toward Dinwiddie C. H. It seems to me the enemy cannot remain between me and Dinwiddie C. H. if Sheridan keeps fighting them, and I believe they will have to fall back to the Five Forks. If I have to move to-night I shall leave a good many men who have lost their way. Does General Sheridan still hold Dinwiddie C. H.?

At 8.40 P. M., I received, by telegraph, the following, marked confidential, from General Webb:

The probability is that we will have to contract our lines to-night. You will be required to hold, if possible, the Boydton Plank-road and to Gravelly RunHumphreys and Ord along the Run. Be prepared to do this at short notice.

I regretted exceedingly to see this step foreshadowed, for I feared it would have the “morale” of giving a failure to our whole movement, as similar orders had done on previous occasions. It would, besides, relieve the enemy in front of General Sheridan from the threatening attitude which my position gave me, and I therefore sent the following, by telegraph, at 8.40 P. M., to General Webb:

The line along the Plank-road is very strong. One division, with my artillery, I think, can hold it, if we are not threatened south of Gravelly Run, east of the Plank-road. General Humphreys and my batteries, I think, could hold this securely, and let me move down and attack the enemy at Dinwiddie C. H. on one side, and Sheridan on the other. On account of Bartlett's position they (the enemy) will have to make a considerable detour to reinforce their troops at that point from the north. Unless General Sheridan has been too badly handled, I think we have a chance for an open field fight that should be made use of.

My object was not effected at once, for at 9.17 P. M. I received the following, by telegraph, written by General Webb at 9 P. M.:

You will, by the direction of the Major-General commanding, draw back at once to your position within the Boydton Plank-road. Send a division down to Dinwiddie C. H., to report to General Sheridan. This division will go down the Boydton Plank-road. Send Griffin's division. General Humphreys will hold to Mrs. Butler's.

Whereupon I issued the following order to my command, which was sent out 9.35 P. M.:

I. General Ayres will immediately withdraw his division back to where it was massed yesterday, near the Boydton Plank-road.

II. General Crawford will follow General Ayres, and mass his troops behind the intrenchments near Mrs. Butler's.

III. General Griffin will immediately withdraw General Bartlett to his present position, then move back to the Plank-road and down it to Dinwiddie C. H., and report to General Sheridan.

IV. Captain Horrell, with his escort, will remain where General Griffin's headquarters now are till daybreak, and then come back to the Plank-road, bringing in all stragglers.

V. Division commanders, in executing this movement, which is ordered by Genaral Meade, will take care to see that none of their pickets, or any portion of the troops, are left behind.

General Ayres and General Crawford will have their troops under arms at daybreak, and the Chief of Artillery will have all the batteries in readiness to move.

At 9.50 P. M., I received, by telegraph, the following from General Webb, written 9.20 P. M.:

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