I was placed in to countermand those orders before the officers sent out with the first one returned. But to resume the narration. After I had sent the order last quoted, I informed General Meade what I had done, as follows:
I issued my orders on General Webb's first dispatch, to fall back, which made the divisions retire in the order they could most readily move, viz.: Ayres, Crawford, and Griffin. I cannot change them to-night without producing confusion that will render all my operations nugatory. I will now send General Ayres to General Sheridan, and take General Griffin and General Crawford to move against the enemy, as this last dispatch directs I should. Otherwise I cannot accomplish the apparent objects of the orders I have received.I proceeded to make the necessary orders and arrangements to move with the two divisions as soon as I could. The movement had to be made without artillery, or ambulances, or ammunition wagons, and instructions had to be given, in the two latter cases, for special provisions. The Chief of Artillery had to be informed, and relations established between him and General Humphreys, commanding the Second corps, whose troops were required to take my place along the Plank-road. At twenty minutes past twelve, I received the following from General Humphreys:
I am directed to resume my position of this morning, &c., &c. At what time do you propose to move? I propose to move simultaneously with you.To this I sent the following reply:
I have just received your dispatch, by Captain Wistar. Under the order to withdraw at once (viz., that received at 9.17 P. M.), I thought we each could do so individually under cover of darkness, and so ordered. I have since received orders to attack the enemy with two divisions, sending one down the Plank-road to report to General Sheridan. My artillery, five four-gun batteries, under General Wainwright, will remain on the line of the Plank-road. I think the enemy that drove General Sheridan must withdraw to-night. I had a brigade on the north road from J. Boiseau's. I have now orders to move against the force that attacked Sheridan, and shall send all I have to move there or wherever the firing of battle near us may indicate.At one A. M., I received reports from my officers who had returned from carrying my order of eleven P. M., and learned the position of Generals Crawford and Griffin. At this time I received the following dispatch from General Meade, written by him at 11.45 P. M.:
A dispatch, partially transmitted, is received, indicating the bridge over Gravelly Run is destroyed, and time will be required to rebuild it. If this is the case, would not time be gained by sending the troops by the Quaker Road? Time is of the utmost importance. Sheridan cannot maintain himself at Dinwiddie without reinforcements, and yours are the only ones that can be sent. Use every exertion to get troops to him as soon as possible. If necessary, send troops by both roads, and give up the rear attack. If Sheridan is not reinforced, and compelled to fall back, he will retire by the Vaughan Road.On receiving this dispatch, showing so much solicitude for General Sheridan's position, and the necessity of reinforcing him directly, even if I had to countermand the previous order, and forego entirely the rear attack, and which, also, left the question for me to determine, I felt much anxiety about what to do. The night was far advanced. The distance to Dinwiddie C. H. by the Quaker Road, from the location of my troops, was over ten miles. It was impossible for them to reach there by that road before eight A. M. By that time they could be of no use in holding Dinwiddie C. H. In this case, the most direct route for the rear attack would be down the Plank-road, where General Ayres was marching. This attack, too, would be then the most effective, as the whole corps would be together in making it, and all in communication with headquarters of General Grant, and through him with General Sheridan, which might be of great importance. If General Sheridan retired by the Vaughan Road, too, the rear and right flank of General Humphreys would be left exposed, as stated in General Meade's dispatch, received by me at eight P. M. (already given here). Finally, to send a division around by the Quaker Road was to break my command up in three pieces, and, if it had been done, it is doubtful if the success of the first of April would have been gained, as the men thus sent would have been too exhausted to reach the Five Forks that day. I therefore determined that it was best to abide the movements already begun, and keep the two divisions, Griffin's and Crawford's, where. they were, till I could hear that General Ayres certainly had reinforced General Sheridan. The men of the two divisions were gaining, while waiting this result, a little of that rest they stood so much in need of, on this their fourth-night of almost continual deprivation of it, and we had but a short distance to move before reaching the enemy, near J. Boiseau's. Having determined this, at one P. M. I wrote the following dispatch to General Meade:
I think we will have an infantry bridge over Gravelly Run sooner than I could send troops around by the Quaker Road. But if I find any failure, I will send that way. I have sent Captain Benyaurd (two hours ago) with what he thought was necessary to make it practicable in one hour, and trust to that. I am sending to General Sheridan my most available force.At 2.5 A. M., I learned the following, which I sent General Webb:
The bridge over Gravelly Run Captain Benyaurd reports now practicable for infantry, and General Ayres advancing across it toward Dinwiddie C. H. I have given General Ayres orders to report to General Sheridan.