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[556]

A strategic position of recognized importance was that known as Five Forks. Lee had stationed there Major General Pickett with his division, and some additional force. On the next day, April 1st, this position was assaulted, and our troops were driven from it in confusion. The unsettled question of time was now solved.

Grant's massive columns, advancing on right, left, and center, compelled our forces to retire to the inner line of defense, so that, on the morning of the 2d, the enemy was in a condition to besiege Petersburg in the true sense of that term. Battery Gregg made an obstinate defense and, with a garrison of about two hundred fifty men, held a corps in check for a large part of the day. The arrival of Longstreet's troops, and the strength of the shorter line now held by Lee, enabled him to make several attempts to dislodge his assailant from positions he had gained. In one of these, the distinguished soldier whose gallantry and good conduct it has frequently been my pleasure to notice, Lieutenant General A. P. Hill, who had so often passed unscathed through storms of shot and shell, yielded up the life he had, in the beginning of the war, consecrated to the Confederate cause; his comrades, while mourning his loss, have drawn consolation from the fact that he died before our flag was furled in defeat.

Retreat was now a present necessity. All that could be done was to hold the inner lines during the day, and make needful preparations to withdraw at night. In the forenoon of Sunday, the 2d, I received, when in church, a telegram announcing that the army would retire from Petersburg at night, and I went to my office to give needful directions for the evacuation of Richmond, the greatest difficulty of which was the withdrawal of the troops who were on the defenses east of the city, and along the James River.

The event had come before Lee had expected it, and the announcement was received by us in Richmond with sorrow and surprise; though it had been foreseen as a coming event which might possibly, though not probably, be averted, and such preparation as was practicable had been made to meet the contingency when it should occur, it was not believed to be so near at hand.

At nightfall our army commenced crossing the Appomattox, and, before dawn, was far on its way toward Amelia Courthouse, Lee's purpose being, as previously agreed on in conference with me, to march to Danville, Virginia. By a reference to the map it will be seen that General Grant, starting from the south side of the Appomattox, had a shorter line to Danville than that which General Lee must necessarily

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