Early on the morning of the twenty-fifth the enemy assaulted our lines in front of the Ninth corps (which held from the Appomattox river toward our left), and carried Fort Steadman, and a part of the line to the right and left of it, established themselves and turned the guns of the fort against us; but our troops on either flank held their ground until the reserves were brought up, when the enemy was driven back with a heavy loss in killed and wounded, and one thousand nine hundred prisoners. Our loss was sixty-eight killed, three hundred and thirty-seven wounded, and five hundred and six missing. General Meade at once ordered the other corps to advance and feel the enemy in their respective fronts. Pushing forward, they captured and held the enemy's strongly-intrenched picket-line in front of the Second and Sixth corps, and eight hundred and thirty-four prisoners. The enemy made desperate attempts to retake this line, but without success. Our loss in front of these was fifty-two killed, eight hundred and sixty-four wounded, and two hundred and seven missing. The enemy's loss in killed and wounded was far greater. General Sherman having got his troops all quietly in camp about Goldsboroa, and his preparations for furnishing supplies to them perfected, visited me at City Point on the twenty-seventh of March, and stated that he would be ready to move, as he had previously written me, by the tenth of April, fully equipped and rationed for twenty days, if it should become necessary to bring his command to bear against Lee's army, in cooperation with our forces in front of Richmond and Petersburg. General Sherman proposed in this movement to threaten Raleigh, and then, by turning suddenly to the right, reached the Roanoke at Gaston or thereabouts, whence he could move on to the Richmond and Danville railroad, striking it in the vicinity of Burkesville, or join the armies operating against Richmond, as might be deemed best. This plan he was directed to carry into execution, if he received no further directions in the mean time. I explained to him the movement I had ordered to commence on the twenty-ninth of March. That if it should not prove as entirely successful as I hoped, I would cut the cavalry loose to destroy the Danville and Southside railroads, and thus deprive the enemy of further supplies, and also prevent the rapid concentration of Lee's and Johnston's armies. I had spent days of anxiety lest each morning should bring the report that the enemy had retreated the night before. I was firmly convinced that Shermans crossing the Roanoke would be the signal for Lee to leave. With Johnston and him combined, a long, tedious, and expensive campaign, consuming most of the summer, might become necessary. By moving out I would put the army in better condition for pursuit, and would at least, by the destruction of the Danville road, retard the concentration of the two armies of Lee and Johnston, and cause the enemy to abandon much material that he might otherwise save. I therefore determined not to delay the movement ordered. On the night of the twenty-seventh, Major-General Ord, with two divisions of the Twenty-fourth corps, Major-General Gibbon commanding, and one division of the Twenty-fifth corps, Brigadier-General Birney commanding, and McKenzie's cavalry, took up his line of march in pursuance of the foregoing instructions, and reached the position assigned him near Hatcher's run on the morning of the twenty-ninth. On the twenty-eighth the following instructions were given to General Sheridan: up with great promptness An attack will not be feasible unless it is found that the enemy has detached largely. In that case it may be regarded as evident that the enemy are relying upon their local reserves principally for the defence of Richmond. Preparations may be made for abandoning all the line north of the James, except enclosed works-only to be abandoned, however, after a break is made in the lines of the enemy. By these instructions a large part of the armies operating against Richmond is left behind. The enemy, knowing this, may, as an only chance, strip their lines to the merest skeleton, in the hope of advantage not being taken of it, while they hurl everything against the moving column, and return. It cannot be impressed too strongly upon commanders of troops left in the trenches not to allow this to occur without taking advantage of it. The very fact of the enemy coming out to attack, if he does so, might be regarded as almost conclusive evidence of such a weakening of his lines. I would have it particularly enjoined upon corps commanders that, in case of an attack from the enemy, those not attacked are not to wait for orders from the commanding officer of the army to which they belong, but that they will move promptly, and notify the commander of their action. I would also enjoin the same action on the part of division commanders when other parts of their corps are engaged. In like manner, I would urge the importance of following up a repulse of the enemy.
City Point, Va., March 28, 1865General: The Fifth Army Corps will move by the Vaughan road at three o'clock to-morrow morning. The Second moves at about 9 A. M., having but about three miles to march to reach the point designated for it to take on the right of the Fifth corps, after the latter reaching Dinwiddie Court-house. Move your cavalry at as early an hour as you can, and without being confined to any particular road or roads. You may go out by the nearest roads in rear of the Fifth corps, pass by its left, and, passing near to or through Dinwiddie, reach the right and rear of