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[645] commands, and executed the rapid movements of the day with promptness and without confusion.

During the night of the thirty-first of March my headquarters were at Dinwiddie Court-house, and the Lieutenant-General notified me that the Fifth corps would report to me, and should reach me by midnight. This corps had been offered to me on the thirtieth instant, but very much desiring the Sixth corps, which had been with me in the Shenandoah valley, I asked for it, but on account of the delay which would occur in moving that corps from its position in the lines in front of Petersburg, it could not be sent to me. I respectfully submit herewith my brief accounts of the operations of the day, the response to which was the ordering of the Fifth corps to my support and my command, as also the despatch of the Lieutenant-General notifying me of his action. I understood that the Fifth corps, when ordered to report to me, was in position near S. Dabney's house, in the angle between the Boydton road and the Five Forks road.

Had General Warren moved according to the expectations of the Lieutenant-General, there would appear to have been but little chance for the escape of the enemy's infantry in front of Dinwiddie Court-house. Ayres' division moved down the Boydton plank-road during the night, and in the morning moved west via R. Boisseau's house, striking the Five Forks road about two and a half miles north of Dinwiddie Court-house. General Warren, with Griffin's and Crawford's divisions, moved down the road by Crump's house, coming into the Five Forks near J Boisseau's house, between seven and eight o'clock on the morning of the first of April. Meantime I moved my cavalry force at daylight against the enemy's lines in my front, which gave way rapidly, moving off by the right flank, and crossing Chamberlain's creek. This hasty movement was accelerated by the discovery that two divisions of the Fifth corps were in their rear, and that one division was moving toward their left and rear.

The following are the instructions sent to General Warren:

cavalry headquarters, Dinwiddie C. H., April 1, 1865--3 A. M.
I am holding in front of Dinwiddie Court-house, on the road leading to Five Forks, for three quarters of a mile, with General Custer's division. The enemy are in his immediate front, lying so as to cover the road just this side of A. Adams' house, which leads out across Chamberlain's bed or run. I understand you have a division at J. Boisseau's; if so, you are in rear of the enemy's line, and almost on his flanks. I will hold on here. Possibly they may attack Custer at daylight; if so, attack instantly and in full force. Attack at daylight anyhow, and I will make an effort to get the road this side of Adams' house, and if I do, you can capture the whole of them. Any force moving down the road I am holding, or on the White Oak road, will be in the enemy's rear, and in all probability get any force that may escape you by a flank attack. Do not fear my leaving here. If the enemy remains I shall fight at day-light.

P. H. Sheridan, Major-General.1 Major-General Warren, Commanding Fifth Army Corps.

As they fell back the enemy was rapidly followed by General Merritt's two divisions, General Devin on the right and General Custer on the left; General Crook in rear. During the remainder of the day General Crook's division held the extreme left and rear, and was not seriously engaged.

I then determined that I would drive the enemy, with the cavalry, to the Five Forks, press them inside of their works, and make a feint to turn their right flank, and meanwhile quietly move up the Fifth corps with a view to attacking their left flank, crush the whole force, if possible, and drive westward those who might escape, thus isolating them from their army at Petersburg. Happily, this conception was successfully executed. About this time General McKenzie's division of cavalry, from the Army of the James, reported to me, and consisted of about one thousand effective men. I directed General Warren to hold fast at J. Boisseau's house, refresh his men, and be ready to move to the front when required; and General McKenzie was ordered to rest in front of Dinwiddie Court-house until further orders.

Meantime General Merritt's command continued to press the enemy, and by impetuous charges drove them from two lines of temporary works; General Custer guiding his advance on the Widow Gilliam's house and General Devin on the main Five Forks road. The courage displayed by the cavalry officers and men was superb, and about two o'clock the enemy was behind his works on the White Oak road, and his skirmish line drawn in. I then ordered up the Fifth corps on the main road, and sent Brevet Major Gillispie, of the engineers, to turn the head of the column off on the Gravelly Church road, and put the corps in position on this road obliquely to and at a point but a short distance from the White Oak road, and about one mile from the Five Forks. Two divisions of the corps were to form the front line, and one division was to be held in reserve, in column of regiments, opposite the centre.

I then directed General Merrttt to demonstrate as though he was attempting to turn the enemy's right flank, and notified him that the Fifth corps would strike the enemy's left flank, and ordered that the cavalry should assault the enemy's works as soon as the Fifth corps became engaged, and that would be determined by volleys of musketry. I then rode over to where the Fifth corps was going into position, and


1 <*> page 336, Volume x., Rebellion Record.

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