found them coming up very slowly. I was exceedingly anxious to attack at once, for the sun was getting low, and we had to fight or go back. It was no place to intrench, and it would have been shameful to have gone back with no results to compensate for the loss of the brave men who had fallen during the day. In this connection, I will say that General Warren did not exert himself to get up his corps as rapidly as he might have done, and his manner gave me the impression that he wished the sun to go down before dispositions for the attack could be completed. As soon as the corps was in position, I ordered an advance in the following formation: Ayres' division on the left in double lines, Crawford's division on the right in double lines, and Griffin's division in reserve, behind Crawford, and the White Oak road was reached without opposition. While General Warren was getting into position I learned that the left of the Second corps of the Army of the Potomac, on my right, had been swung around from the direction of its line of battle until it fronted on the Boydton road. and parallel to it, which afforded an opportunity to the enemy to march down the White Oak road and attack me in right and rear. General McKenzie was therefore sent up the Crump road, with directions to gain the White Oak road if possible, but to attack at all hazards any enemy found, and if successful, then march down that road and join me. General McKenzie executed this with courage and skill, attacking a force of the enemy on the White Oak road, and driving it toward Petersburg. He then countermarched, and joined me on the White Oak road just as the Fifth corps advanced to the attack, and I directed him to swing round with the right of the infantry and gain possession of the Ford road at the crossing of Hatcher's run. The Fifth corps, on reaching the White Oak road, made a left wheel, and burst on the enemy's left flank and rear like a tornado, and pushed rapidly on, orders having been given that if the enemy was routed there should be no halt to reform broken lines. As stated before, the firing of the Fifth corps was the signal to General Merritt to assault, which was promptly responded to, and the works of the enemy were soon carried at several points by our brave cavalry men. The enemy were driven from their strong line of works and completely routed, the Fifth corps doubling up their left flank in confusion, and the cavalry of General Merritt dashing on to the White Oak road, capturing their artillery and turning it upon them, and, riding into their broken ranks, so demoralized them that they made no serious stand after their line was carried, but took to flight in disorder. Between five thousand and six thousand prisoners fell into our hands, and the fugitives were driven westward, and were pursued until long after dark by Merritt's and McKenzie's cavalry for a distance of six miles. During this attack I again became dissatisfied with General Warren. During the engagement portions of his line gave way when not exposed to a heavy fire, and simply from want of confidence on the part of the troops, which General Warren did not exert himself to inspire. I therefore relieved him from the command of the Fifth corps, authority for this action having been sent to me, before the battle, unsolicited. When the pursuit was given up, I directed General Griffin, who had been ordered to assume command of the Fifth corps, to collect his corps at once, march two divisions back to Gravelly church, and put them into position at right angles to the White Oak road, facing toward Petersburg, while Bartlett's division (Griffin's old), covered the Ford road to Hatcher's run. General Merritt's cavalry went into camp on the Widow Gilliam's plantation, and General McKenzie took position on the Ford road at the crossing of Hatcher's run. I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the troops in this battle, and of the gallantry of their commanding officers, who appeared to realize that the success of the campaign and fate of Lee's army depended upon it. They merit the thanks of the country and reward of the Government. To Generals Griffin, Ayres, Bartlett, and Crawford, of the Fifth corps, and to Generals Merritt, Custer, Devin, and McKenzie, of the cavalry, great credit is due; and to their subordinate commanders they will undoubtedly award the praise which is due to them for the hearty co-operation, bravery, and ability which were everywhere displayed. At daylight on the morning of April second, General Miles' division of the Second corps reported to me, coming over from the Boydton plank-road. I ordered it to move up the White Oak road toward Petersburg, and attack the enemy at the intersection of that road with the Claiborne road, where he was in position in heavy force, and I followed General Miles immediately with two divisions of the Fifth corps. Miles forced the enemy from this position and pursued with great zeal, pushing him across Hatcher's run, and following him up on the road to Sutherland's depot. On the north side of the run I overtook Miles, who was anxious to attack, and had a very fine and spirited division. I gave him permission, but about this time General Humphreys came up, and, receiving notice from General Meade that General Humphreys would take command of Miles' division, I relinquished it at once, and faced the Fifth corps by the rear. I afterward regretted giving up this division, as I believe the enemy could at that time have been crushed at Sutherland's depot. I returned to Five Forks, and marched out the Ford road toward Hatcher's run. The cavalry had in the meantime been sent westward to cross Hatcher's run and break up the enemy's cavalry, which had collected in considerable force north of that stream, but they would not stand to fight, and our cavalry pursued them in a direction due north to the Namozine road. Crossing Hatcher's run with the Fifth corps, the Southside railroad was struck at
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Doc . 16 . operations in Tennessee .
Doc . 19 . the siege of Suffolk, Virginia .
Doc . 36 . General Rousseau 's expedition.
Doc . 59 . battles of Spottsylvania , Va: battle of Sunday , May 8 , 1864 .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.