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[704] Sheridan, who was pursuing with his cavalry, and the Fifth corps, time to strike in upon the Confederate line of retreat. In the afternoon of the 4th he was reported at Jetersville, on the Danville Railroad, seven miles south west of Amelia Court-house. But it was no longer a question of battle with Gen. Lee; the concern was now simply to escape. His men were suffering from hunger; half of them had been sent or had straggled in quest of food; soldiers who had to assuage their craving by plucking the buds and twigs of trees, were scarcely to be blamed for courting capture; and thus with his army in loose order, in woful plight, diminishing at every step, Gen. Lee determined to try the last desperate chance of escape, and to penetrate the region of hills in the direction of Farmville, hoping to avail himself of these positions of defence.

On the 5th he took up this line of retreat; but the locomotion of his army was no longer what it had been. The troops went wearily along, averaging hardly half a mile an hour. It was with some satisfaction that they saw the wagons which had so effectually clogged their march begin to cast up their plunder. Jaded horses and mules refused to pull; demoralized and badly-scared drivers, with straining eyes and perspiring bodies, plied their whips vigorously to no effect; difficult places in the road were choked with blazing wagons, fired to save their contents from the enemy; there were deafening reports from ammunition exploding and shells bursting, when touched by the flames; and on this line of terrible retreat, behind and on either flank, there was a running fight through every hour of the day. At every hill divisions would alternately halt, and form lines of battle and check the pursuers. As soon as proper disposition had been made on the next line of hills the rear division would move off and pass the others, only to form again at the next suitable defensive position. Thus toiled on the retreating army. Hundreds of men dropped from exhaustion; thousands threw away their arms; the demoralization appeared at last to involve the officers; they did nothing to prevent straggling; and many of them seemed to shut their eyes on the hourly reduction of their commands, and rode in advance of their brigades in dogged indifference.

But in the jaded, famishing crowd there was yet left something of the old spirit which had made the Army of Northern Virginia famous throughout the world, and inscribed its banners with the most glorious names of the war. Its final retreat was not to be without its episodes of desperate and devoted courage.

On the 6th, the enemy having changed the order of pursuit to conform to Lee's new movement, Sheridan, with his cavalry, struck in upon the Confederate line of retreat just south of Sailors' Creek, a small tributary of the Appomattox. Ewell's corps, consisting of about four thousand two hundred men, was called upon to support Pickett, who, with his division reduced to about eight hundred men, was being sorely pressed by

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