plank road, and Grant
now had an unbroken line from the Appomattox
to Dinwiddie Court House.
He now had, in his immediate command, 124,700 men, 13,000 of whom were well mounted cavalry.
To oppose, these, Lee
had about 45,000, less than 5,000 of whom were cavalry, under Fitz Lee
, mounted on mere skeletons of poorly-fed horses.
So far, Grant
's movement had met with but little opposition, but Hill
held, threateningly, his line in front of the position that had been gained.
quickly transferred his cavalry and Pickett
's division from his left to his right, and at the close of March 30th, with 10,000 infantry and cavalry, under Pickett
's right menaced Grant
's advance at Five Forks
The next morning, Lee
, in person, led three brigades from his right and drove Warren
's corps behind Gravelly run
back to Dinwiddie Court House, but, finding Federal infantry in support, he withdrew to Five Forks
, where, detached from support, Sheridan
's cavalry and Warren
's corps, overlapping his flanks, fell upon and routed him on the 1st of April.
On the morning of the 2d of April, the Federal
Sixth corps broke through Lee
's attenuated line, four miles southwest of Petersburg
In an attempt to recover that captured line, the brave and impetuous A. P. Hill
lost his life, and Lee
lost one of the ablest of his corps lieutenants.
A fierce contention was kept up all along the lines, the Confederates
continuing to fight, in broken masses, with desperate courage.
Heavy blows were inflicted upon Grant
's solid lines, but numbers at last won, and the enemy gained the rear of Lee
's lines on his right.
Riding back toward Petersburg
from this disaster, General Lee
remarked to one of his aides, ‘This is a sad business, Colonel
And soon after, he added, ‘It has happened as I told them at Richmond
it would happen.
The line has been stretched until it is broken.’
As he continued slowly riding to his rear, the shells from the advancing batteries of the enemy began to burst about him. An eye-witness of the scene writes: ‘He turned his head over his right shoulder, his cheeks became flushed, and a sudden flash of the eye showed with what reluctance he retired before the fire directed upon him. No other course was left him, however, and he continued to ride slowly toward his inner line—a low earthwork ’