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[593] The atmosphere was balmy and odorous; the hamlets were unburnt, the farm-houses inhabited, the farms all tilled. In this distant valley of the Appomattox those who had plunged their country into war had hitherto escaped the punishment of treason and rebellion. But this placid neighborhood was destined to witness the hurried flight of routed legions and the impetuous march of the conqueror; and remote and unfamiliar until this day—to be associated in all time with one of the most memorable events in American history.

When Custer arrived at Appomattox it was nearly dark, and he skillfully threw a force in rear of the station, and captured four heavily loaded trains —engines, cars, and supplies. But they were hardly in his hands when a rebel force of infantry and artillery appeared. One of the trains was burned, but Custer hastily manned the other three and sent them off towards Farmville. Then, without halting, he pushed the enemy in the direction of the court-house, capturing twenty-five pieces of artillery, a hospital train, and a large number of prisoners, the advance of a heavy column, coming up on the Farmville road for supplies, and with no idea of meeting an enemy.

Sheridan now rapidly brought up Devin, who went into position on the right of Custer. The fighting continued till after dark, and the enemy was driven to the court-house. A reconnoissance was then sent across the river, and Lee's entire command was discovered moving up on the Farmville road. Sheridan had headed the rebel army. At this great news, although he had only cavalry to oppose to all that was left of Lee's command, Sheridan held fast to what he had gained, and at 9.20 P. M. sent information

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