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[459] he must hold at every hazard. His embarrassment at this crisis must have been extreme. If he allowed Grant to surround him, escape would be impossible; while if he stretched his line or depleted it further, it could withstand no concentrated assault. Nevertheless, he determined to adhere to the policy he had so often essayed, and, stripping the works before Petersburg, detach a force which might possibly prove sufficient to overwhelm the troops employed in the movement of Sheridan. In the night it was reported to Grant that two more divisions were moving to the rebel right, where Pickett and Bushrod Johnson had already been found in force.

On the morning of the 31st, Sheridan replied to Grant's offer: ‘My scouts report the enemy busy all, night in constructing breastworks at Five Forks, and as far as one mile west of that point. There was great activity on the railroad; trains all going west. If the ground would permit, I could, with the Sixth corps, turn the enemy's right, or break through his lines; but I would not like the Fifth corps to make such an attempt.’ The Sixth corps, it will be remembered, had served with Sheridan in the Valley, and he knew it well; it shared his spirit, and would follow him whithersoever he led. The Fifth corps he had never at this time commanded.

Grant replied at once: ‘It will be impossible to give you the Sixth corps for the operation by our left. It is in the centre of our line, between Hatcher's run and the Appomattox river. Besides, Wright thinks he can go through the line where he is, and it is desirable to have troops and a commander there who feel so, to co-operate with you when you get around. I could relieve the Second with the Fifth ’

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