should start at once, and go down the Boydton
This was very different from the instructions issued by Meade
ten minutes before.
The officer who brought the news from Sheridan
had missed his way, and stopped at Meade
's headquar-ters for a guide, and at 7.30 P. M., before the receipt of Grant
's directions, Meade
sent word to Warren
: ‘Dispatch from General Sheridan
says he was forced back to Dinwiddie court-house by a strong force of cavalry, supported by infantry.
This leaves your rear and that of the Second corps on the Boydton
plank road open, and will require great vigilance on your part.
If you have sent the brigade down the Boydton
plank, it should not go further than Gravelly run
, as I don't think it will render any service but to protect your rear.’
These orders were indeed in accordance with the tenor of Grant
's earlier dispatches before he knew of Sheridan
So long as he had no fears for the cavalry, the general-in-chief simply desired to protect Warren
against an intervention of the enemy between his left and Dinwiddie
; but the moment he learned that Sheridan
was opposed by infantry as well as horse, and had been badly handled by superior numbers, he changed the entire character of his orders.
With his invariable instinct in an emergency, he determined to convert the defence into an offensive movement, and ordered an entire division at once to Sheridan
The method of many commanders is first of all to protect themselves, and then to injure the enemy; but Grant
's impulse always was to strike first, and he did it so quickly that the blow was sometimes delivered before his judgment was exercised; but it always