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[490] was to keep the main line busy by a vigorous attack, beginning when they heard the fire of the infantry. As soon as the order to advance was given, the Fifth corps marched briskly forward, Ayres on the left, Crawford on the right, and Griffin in reserve. They moved across the miry bottom land that borders Gravelly run, and through an undergrowth of brake to an open plain, Sheridan with his staff riding between the skirmishers and the front line of battle. Ayres was engaged before he reached the White Oak road. He was received with a heavy fire on his left flank, nearest to the enemy, and at once began changing front to the left. His command now entered a piece of woods, and one brigade soon became unsteady, partly from the difficulty of changing front under fire, and partly because Crawford had lost connection on the right, and that flank was in the air.1 One or two regiments broke and began to run, and the division was temporarily repelled. Sheridan, however, was on this flank, the critical point, and rode up with his staff to reassure the faltering troops, and the men almost at once came back into line.

Meantime the fire of Ayres's division was heard by Merritt, and the cavalry promptly responded to the signal for their assault. They had the brunt of the battle to bear, for their attack was directly in front, on the main Five Forks road, and the angle

1 ‘The Third brigade, soon after engaging the enemy, finding its right flank in the air (I must confess I experienced anxiety also on this account), portions of it were very unsteady.’—Ayres's Report.

‘The connection between the Second division [Ayres's] and my line could not be maintained. . . . Coulter's brigade. . . was brought to fill the gap between me and the Second division.’— Crawford's Report.

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R. B. Ayres (4)
S. W. Crawford (3)
Warren Sheridan (2)
Wesley Merritt (1)
Charles Griffin (1)
Coulter (1)
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