joined the cavalry right was the key of the entire position.
If this could be gained, Ayres
would completely enfilade the enemy's line on the White Oak
road, and render the direct assault comparatively easy; while if the rebels held the Fifth corps in check, they could probably repulse the cavalry with heavy loss, for their works were strong and difficult to approach in front, and, sheltered by these, they could pour out a deadly fire.
It was, therefore, vital that the rebel flank should be promptly attacked and broken.
The burden of this now fell upon Ayres
, for Crawford
, on the right, had deflected so far from the line pointed out by Sheridan
that he was of no use at all at this juncture.
After crossing the White Oak
road, he failed to wheel to the left, as ordered, and pushed straight for Hatcher
's run, leaving, as we have seen, a gap between himself and Ayres
This deflection was occasioned by Crawford
's obliquing his line to avoid the fire of the enemy, instead of pushing directly upon the rebel work.
, who was in reserve on the right, naturally followed Crawford
for a while, so that Ayres
was left to contend alone with the enemy.
was extremely dissatisfied with this condition of affairs, and sent several officers after Warren
, who was on the right with Crawford
did not arrive, he himself remained, encouraging Ayres
's men, with words and example.
The line was easily steadied, however, for the troops were used to battle, and speedily recovered from the momentary panic; and Sheridan
himself took the battle-flag in his hands and plunged into the charge at the head of the command.
The flag was shot,