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[501] orders were issued to Humphreys, Wright, and Parke to assault at four A. M., and Ord also was held in readiness. The greatest issues hung upon the scales.

At 7.45 P. M., the general-in-chief sent word to the President: ‘Sheridan with his cavalry and the Fifth corps has evidently had a big fight this evening. The distance he is off is so great, however, that I shall not probably be able to report the result for an hour or two.’

The rain was now over, and Grant sat outside of his tent, wrapped in the blue overcoat of a private soldier which he wore in this campaign. Two or three staff officers were with him, hovering around the camp fire in the wet and gloomy woods. Two had remained all day with Sheridan to bring the earliest reports. Suddenly the cheers of the troops were heard in the distance, as they gathered from an officer while he rode along the character of his news. Every one at Headquarters knew what it must be. Soon the aide-de-camp came up, and, before he dismounted, had told a part of his story. ‘The rebels didn't run,’ he said, ‘on any particular road.’ Five Forks was won, but the completeness of the success was still not known. Grant at once sent word to Meade: ‘Humphreys must push now, or everything will leave his front, and be concentrated against Sheridan.’ The instinct of battle was aroused, and he saw in an instant not only what the enemy should do, but what steps he himself must take in order to circumvent Lee.

Before long another officer arrived in great excitement, having ridden hard from the field.1 He

1 The bearer of the good news was Colonel Horace Porter, one of the most abstemious men in the army; but he came up with so much enthusiasm, clapping the general-in-chief on the back, and otherwise demonstrating his joy, that the officer who shared his tent rebuked him at night for indulging too freely in drink at this critical juncture. But Porter had tasted neither wine nor spirits that day. He was only drunk with victory.

His mate himself was not much calmer. He had been shot in the foot, and wore a steel boot on the wounded leg; and when the order was given to mount and ride to the front, he laced up his boot on the unhurt limb before he discovered his blunder. Then Porter retaliated.

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Warren Sheridan (3)
Horace Porter (3)
A. A. Humphreys (2)
Wright (1)
John G. Parke (1)
E. O. C. Ord (1)
Meade (1)
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U. S. Grant (1)
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