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Sheridan had already been directed to cross the Appomattox west of Lee's army, with the Fifth corps and the cavalry. ‘You may cross where you please,’ said Grant. ‘The position and movements of the enemy will dictate your movements after you cross. All we want is to capture or beat the enemy.’ Humphreys also was held loose during the night, with orders to report to Sheridan. At 7.40 P. M., Grant said to Meade: ‘I would send Humphreys no orders further than to report to Sheridan, and return or cross the Appomattox as he wishes . . . Sheridan thinks that all the rebel army that was outside the works immediately around the city are trying to make their escape that way. I think there is nothing in Petersburg except the remnant of Gordon's corps, and a few men brought from the north side to-day. I believe it will pay to commence a furious bombardment at five A. M. to be followed by an assault at six, only if there is good reason to believe the enemy is leaving. Unless Lee reaches the Danville road to-night, he will not be able to reach his army.’ At 9.45 P. M., he said, also to Meade: ‘Direct General Parke to use his siege artillery upon the railroad bridge to-night. If we can hit the bridge once, it will pay.’

Grant was perfectly right in his intuitions. Lee was making all his preparations to evacuate Petersburg. He notified the authorities at Richmond of this at forty minutes past ten in the morning. ‘I see no prospect,’ he telegraphed, ‘of doing more than holding our position here till night. I am not certain that I can do that. If I can, I shall withdraw to-night north of the Appomattox, and if possible it will be better to withdraw the whole line to-night ’

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