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[268]

Creek, where the failure of an old country bridge and the absence of practicable fords delayed the crossing of that stream. The outlook at that point on the line of march was evidently disturbing to General Lee, for on arrival of the engineer troops late in the afternoon, for which he had waited, he impressed upon the colonel in command of them the necessity for strenuous efforts to effect as rapid a crossing of Flat Creek as possible, emphasizing his instruction by saying that a captured order from General Grant to General Ord, who was at Jetersville, indicated an attack early next morning.

Timber was felled; a new bridge was built; the last vehicle had passed over it, and the engineer troops were already in motion toward Amelia Springs, when a Federal battery unlimbered on a near-by hill and fired a few shells to expedite the movement of as tired and hungry a body of Confederate troops as could have been found that morning in General Lee's army, where fatigue and hunger were familiar conditions.

When the engineer troops, which had been rejoined by the companies detached for service north of the James River and had made a respectable showing in strength, reached Sailor's Creek, where the rear guard of the army was in line of battle, expecting an immediate attack, the general in command looked pleased and said they were just what he was looking for to reenforce a weak spot in his line. To decline such an honor was not within the range of military possibilities, but an order from General Lee, which a courier had been seeking to deliver, made it imperative to move on to the assistance of the wagon trains. A heavy ordnance train, which was stalled in an effort to surmount a steep hill over a bad road and to cross a creek through swampy ground, was causing serious delay, and a number of wagon trains were parked in the fields, waiting for their turn to move on.

While this congestion was being partially relieved, the battle of Sailor's Creek was fought, which resulted in defeat to the Confederates, who were falling back in disorder toward

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