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Five Forks, battle of.

Sheridan had crossed the Appomattox from Bermuda Hundred, and, passing in the rear of the army before Petersburg, on the morning of March 29, 1865, had halted at Dinwiddie Court-house. A forward movement of the National army had just begun. Warren and Humphreys, with their corps, had moved at an early hour that morning against the flanks of the Confederates, and they bivouacked in front of the works of their antagonists, only 6 miles from Dinwiddie Court-house. Warren had lost 300 men in a fight on the way. On the next day (March 30), Sheridan sent a party of cavalry to the Five Forks, but the Confederate works there were too strongly armed and manned to be ridden over, and the Nationals were driven back to the Court-house. There was some severe fighting that day, without a decisive result. Sheridan was engaged in the struggle, but at midnight he was satisfied that Lee was withdrawing his troops, and felt quite at ease. It was known at headquarters that his troops had been driven back from Five Forks, and that it was uncertain whether he could hold his position. Warren was sent to his aid with a portion of his corps. Ranking Warren, Sheridan became commander of the whole force. Leaving Warren half-way between Dinwiddie Court-house and Five Forks, Sheridan pressed boldly on towards the latter place, with cavalry alone, and drove the Confederates into their works and enveloped them with his overwhelming number of horsemen. He then ordered Warren forward to a position on his right, so as to be fully on the Confederate left. He drove some Confederates towards Petersburg, and returned before Warren was prepared to charge upon the works. At 4 P. M. War- [381]

Movement towards five Forks.

ren moved to the attack. Ayres charged upon the Confederate right, carried a portion of the line, and captured more than 1,000 men and several battle-flags. Merritt charged the front, and Griffin fell upon the left with such force that he carried the intrenchments and seized 1,500 men. Crawford, meanwhile, had come forward, cut off their retreat in the direction of Lee's lines, struck them in the rear, and captured four guns. Hard pressed, the Confederates fought gallantly and with great fortitude. At length the cavalry charged over the works simultaneously with the turning of their flanks by Ayres and Griffin, and, bearing down upon the Confederates with great fury, caused a large portion of them to throw

Battle of five Forks.

[382] down their arms, while the remainder made a disorderly flight westward, pursued many miles by Merritt and McKenzie. The Confederates lost a large number of men, killed and wounded, and over 5,000 were made prisoners. The Nationals lost about 1,000, of whom 634 were killed and wounded.

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