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[644] Vaughan, Flat Foot, Boydton plank, and Five Forks roads, which all intersect at Dinwiddie Court-house, rendering this an important point, and from which I was expected to make a cavalry raid on the Southside railroad, and thence join General Sherman, or return to Petersburg, as circumstances might dictate. However, during the night the Lieutenant-General sent me instructions to abandon the contemplated raid and act in concert with the infantry under his immediate command, and turn the right flank of Lee's army if possible.

Early on the morning of the thirtieth of March I directed General Merritt to send the first division, Brigadier-General Devin commanding, to gain possession of the Five Forks, on the White Oak road, and directed General Crook to send General Davies' brigade of his division to the support of General Devin.

Gregg's brigade, of Crook's division, was held on the Boydton plank-road, and guarded the crossing of Stony creek, forcing the enemy's cavalry, that was moving from Stony creek depot to form a connection with the right of their army, to make a wide detour, as I had anticipated, on the south roads of Stony creek and west of Chamberlain's bed — a very fatiguing march in the bad condition of the roads. A very heavy rain fell during this day, aggravating the swampy nature of the ground, and rendering the movement of troops almost impossible. General Merritt's reconnoissance developed the enemy in strong force on the White Oak road in the vicinity of the Five Forks, and there was some heavy skirmishing throughout the day. Next morning, March thirty-one, General Merritt advanced toward the Five Forks with the First division, and meeting with considerable opposition, General Devin's brigade, of Crook's division, was ordered to join him, while General Crook, advancing on the left with the two other brigades of his division, encountered the enemy's cavalry at Chamberlain's creek, at a point a little north and west of Dinwiddie, making demonstrations to cross. Smith's brigade was ordered to hold them in check and Gregg's brigade to a position on his right.The advance of the First division got possession of the Five Forks, but in the mean time the Fifth Army Corps, which had advanced toward the White Oak road from the Vaughan road, was attacked and driven back; and, withdrawing from that point, this force of the enemy marched rapidly from the front of the Fifth corps to the Five Forks, driving in our cavalry advance, and moving down on roads west of Chamberlain's creek, attacked General Smith's brigade, but were unable to force his position. Abandoning the attempt to cross in his front, this force of the enemy's infantry succeeded in effecting a crossing higher up the creek, striking General Davies' brigade of the second division, which, after a gallant fight, was forced back upon the left flank of the first division, thus partially isolating all this force from my main line covering Dinwiddie Court-house.

Orders were at once given to General Merritt to cross this detached force over to the Boydton plank-road, and march down to Dinwiddie Court-house and come into the line of battle. The enemy, deceived by this movement, followed it up rapidly, making a left wheel, and presenting his rear to my line of battle. When his line was nearly parallel to mine, General Gibbs' brigade of the First division, and General Irvin Gregg's brigade of the Second division, were ordered to attack at once, and General Custer was directed to bring up two of his brigades rapidly, leaving one brigade of his division with the trains that had not yet reached Dinwiddie Court-house. In the gallant attack made by Gibbs and Gregg, the enemy's wounded fell into our hands, and he was forced to face by the rear rank, and give up his movement, which, if continued; would have taken in flank and rear the infantry line of the Army of the Potomac. When the enemy had faced to meet this attack, a very obstinate and handsomely contested battle ensued, in which, with all his cavalry and two divisions of infantry, the enemy was unable to drive five brigades of our cavalry, dismounted, from an open plain in front of Dinwiddie Court-house. The brunt of their cavalry attack was borne by General Smith's brigade, which had so gallantly held the crossing of Chamberlain's creek in the morning. His command again held the enemy in check with determined bravery, but the heavy force brought against his right flank finally compelled him to abandon his position on the creek, and fall back to the main line immediately in front of Dinwiddie Court-house. As the enemy's infantry advanced to the attack, our cavalry threw up slight breast-works of rails at some points along our lines, and when the enemy attempted to force this position they were handsomely repulsed, and gave up the attempt to gain possession of the Court-house. It was after dark when the firing ceased, and the enemy lay on their arms that night, not more than one hundred yards in front of our lines. The commands of Generals Devin and Davies reached Dinwiddie Court-house without opposition by way of the Boydton plank-road, but did not participate in the final action of the day. In this well-contested battle the most obstinate gallantry was displayed by my entire command. The brigades commanded by General Gibbs and Colonels Stagg and Fitzhugh, in the First division, Generals Davies, Gregg, and Smith, in the Second division, Colonels Pennington and Capehart, in the Third division, vied with each other in their determined efforts to hold in check the superior force of the enemy; and the skilful management of their troops in this peculiarly difficult country entitles the brigade commanders to the highest commendation.

Generals Crook, Merritt, Custer, and Devin, by their courage and ability, sustained their


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