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[544]

Chapter 34:

  • Flight of Lee from Petersburg
  • -- expectation of joining Johnston -- Grant moves to intercept Lee -- demoralization of enemy -- orders to Sherman-parallel advance of Sheridan, Ord, and Meade -- Sheridan Intercepts Lee at Jetersville -- unselfishness of Meade -- army of Potomac moves by night without rations -- Jefferson Davis at Burksville -- further instructions to Sherman—‘rebel armies only strategic points to strike at’ -- Meade arrives at Jetersville -- difference of opinion between Meade and Sheridan-Sheridan's dispatch to Grant—‘I wish you were here yourself’ -- Grant's night ride to Jetersville -- Grant reverses arrangements of Meade -- retreat of Lee from Jetersville -- strategical dispositions of Grant -- sufferings of enemy -- Ord arrives at Burksville -- Read's gallant fight at High bridge-advance of army of Potomac -- Urgency of Grant -- enemy encompassed on every side -- battle of Sailor's creek -- dispositions of Sheridan -- arrival of Sixth corps -- movements of Humphreys -- success of Sheridan's manoeuvres -- simultaneous attack of Wright and Merritt -- capture of Ewell's command -- flight of Lee to Farmville -- Sheridan moves to Prince Edward -- advance of Ord to Farmville -- retreat of Lee across Appomattox -- Humphreys crosses in pursuit -- fighting on Northern bank-complicated situation at Farmville -- arrival of Grant -- Disentanglement of corps -- Ord, Griffin, and Crook sent to Prince Edward -- Grant demands surrender of Lee -- Lee refuses to surrender -- advance of both wings of national command -- Sheridan arrives at Appomattox -- Intercepts Lee -- arrival of Ord and Griffin -- Lee attempts to break through national lines -- fails -- rebel army completely surrounded -- Lee offers to surrender -- interview at Appomattox -- terms granted to Lee -- rations sent to rebel army -- Second interview at Appomattox -- Gratitude of rebel officers-grant returns to Washington -- army of Northern Virginia lays down its arms -- Lee a prisoner in Richmond -- summary of campaign -- foresight of Grant -- contest between genius of two commanders -- designs of Lee-combinations and energy of Grant -- annihilation of rebel army Seventyfour thousand prisoners.


On the morning of the 3rd of April, the scattered portions of Lee's command were all in flight by different roads in the valley of the Appomattox. The garrison of Richmond and the troops from Bermuda Hundred neck were crowding down from the north, [545] and those that had held the inner lines of Petersburg were retreating westward, while the forces cut off by the battle of Five Forks and the subsequent assaults hastened, north or south of the river, as they could, to meet their chief at Amelia court-house, which he had appointed for a rendezvous. When these all should come together, Lee would still have more than fifty thousand soldiers, and he is said to have regained his spirits when daylight dawned, and he found himself, as he hoped, on the road to join Johnston's command. ‘I have got my army safely out of its breastworks,’ he said, ‘and, in order to follow me, my enemy must abandon his lines, and can derive no further benefit from his railroads or the James river.’

Lee evidently supposed that Grant would attempt to follow the retreating army; and his own design must have been to fall in detail upon the national command, which would necessarily break up into corps and march over different roads. Turning with a concentrated force upon these divided columns, beating them back here and there, he might himself be able to avoid any formidable blow, and effect his junction with Johnston's army. Then, possibly, a long campaign, with the national forces far from a base and supplies, might still protract the war.

But Lee had yet no experience of the remorseless energy with which Grant pursued a routed enemy. He had not served at the West, and had, therefore, no recollection of the baffled plans, the intercepted supplies, the interrupted marches of the Vicksburg campaign; and no conception whatever of the battles which came fast upon flight, the rain of blows that accompanied demands for surrender, the infantry that out-marched cavalry, the incessant attacks [546] and manoeuvres and flanking movements with which his antagonist was wont to harass and overtake and destroy a flying foe.

Instead of moving, as Lee must have expected, if he made the remark attributed to him, behind and after the rebel army, Grant's idea from the first was to head and intercept his adversary. His plan was to move on the south side of the Appomattox and reach Burksville in advance of the enemy; and, instead of abandoning the railroads, Grant intended to put them in order as he marched. He knew already that the rebels must strike for Amelia courthouse, and they had hardly started when he directed Sheridan to cross their path. His dispatches and orders were full of these designs. On the 3rd of April, he said to

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