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Report of Major-General Fitzhugh Lee of the operations of the cavalry corps A. N. V.

From march 28th to April 9th, 1865 (both inclusive).

Richmond, Va., April 22, 1865.
General R. E. Lee:
General,—I comply with pleasure with the desire expressed by you to have a report of the last operations of the cavalry of your army, and have the honor to submit the following:

On the 28th of March my division moved from its position on the extreme left of our lines in front of Richmond, on the north side of James River, marched to Petersburg and up the Southside Railroad, reaching Sutherland Station, nineteen miles from Petersburg, on the 29th. In compliance with verbal instructions received from you, I marched the next day (30th) towards Dinwiddie C. H., via Five Forks, to watch and counteract the operations threatened by the massing of the Federal cavalry at Dinwiddie C. H. under Sheridan. After passing Five Forks, a portion of the enemy's cavalry were encountered with success and driven back upon their large reserves near the Courthouse. Night put an end to further operations, and my division was encamped in the vicinity of Five Forks. My loss, though slight, included Brigadier-General W. H. Payne amongst the wounded; and the loss of the services of this bold, capable officer was severely felt in all subsequent movements. I was joined during the evening by the divisions of Major-Generals W. H. F. Lee and Rosser, and by order of the Commanding General took command of the cavalry corps.

On the 31st of March, Pickett coming up with five small brigades of infantry, we attacked the very large force of the enemy's cavalry in our front at Five Forks, killed and wounded many, captured over one hundred prisoners, and drove them to within a half-mile of Dinwiddie C. H. Munford, in command of my old division, held our lines in front of the enemy's position, whilst the remaining two divisions of cavalry, preceding the infantry, moved by a concealed wooded road to turn and attack their flank. A short stream, strongly defended at its crossing, presented an unexpected obstacle to the sudden attack contemplated. It was finally carried, however, with loss in W. H. F. Lee's and Rosser's divisions. Munford, attacking about the same time, also successfully carried the temporary works [368] thrown up in his front, and by a gallant advance again united his command with the other division. Darkness put an end to our further advance. Amongst the wounded were numbered Major-Gen. Rosser, slightly, Captain Dawson, my very efficient and gallant Chief of Ordnance, severely, and Lieutenant-Colonel Fields, Third Virginia Cavalry. Lieutenant Croxton, Fourth Virginia, was killed, and a number of others whose names I have not been able to obtain.

Our position in the vicinity of Dinwiddie C. H. brought us in rear of the left of the infantry confronting the right of our line of battle at Burgess' Mill, and ascertaining during the night that that force, consisting of the Fifth Corps, had about-faced and was marching to the support of Sheridan and his discomfited cavalry, which would have brought them directly upon our left flank, at daylight on the 1st we commenced moving back to our former position at Five Forks, where Pickett placed his infantry in line of battle. W. H. F. Lee was on his right, one regiment of Munford's command on his left, uniting with the pickets of General Robert's command, who filled the gap between our position and the right of our main army, then at Burgess' Mill. Rosser was placed just in rear of the centre as a reserve, Hatcher's Run intervening between him and our line

Everything continued quiet until about 3 P. M. when reports reached me of a large body of infantry marching around and menacing our left flank. I ordered Munford to go in person, ascertain the exact condition of affairs, hold his command in readiness, and, if necessary, order it up at once. He soon sent for it, and it reached its position just in time to receive the attack. A division of two small brigades of cavalry was not able long to withstand the attack of a Federal corps of infantry, and that force soon crushed in Pickett's left flank, swept it away, and before Rosser could cross Hatcher's Run, the position at the Fords was seized and held, and an advance towards the railroad made. It was repulsed by Rosser. Pickett was driven rapidly towards the prolongation of the right of his line of battle by the combined attack of this infantry corps and Sheridan's cavalry, making a total of over twenty-six thousand men, to which he was opposed with seven thousand men of all arms. Our forces were driven back some miles, the retreat degenerating into a rout, being followed up principally by the cavalry, whilst the infantry corps held the position our troops were first driven from, threatening an advance upon the railroad, and paralyzing the force of reserve cavalry by necessitating its being stationary in an interposing position to check or retard such an advance. The disastrous halt was made at Five Forks, upon the day [369] of our retrograde movement from Dinwiddie C. H., on account of the importance of the location as a point of observation to watch and develop movements, then evidently in contemplation for an attack on our left flank, or upon our line of railroad communication; the importance of preserving which intact could not be overestimated. It was thought Pickett's infantry and my cavalry could successfully contend against the superior numbers of the enemy's cavalry (and which the fighting the day before amply verified), and should their infantry be withdrawn from the position of their lines contiguous to our operations, a corresponding force of our own would have thus been made available, and could be used to restore the status; the distance from Burgess' Mill, the terminus respectively of the right and left of the two lines of battle, being short from Five Forks, with a plain road joining the two.

I remained in position on Hatcher's Run near Five Forks during the night, and was joined by the cavalry which was driven back the previous afternoon, and by Lieutenant-General Anderson with Wise's and Gracie's brigades, who leaving the position at Burgess' Mill, had marched by a circuitous route to our relief. Had he advanced up the direct road, it would have brought him on the flank and rear of the infantry forming the enemy's right, which attacked our left at Five Forks, and probably changed the result of the unequal contest. Whilst Anderson was marching up, the Fifth Corps was marching back, and was enabled to participate in the attack upon our lines the next day. Whilst the services of the three infantry brigades (which General Anderson reinforced us by, too late for use), and the five with Picket, by their absence, increased the disparity between the contending forces upon the next day for the possession of the lines circumvallating Petersburg.

On April 3d, General Anderson learning that the enemy had been successful in penetrating our lines, and that our army was withdrawing from the vicinity of Richmond and Petersburg, commenced moving back on the Namozine and Tabernacle road towards Amelia C. H. I followed, protecting his rear, and skirmishing with the enemy's advance until Amelia C. He was reached on the 5th inst. At Deep Creek, en route, the command was placed in line of battle to take advantage of the defensive position offered, and to give a check to the enemy's rapid advance. Wise's and Hunton's brigades constituted a part of the rear-guard at that time. The attack was not made upon us until after dark, and was principally sustained by Munford's command, of my old division, with a steadiness reflecting high credit [370] upon the valor and discipline of his men. Owing to the fact that General Heth's troops were expected to arrive by the road by which the enemy advanced, they were permitted to approach very close to our lines, and it was not until Lieutenant-Colonel Strother, Fourth Virginia Cavalry, was sent to reconnoitre, that it was ascertained who they were; he having walked into their line of skirmishers, which were so near to ours that the questions asked him were distinctly heard by our troops. At another of the temporary halts upon this march to check the enemy in the vicinity of Namozine Church, that very excellent North Carolina brigade of W. H. F. Lee's division suffered severely. The troops had been placed in motion again to resume the march. This brigade was the rear of the column, and I was obliged to retain it in position to prevent the enemy from attacking the remainder of the command. Whilst getting in motion, their rapidly arriving forces soon augmented the troops it was so gallantly holding in check, and produced a concentration impossible for it to resist. Its commander, BrigadierGene-ral Barringer, was captured whilst in the steady discharge of his duties, and his loss was keenly felt by the command. I also had the great misfortune to be deprived of the services of my most efficient and untiring Adjutant-General, Major J. Dugin Fergusson, who was captured about the same time, and whose assistance, always important, was especially desirable at this time.

Reporting to the Commanding General at Amelia C. H. on the 5th, I was ordered to move with my command on the Paynesville road to protect the wagon-train, a porton of which was reported to have been attacked by some of the enemy's cavalry. W. H. F. Lee was detached and sent in advance of Longstreet, who was moving from the Court House towards Jetersville. I found the enemy had attacked and burned a portion of the cavalry train, including my own headquarter wagons, and had retreated again towards Jetersville. I started at once in pursuit, and soon closed up on Gary with his brigade, who had been previously dispatched in that direction and was engaging their rear near Paynesville. Reinforcing him, the enemy were rapidly driven within a mile of Jetersville, where their infantry were formed in large force. (A dispatch captured that night showed General Grant to be there in person.) The pursuit was discontinued, and the command placed in camp at Amelia Springs. In this encounter thirty of the enemy were killed, principally with the sabre, and one hundred and fifty wounded and captured. The attack was made with Rosser's division mounted, supported by a [371] portion of my old division dismounted. The gallantry of Brigadier-General Dearing in leading the charge of his command was here very conspicuous. Our loss was not very heavy, and I can only recall in the connection the mortally wounding of two of my bravest and best young officers, Captain Hugh McGuire, Eleventh Virginia Cavalry, and Captain James Rutherford, A. I. G., General Dearing's staff. The portion of the enemy's cavalry engaged in this raid had preceded the column which had been marching on our left flank, and had reached Jetersville on the Danville Railroad before Longstreet arrived in that vicinity. Their cavalry crossed the railroad and swept around on the north of our right marching flank, and hence came upon the wagon train. During the night, at Amelia Springs, Longstreet's corps, deflected from its originial line of march by the occupation of Jetersville and Burkesville by the enemy, passed by. The Commanding General arrived also, and I received from him orders to march at daylight after General Longstreet. The main body of the enemy's cavalry had ceased to follow our rear after our approach to Amelia C. H., and was moving on a parallel route upon our left marching flank.

The next morning (6th of April) I started the main portion of my command under Rosser (the senior officer present), and remained, in compliance with instructions, to explain in person to the first infantry officer who came up the situation of things, and to urge the importance of his keeping a sharp watch upon his left flank, as it was feared by the Commanding General the enemy might tap the marching column coming down from the Amelia Springs and Jetersville road. I then rode on to rejoin the greater part of my command en route towards Rice's Station, but was stopped after crossing Sailor's creek by the interposition of the enemy's cavalry, who, coming from their position on the railroad in the vicinity of Jetersville, had seized the road upon which we were marching, after the rear of Longstreet had passed along and previous to the arrival of the head of Ewell's command. I was detained there some time, hoping an attack would be made to reopen the way. The infantry were formed in line of battle at right angles to the road, and facing the direction in which they were marching. An attack commenced, but was stopped, though the enemy were being rapidly driven from our front. In the meantime the enemy made his appearance in the rear of Ewell's column, necessitating the formation of another line of battle on Sailor's creek, the direction from which they had marched. The line of battle thus originally formed faced in opposite directions, and remained quietly [372] in position until the Federal infantry reinforced their large force of cavalry and with it had almost entirely surrounded them. Though portions of this force, particularly the command of General G. W. C. Lee, fought with a gallantry never surpassed, their defeat and sursender were inevitable, after the dispositions of the enemy to effect it. I am clearly of the opinion (and I only express it because I was a witness of all that happened until just previous to the surrender) that had the troops been rapidly massed when their march was first interrupted they could have cleared the way and been able to fall into line of battle on Longstreet's left, who was taking position at Rice's Station, some few miles ahead. Or had the heads of the column been turned obliquely off in a westerly direction, more towards the road Gordon and the wagons were moving upon, an echelon formation adopted, the nature of the ground, wooded and much broken, would have kept the cavalry from harassing them sufficiently to retard their progress until the arrival of their infantry. I rode out by that way with my staff and a few men just previous to Ewell's surrender, and found it so feasible that I immediately sent a staff officer back to Generals Ewell and Anderson to reiterate to them my convictions, previously expressed, and now so much strengthened by my own experience. The halt, allowing time for the accumulation of the enemy's troops, proved fatal. General Rosser, in command of his own, and my old division, under Munford, proceeded to Rice's Station, on the Southside road, where, learning that a force had been detached from the Federal left, confronting Longstreet at that point, to open on his rear, moved at once to counteract their purpose. The enemy were overtaken and attacked on the road towards and in the vicinity of High Bridge. After a sharp encounter they were defeated, our forces capturing some 780 prisoners and killing and wounding a large number, including amongst the killed their commander, Brigadier-General Read, Chief of Staff to General Ord, commanding Army of the James, whose body fell into our hands. The enemy's force proved to be a picket body of infantry and a squadron of cavalry, which, placed under this staff officer, had for its object the destruction of the High Bridge over the Appomattox, in our rear. The success was indeed dearly bought; for the lives of Brigadier-General Dearing, of Rosser's division; Colonel Boston, Fifth Virginia cavalry, commanding Payne's brigade of my old division, and Major James W. Thomson, Stuart's horse artillery, and Rosser's chief in that arm, were lost in attaining it. The splendid gallantry of these three officers had been tested on many fields, and their conspicuous valor [373] was universally known. The genial and dashing Thomson was killed leading cavalry, his guns not being present.

On the night of the 6th the position at Rice's Station was abandoned, and I moved in rear of Longstreet, crossing the Appomattox a little above Farmville. Fighting took place between my rear and the enemy's advance in the vicinity and in the streets of Farmville, it being found necessary to retard their progress to give time for the passage of the river by our troops. On the 7th a portion of the enemy's cavalry, having crossed the river again, made an attack upon the wagon train moving upon our line of march. They were met by Munford in front, whilst Rosser attacked their flank, and were driven back with considerable loss, including amongst the captured their Commanding General, Irvin Gregg. Our position was held near this point of attack until 12 P. M., when the march was resumed towards Appomattox Courthouse. The cavalry followed in the rear of Longstreet's corps, and maintained that order of march throughout the 8th, followed by a portion of the Federal infantry. Their cavalry and the remainder of their infantry pursued the line of railroad from Farmville to Appomattox Station.

During the evening of the 8th I received orders to move the cavalry corps to the front, and to report in person to the Commanding General. Upon arriving at his headquarters I found General Longstreet there, and we were soon after joined by General Gordon. The condition of our situation was explained by the Commanding General to us as the commanders of his three corps, and the correspondence between General Grant and himself, as far as it had then progressed, was laid before us. It was decided that I should attack the enemy's cavalry at daylight, then reported as obstructing our further march. Gordon was to support me, and in case nothing but cavalry were discovered, we were to clear it from our route and open a way for our remaining troops; but in case they were supported by heavy bodies of infantry, the Commanding General should be at once notified, in order that a flag of truce should be sent to accede to the only only alternative left us. The enemy were enabled to take position across our line of march by moving up from Appomattox Station, which they reached earlier than our main advance, in consequence of our march being retarded by our wagon trains. At daybreak on the 9th, Gordon's command, numbering about 1,600 muskets, was formed in line of battle half mile west of Appomattox Courthouse, on the Lynchburg road. The cavalry corps was formed on his [374] right, W. H. F. Lee's division being nearest the infantry, Rosser's in the centre, and Munford's on the extreme right, making a mounted force of about 2,400 men. Our attack was made about sunrise, and the enemy's cavalry quickly driven out of the way with a loss of two guns and a number of prisoners. The arrival at this time of two corps of their infantry necessitated the retiring of our lines; during which, and knowing what would be the result, I withdrew the cavalry, W. H. F. Lee retiring towards our rear, and Rosser and Munford out towards Lynchburg, having cleared that road of the enemy.

Upon hearing that the Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered, the men were generally dispersed and rode off to their homes, subject to reassembling for a continuation of the struggle. I rode out in person with a portion of W. H. F. Lee's division, the nearest to me at that time, and previous to the negotiations between the commanders of the two armies. It will be recalled that my action was in accordance with the views I had expressed in the council the night before, that if a surrender was compelled the next day I would try and extricate the cavalry, provided it could be done without compromising the action of the Commanding General, but that I would not avail myself of a cessation of hostilities pending the existence of a flag of truce. I had an understanding with General Gordon that he should communicate to you the information of the presence of the enemy's infantry upon the road in our front. Apart from the fond though forlorn hope that future operations were still in store for the cavalry, I was desirous that they should not be included in the capitulations, because the ownership of their horses was vested in themselves, and I deemed it doubtful that terms would be offered allowing such ownership to continue. A few days convinced me of the impracticability of longer entertaining such hopes, and I rode into the Federal lines and accepted for myself the terms offered the officers of the Army of Northern Virginia; my cavalry are being paroled at the nearest places for such purposes in their counties.

The burning by the enemy of all my retained reports, records and data of every kind, near Painesville, in Amelia County, which were in one of the wagons destroyed, and my inability to get reports from my officers, is my apology for the rendition of a report incomplete in many, though I think minor, details. I particularly regret not being able to do justice, in this the only way I can, to the many acts of gallantry performed by officers and men upon the memorable retreat; but such conduct is usually derived from the reports of subordinate [375] officers, the absence of which will explain it. I testify, however, to the general conduct of my officers and men as highly creditable to themselves upon every occasion which called forth its display. They fought every day from the 29th of March to the 9th of April, both inclusive, with a valor as steady as of yore, and whose brightness was not dimned by the increasing clouds of adversity. I desire to call attention to the marked and excellent behavior of Generals W. H. F. Lee, Rosser and Munford, commanding divisions. The former was detached from the main command, being the senior division-commander, whenever it became necessary for a force to operate separately, and I hope has made a report direct to the Commanding General. He surrendered with the army at Apomattox C. H. The other two succeeded in getting out, and immediately made arrangements to continue the struggle until the capitulation of Genral Johnson's army brought the convincing proof that a further resistance was useless. The notice of the Commanding General is also directed to Brigadier-Generals Henry A. Wise and Eppa Hunton, commanding infantry brigades, and who were more or less under my command until Amelia Courthouse was reached. The disheartening surrounding influences had no effect upon them; they kept their duty plainly in view, and they fully performed it. The past services of General Henry A. Wise, his antecedents in civil life, and his age, caused his bearing upon this most trying retreat to shine conspicuously forth. His unconquerable spirit was filled with as much earnestness and zeal in April, 1865, as when he first took up arms, four years ago; and the freedom with which he exposed a long life laden with honors proved he was willing to sacrifice it if it would conduce towards attaining the liberty of his country. Brigadier-General Munford, commanding my division, mentions most favorably Colonel W. A. Morgan, First Virginia cavalry; Colonel W. B. Wooldridge, Fourth Virginia; Lieutenant-Colonel Cary Breckinridge, Second Virginia (a brother of the gallant Captain James Breckinridge, of the same regiment, who was killed at Five Forks, as was not previously mentioned); Lieutenant-Colonels Old, Fourth Virginia, and Irving, First Virginia, all of Munford's old brigade; Captain Henry Lee, A. A. G.; Lieutenant Abram Warwick, A. D. C.; Lieutenant Mortimer Rogers, Ordnance Officer; and Sergeant-Major L. Griffin, Second Virginia cavalry.

I cannot close this, my last official report, without commending for their valuable services the following officers of my staff not previously [376] mentioned, and who at the last moment were found doing their duty on the fated field of Appomattox: Majors Mason and Treaner, Assistant Adjutant and Inspector-Generals; Major W. B. Warwick, Chief Commissary; Dr. A. C. Randolph, Chief Surgeon; Major Breathed, Chief of Artillery; Major G. M. Ryalls, formerly of General Stuart's staff; and Captain Lewellyn Saunderson, who, having just arrived from his native country, Ireland, joined me previous to the fall of Petersburg, and remained with me to the last. The proverbial intrepidity of the dashing Mason and reckless Breathed upon every battle-field of the war that the Army of Northern Virginia contended for is too well known for me to do more than refer to. Major Warwick, apart from his onerous duties, rendered services on many fields, his cool courage causing him often to be employed in duties not immediately pertaining to his office. I deeply regret being obliged to mention the dangerous wounding of my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Charles Minnigerode, Jr. One of the last minie-balls that whistled on its cruel errand over the field of Appomattox passed entirely through the upper part of his body. He fell at my side, where for three long years he had discharged his duties with an affectionate fidelity never exceeded, a courage never surpassed. Wonderfully passing unharmed through the many battles fought by the two principal armies in this State (for an impetuous spirit often carried him where the fire was hottest), he was left at last, writhing in his great pain, to the mercy of the victors upon the field of our last struggle. The rapidly-advancing lines of the enemy prevented his removal, and as we turned away, the wet eyes and sorrowing hearts silently told that one was no longer in our midst. Lieutenant Minnegerode combined the qualities of an aid-de-camp to a general-officer in a remarkable degree. His personal services to me will forever be prized and remembered, whilst his intelligence, amiability and brightness of disposition rendered him an object of endearment to all.

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


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