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General Warren at five Forks, and the court of inquiry.

On May 11th, 1865, General G. K. Warren, who was then in command of the Department of the Mississippi, addressed a letter to the “New York times,” in which he said:
“ The operations of the enemy on the 31st of March made it necessary for me to send a portion of my corps during the night to support General Sheridan's cavalry, which had been forced back to near Dinwiddie Court House. One of my divisions was thus compelled to march all night, after having fought all day, and the rest of the corps moved toward the enemy that confronted the cavalry at daybreak.

Our presence on the flank and rear of the enemy compelled him to fall back rapidly to the vicinity of the Five Forks, and General Sheridan, on advancing with the cavalry, found him slightly intrenched there. This force proved to be a complete division of the enemy's infantry, and all the cavalry of Lee's army.

I received an order from General Meade, after joining General Sheridan, to report to him for duty, which I did, and the corps was halted by his direction at the point where we joined him, about 8 A. M. [April 1st]. At 1 P. M. I was directed to bring up the corps to Gravelly Run Church, a distance of about two and three-fourths miles from where they had been halted, and there form with two divisions in front and one in reserve, so as to move with the whole corps, and attack and turn the enemy's left flank on the White Oak road.

My line was formed accordingly: Ayres on the left, in three lines of battle; Crawford on the right, in three lines of battle; and Griffin's division in reserve in masses. This occupied till 4 P. M. The forward movement then began. General Ayres's division became first engaged, wheeling to the left, from facing north to facing west, as it advanced. General Crawford's division also wheeled to the left on General Ayres's as on a pivot, but owing to the nature of the ground and forests, and the greater distance to gain, he lost his connection with General Ayres.

Into the interval thus left General Griffin's division was placed. These two divisions steadily drove in the enemy's left flank. General Crawford's division moved on westward till it gained the road leading north from the center of the enemy's position, when it was wheeled to the south, and attacked the troops that were endeavoring to hold this road as an outlet for escape.

All the divisions now closed in upon the enemy capturing the artillery that was attempting to move north, and nearly all the infantry, which their movements had thrown in the greatest confusion. I successively followed the operations of my divisions from left to right, being with General Crawford when the position was taken.

While these movements above described were going on, the cavalry engaged the enemy along his whole front, which was facing south. The enemy still maintained the right of his line, confronting the cavalry, after we had swept away his left and center; but the Fifth Corps, crowding along the line, without waiting to reform, captured all who remained, as it swept along. I was with the extreme advance in the last movement, and was relieved while there at 7 P. M., the battle being then over, and not even a fugitive enemy in sight.

I personally sought of General Sheridan a reason for his order; but he would not, or could not, give one, and declined to do so. I obeyed the order to report to General Grant that night, and was by him assigned to the command of the defenses at City Point and Bermuda Hundred. After the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg I was given the command of the troops at the latter place and along the Southside Railroad, belonging to the Army of the Potomac. When these troops were relieved by troops from the Army of the James, I was left in Petersburg awaiting orders. I then addressed a letter, dated April 9th, to General Rawlins, chief-of-staff, soliciting an investigation. On the 22d of April I sent another, requesting permission to publish the first one, for the reasons set forth therein. On the 2d of May I telegraphed Colonel Bowers, adjutant-general, to ascertain if these had been received, and he answered, they ‘were received, the latter during General Grant's absence. Orders have been sent you [me] to report here, when you can see the general.’

On May 3d I received by telegraph an extract from General Orders No. 78, of May 1st, assigning me to the command of the Department of the Mississippi. I at once proceeded to Washington, and, after a personal interview with General Grant, received, on the 6th of May, an answer to my communications of the 9th and 22d of April, authorizing my publishing them, and stating the reasons for not granting me the investigation sought.


A court of inquiry was finally granted to General Warren on the 9th of December, 1879, by President Hayes. As finally constituted, the court consisted of Brevet Major-Generals C. C. Augur and John Newton, and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Loomis L. Langdon, recorder. The inquiry related to four imputations contained in the final reports of Grant and Sheridan.

First. General Grant wrote:2

On the morning of the 31st [of March] General Warren reported favorably to getting possession of the White Oak road, and was directed to do so. To accomplish this he moved with one division, instead of his whole corps, resulting in a repulse.

The court exonerated Warren, but held that he “should have been with his advanced divisions,” and “should have started earlier to the front.”

Second. General Sheridan says:

Had Warren moved according to the expectations of the lieutenant-general there would appear to have been but little chance for the escape of the enemy's infantry in front of Dinwiddie Court House.

The court found that “it was not practicable for the Fifth Corps to have reached Sheridan at 12 o'clock on the night of March 31st,” as Grant had expected; but that Warren should have moved Griffin and Crawford at once, as ordered.

Third. General Sheridan says:

General Warren did not exert himself to get up his corps as rapidly as he might have done, and his manner gave me the impression that he wished the sun to go down before dispositions for the attack could be completed.


The court found that there was no unnecessary delay in the march of the Fifth Corps, and that General Warren took the usual methods of a corps commander to prevent delay; and that “his actions do not appear to have corresponded with such [a] wish” as that imputed to him.

Fourth. Sheridan says:

In the engagement portions of his line gave way, when not exposed to a heavy fire, and simply for want of confidence on the part of the troops, which General Warren did not exert himself to inspire.

The court found that Warren was exerting himself to remedy the divergence of Crawford and Griffin, after Ayres changed front to the left, and “thinks this was for him the essential point to be attended to, which also exacted his whole efforts to accomplish.”

On the 21st of November, 1881, President Arthur directed “that the findings and opinion be published.” No other action was taken.--editors.

1 General Warren resigned his volunteer commission May 27, 1865; he died Aug. 8, 1882, at Newport, R. I.

2 In his “Memoirs” (C. L. Webster & Co., 1885), General Grant says:

I was so munch dissatisfied with Warren's dilatory movements in the battle of White Oak road, and in his failure to reach Sheridan in time, that I was very much afraid that at the last moment he would fail Sheridan. lie was a man of fine intelligence, great earnestness, quick perception, and could make his dispositions as quickly as any officer, under difficulties where he was forced to act. But I had before discovered a defect which was beyond his control, that was very prejudicial to his usefulness in emergencies like the one just before us. He could see every danger at a glance before lie had encountered it. He would not only make preparations to meet the danger which might occur, but he would inform his commanding officer what others should do while lie was executing his move.

I had sent a staff-officer to General Sheridan to call his attention to these defects, and to say that as much as I liked General Warren, now was not a time when we could let our personal feelings for any one stand in the way of success; and if his removal was necessary to success, not to hesitate. It was upon that authorization that Sheridan removed Warren, I was very sorry that it had been done, and regretted still more that I had not long before taken occasion to assign him to another field of duty.

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