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Story of battle of five Forks.

And other events of the last days of the Confederacy-the Appomattox surrender.

Graphically told by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert M. Stribling, of Virginia artillery.

Colonel Robert M. Stribling, who was captain of the Fauquier Artillery, more commonly called after him, ‘Stribling's Battery,’ and who became the distinguished commander of a battalion of artillery, is well known as one of the most intelligent and gallant officers of the Army of Northern Virginia. He is also a student of military science and has written many able articles on military matters, displaying fine ability as an historian, and also striking and original views as a critic.

It will be pleasing to his many friends to know that he has composed a military work, which will soon be published, relating to the history of the Army of Northern Virginia. No one who knows him can doubt but that it will be of great value and an instructive contribution to the history of that immortal army, in which he was a brave, able and faithful officer.

The enclosed article on Five Forks is from his pen. It is composed by reference to the record, which is the primary and best of all sources of information. A study of that record will dispel many illusions produced by hasty and erroneous publications, and it has been closely studied by Colonel Stribling.

General Sheridan, having concentrated his cavalry corps at Dinwiddie Courthouse after some skirmishing, on the 31st of March, moved against General Fitz Lee, who had assembled the Confederate cavalry corps at Five Forks, from four to five miles west of Burgess' Mill. Fitz Lee had called for some infantry to equalize, as far as possible, his strength with that of Sheridan. Pickett's division was sent to him that morning. These two commands, then, drove Sheridan back in confusion [173] to Dinwiddie Courthouse. On the same day (31st of March), Warren advanced his corps from the neighborhood of Armstrong's Mill towards Five Forks; so that when the engagement between Sheridan and Fitz Lee closed for the night, Warren's corps was on Fitz Lee's flank, and almost in his rear. Pickett and Fitz Lee, perceiving the conditions, fell back at light the next morning (April 1st), and arranged their commands in line of battle at Five Forks, with Pickett's division in line, Munford covering its left flank, W. H. F. Lee its right flank, and Rosser in reserve on the other side of Hatcher's Run. Between this line and the fortified line at Burgess' Mill, held by Lieutenant-General R. H. Anderson, with Johnson's division, was a gap of several miles in width, only picketed by Roberts' small command.

Sheridan, reinforced by Warren with his corps, that had been placed under his command, advanced, and, by 3 P. M., had uncovered Fitz Lee's line. Having ascertained the extent of the line, Warren was directed to move around its left flank, between it and Burgess' Mill, and thus to completely sever it from the body of the army, and cut off its retreat or any reinforcements to it; and then he was to press in upon it, whilst the cavalry, dismounted, engaged Pickett's attention in front.

Warren's advance.

In the advance on the flank Warren was encountered only by Munford, with his two small brigades of cavalry, that he drove back until he had room to deploy in the line upon the flank and rear of Pickett's division. He then quickly moved upon it, doubled it up, and drove it from the field in the utmost confusion towards the west, and captured the greater part of the artillery and many prisoners. Warren then arranged his corps so as to preclude the possibility of these forces reuniting with the body of the army. It had happened that Fitz Lee, during the day, notified Lieutenant-General R. H. Anderson, who was at Burgess' Mill with Johnson's division, that the Fifth Corps was with Sheridan, and that Sheridan, now with overwhelming force, was pressing upon him. Anderson, in person, with Wise's and Gracie's brigades, moved to his relief, but as Warren had [174] already crossed the White Oak road, the direct line of communication between the two places, and Humphreys (see his report) had sent Miles' division around on that road to confront the forces at Burgess' Mill, Anderson made a circuit around Miles and Warren, reached the neighborhood after Fitz Lee and Pickett had been routed, and without affording any assistance whatever added those brigades to the routed and disorganized, and left the right wing of Lee's army with almost no infantry and without any cavalry.

Warren successful, but relieved.

After the very successful operations of this day, in which Warren had played so important and conspicuous a part, and his corps had done the work, that evening he received the following orders:

Fields Orders, No. Cavalry Headquarters, April 1, 1865.
Major-General Warren, commanding Fifth Corps, is relieved from duty and will report at once for orders to LieutenantGen-eral Grant, commanding armies of the United States.

By command of Major-General Sheridan.

James W. Forsyth. Brevet Brigadier-General and Chief of Staff.

Warren at once reported to Grant and was assigned to the command of the Department of Mississippi, where there was no army and where fighting had long since ceased. In his report Sheridan gives as his reason for relieving Warren his want of promptness in executing his orders, and Warren in his report claims that as far as practicable he was prompt in executing them.

The fighting around Petersburg.

After the rout of the right wing of Lee's army, it appeared possible to destroy or capture the whole of Lee's army before it could move from position, and with that in view, Grant ordered that as early as possible on the morning of the 2d, assaults should be made along the whole line—by Parke, from the Appomattox [175] to the Jerusalem Plank Road; by Wright from the Plank Road as far as his command extended; by Ord, with the Army of the James, between him and Humphreys, and by Humphreys, upon the intrenchments about Burgess' Mill, whilst Sheridan, with the cavalry and the Fifth Corps, was to sweep around and clear out everything to the Appomattox River.

Longstreet, not having found out that ‘the Army of the James’ had been withdrawn from his front, though it had been withdrawn on the evening of March 27th, the seventh day before, remained on the Richmond and Bermuda lines, under the impression that he was confronting that army, so that the protection of the whole line from the Appomattox to Burgess' Mill, from twelve to fifteen miles in length, when assaulted by the concentrated strength of Grant's army, devolved upon Gordon's and A. P. Hill's Corps, the greater part of which had, therefore, to be entrusted to the artillery, unsupported.

The Confederate lines broken. Fall of A. P. Hill.

Before it was light on the morning of the 2d of April, Parke broke through the line near the Appomattox, but was soon driven back at that point. Later he broke through the line near the Plank Road, and after a severe engagement, lasting throughout the day, in which every available man of Gordon's and A. P. Hill's command were used to re-establish the line, Parke, reinforced by the seserves from City Point and troops from Wright and Ord, succeeded in holding on to a small part of the works captured in the morning. In this engagement the brilliant corps commander, General A. P. Hill, was killed, who, during the campaign of ‘64, commanded the right wing of Lee's army and was so successful in defeating all of Grant's efforts. Wright was resisted by but few troops in his assaults upon the rest of the line, and soon swept the line until he connected with Ord, who, likewise meeting with but little resistance, had passed through the lines, faced his army towards Petersburg, and was advancing towards the inner line of redoubts immediately surrounding the city. Humphreys, as soon as he could get his corps together (Miles' division having been ordered by Sheridan to him), captured all the works around Burgess' Mill, as the [176] few troops holding them were in the act of being withdrawn, after Ord had gone in between them and Petersburg, and swept around to Sutherland Depot, on the Southside Railroad.

Ord during the evening succeeded in capturing several redoubts to the northwest of the city, when, at last, Longstreet arrived with his two divisions and held a line protecting the city in that direction until night closed the engagement.


During the night General Lee evacuated his lines around the city, crossed over to the north side of the river and commenced his march to Amelia Courthouse, where he ordered all the detachments of his army to assemble, and where he had ordered that provisions should be sent by rail from Richmond. In the same night all the lines around Richmond were evacuated, and the troops from them moved also to Amelia Courthouse. All the columns were assembled at that place in due time, but the rations had been carried on towards Danville, and the army was without any food. That necessitated a day's delay in order to feed the men, and Grant got ahead on the line of the railroad to Danville, and Lee had to turn off in the direction of Lynchburg, which took him back across the Appomattox at the High Bridge, near Farmville. Just before the column reached the river it was struck in flank and rear at Sailor's Creek, where the trains were blocked at the ford, and the rear part of the army halted to protect them; and nearly half the army was broken up and the greater part of it captured.

Lee at Appomattox—surrender.

On the 8th, General Lee, with the remainder of the army, resumed his march towards Lynchburg and reached Appomattox Courthouse; but during the evening of that day Sheridan, supported by Ord, cut across his line of march just beyond the courthouse, and in doing so, cut off from the rest of the army the artillery of A. P. Hill's corps, under the command of Brigadier-General R. Lindsay Walker, and the artillery of R. H. Anderson's corps, under the command of Colonel H. P. Jones. Sheridan evidently did not understand the situation, for this [177] artillery—about one-half the artillery of Lee's army, without any infantry or cavalry with it—would have fallen an easy prey to his ambitious cavalry. After spending nearly the whole night of the 8th in marching around Sheridan, in the attempt to reunite the army, when it was light, finding that was impossible, Jones' artillery moved on to Lynchburg and reported to General L. L. Lomax, in command there, and Walker buried his guns near an old church and disbanded his command.

On the 9th General Lee ordered Gordon and Fitz Lee to drive Sheridan away, that the army might resume its march, which they did very promptly, but found that Ord was there also and further efforts must be vain.

The surrender of the army was then arranged for and the officers and men paroled.

This ended the career of the Army of Northern Virginia, and the downfall of the Confederate States quickly followed.

There were paroled 28,231 officers and men. But of that number only about 11,000 bearing arms, the rest, in the main, belonged to the class of ‘Impedimenta.’


From their organization, ‘The Army of the Potomac,’ and ‘The Army of Northern Virginia,’ had confronted each other, had manoeuvered and fought with skill and valor, if ever, but seldom equaled, and had elevated warfare to an ethical plane never contemplated before. How rapidly the names that were conspicuous in the history of ‘The Army of the Potomac,’ has disappeared from its rolls in succession. In November, 1864, Hancock, the hero of its one acknowledged victory, ‘The battle of Gettysburg,’ took his leave, and Warren, in the moment of triumph, was retired from command. Meade's was almost the only conspicuous name left on the rolls when the crowning victory came. None of those who had been its most conspicuous figures were to be participants in the final triumph. None of them possessed the special qualifications that the administration required, or else they possessed qualities not conformable to its purposes. Of them, Meade, almost alone, appeared in the [178] closing scene of the drama. And, with the disappearance of the distinguished names from its rolls, the distinguishing characteristics of the army had gone also. It had ceased to be ‘The Army of the Potomac;’ it was a component part of ‘Grant's army,’ and scarcely lived in name.

In ‘The Army of Northern Virginia’ all answered to its last roll call that had not already made final answer at the summons of the Master.

Each of these two great armies had found in the other, a foreman worthy of its steel, and each, in a manner, lies buried in a common grave, overwhelmed by a tidal wave.

With the surrender of ‘The Army of Northern Virginia’ ended the life of ‘The Confederate States,’ whose birth-throes shook a continent.

“The Confederate States” died a—borning, and upon its

‘in Memoriam,’

With spirit pointing to heaven this inscription:

No nation rose so white and fair,
None fell so pure of crime,

Will survive the effacements of time; and two figures will always stand out upon it in bold relief—

Jefferson Davis
Robert E. Lee.

Around them, the others will be grouped. Near to them, perhaps, nearest, will be:

Markham, Fauquier county, Va.

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