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Everything now, in Grant's judgment, looked favorable to the defeat of the rebels and the capture of Petersburg and Richmond, if the proper effort were promptly made. On the 29th of March, he communicated with Sheridan, directing him not to cut loose for the contemplated raid just at present. "I now feel," he said, "like ending the matter, if it is possible to do so, before going back. I do not want you, therefore, to cut loose and go after the enemy's roads at present. In the morning push around the enemy, if you can, and get on to his right rear. The movements of the enemy's cavalry may, of course, modify your action. We will act all together as one army here until it is seen what can be done with the enemy." From Wednesday night, the 29th, till Friday morning, March 31st, the rain fell in torrents, so as to render it almost impossible to move any wheeled vehicle, except by means of corduroy roads. Sheridan, however, during the 30th, advanced from Dinwiddie Court House toward Five Forks, where he found the enemy in force. Warren advanced and extended his line across the Boydton plank road to near the White Oak road, with a view of getting across the latter .; but, finding
1865 enemy 8trong i11 his front
and extending beyond his left, was directed to hold on where he was and fortify. Humphreys drove the enemy from his front into his main line on the Hatcher, near Burgess's Mills. Ord, Wright and Parke made examinations in their fronts to determine the feasibility of an assault on the enemy's lines; and the two latter reported
favorably. Grant determined not to extend his line any further, but to reinforce Sheridan with a corps of infantry, and thusi enable him to cut loose i and turn the rebel right flank; with the other corps an assault was to be made on Lee's lines. The result of the offensive effort of the enemy a week be- } fore,when they assaulted Fort Steadman, particularly favored this. Their entrenched picket line captured by oui troops at that time threw the lines occupied by the belligerents so close to- J gether at some points, that it was but a moment's run from one to the other. Preparations were at once made to relieve Humphreys's corps, to report to Sheridan; but the condition of the roads prevented immediate movement.
On the 31st of March, Warren was pressing his entire corps upon the rebel j entrenched line on the White Oak road. Lee ordered an attack in force on Warren, which was made with great spirit, i and division after division was driven back, until, on reaching Griffin's force, 1 the troops were rallied and the assault repelled. A division of the 2d corps was immediately sent to Warren's support, the enemy driven back with heavy loss, and possession of the White Oak road gained. Sheridan advanced, and with a portion of his cavalry got possession of the Five Forks; but the enemy, after the affair with the 5th corps, reinforced the rebel cavalry, defending that point with infantry, and forced Sheridan back toward Dinwiddie Court House. Here, as Grant admiringly says, "Sheridan displayed great generalship. Instead of retreating with his whole command on the
main army, to tell the story of superior forces encountered, he deployed his cavalry on foot, leaving only mounted men enough to take charge of the horses. This compelled the enemy to deploy over a vast extent of wood and broken country, and made his progress slow."
Sheridan informed Grant of the position of affairs, and that he was falling back slowly on Dinwiddie Court House. McKenzie's cavalry and a division of the 5th corps were immediately ordered to Sheridan's assistance, and Meade having reported that Humphreys' could hold the position on the Boydton road, and that the other divisions of the 3d corps could go to Sheridan, they were so ordered at once. This was on the morning of the 1st of April, and Sheridan, now reinforced, assaulted the rebel troops and drove them back on Five Forks, which was held by them in force. This battle illustrated the superior strategy and tactics of Sheridan. By the skilful use of his cavalry, as a mask to cover the manoeuvring of the infantry, he made his arrangements so as to assault the rebels with tremendous effect; and by nightfall, the routed enemy fled westward from Five Forks, pursued for many miles by our cavalry* Between 5,000 and 0,000 prisoners were taken, and a large
* Sheridan, for reasons given in his report, relieved Warren of command of the 5th corps at the Close of the battlo. Sheridan's statements are, that. Warren was slow in his movements, not disposed to follow out the command promptly, etc. Warren, on the other hand, has defended himself in his published " Account of the Fifth Army Corps at the Battle of Five Forks." We need not enter into the merits of the question. Swinton is of opinion that Sheridan's "reasons are wholly inadequate to justify that officers conduct."
number of colors and guns. Our loss was reported as comparatively small, viz., a few hundred cavalry, and 634 infantry killed and wounded.
Grant, somewhat apprehensive lest the rebels might desert their lines dur ing the night, and by falling upon Sheridan before aid could reach him, drive him from his position and open the way for the retreat of Lee's army, sent Miles's division of the corps of Humphreys to reinforce Sheridan. A bombardment was also ordered of all the guns in the Petersburg lines, which, beginning at nightfall of the 1st of April, was kept up till four o'clock the next morning, Sunday, April 2d. An assault speedily followed, from the Appomattox to Hatcher's Run, by the troops of Parke, Wright, and Ord. Wright penetrated the rebel lines with his whole corps, sweeping everything before him, and capturing many guns and several thousand prisoners. He was closely followed by two divisions of Ord's command, until he met Ord's other divisions, which had succeeded in forcing the enemy's lines near Hatcher's Run. Wright and Ord immediately swung to the right and closed all of the enemy on that side of them in Petersburg, while Humphrej s pushed foi ward with two divisions and joined Wright on the left. Parke succeeded in carrying the main line of the rebels, capturing guns and prisoners, but on reaching the inner cordon of works, was unable to force them.
On reaching the lines immediately around Petersburg, a portion of tho corps of Ord, under Gen. Gibbon, began an attack on the two strong, enclosed works, named Forts Gregg and Alexander. By a gallant and resolute charge, they carried these forts, the most salient and commanding south of the city, and thus materially shortened the line of investment necessary for taking it. The enemy south of Hatcher's Run retreated westward to Sutherland's Station, where they were overtaken by Miles's division. A severe engagement ensued, and lasted until both the right and left flanks of the rebels were threatened by the approach of Sheridan, who was moving from Ford's Station towards Petersburg, and a division sent by Gen. Meade from the front of Petersburg, when they broke in the utmost confusion, leaving in the hands of our troops their guns and a large number of prisoners. This portion of the rebel force retreated by the main road along the Appomattox River.
The rebel commander, well aware that he could no longer resist Grant's assaults, sent a message to Jeff. Davis, this Sunday morning, April 2d, while he was at St. Paul's Church, Richmond, stating that the time had come when Petersburg and Richmond must be evacuated. Silently, in the darkness of the night, the rebel troops, having left Petersburg, marched along the north bank of the Appomattox, northward to Chesterfield Court House, midway between Petersburg and the rebel capital. Here they were joined by the other troops from Bermuda Hundred and Richmond, and Lee's whole army, now not much more than 25,000 in number, pushed eagerly forward, and by the next morr.'.ng succeeded in put
ting sixteen miles between them and Petersburg.*
Richmond was taken possession of by our forces, under Gen. Weitzel, early on Monday morning, April 3d. The rebels had blown up all they could, the vessels in the river, the bridges, etc.; they also set fire to the tobacco warehouses, and the flames spreading rapidly, notwithstanding the efforts of our men to extinguish them, laid the entire business portion of the city in ashes. President Lincoln visited Richmond the next day, in company with Admiral Porter; and throughout the country great rejoicings took place, and numerous patriotic addresses were made. In this connection, we may quote a paragraph or two from Vice-president Joh nson's speech at Washington, on the receipt of the news, a speech which at the time was regarded as of no moment, but which, in view of the calamity that soon after fell upon the country, assumed an importance proportionate to the unlooked for elevation of Andrew Johnson to the presidency. After remarking that old Andrew Jackson would hang up as
* " When in the gray dawn of Monday, April 3d, the skirmishers advanced from the lines before Petersburg, the city was found to be evacuated. At the same time the Union force on the lines confronting Richmond from the north side of the James was startled by a clamorous uproar, and the sky was seen to be lit up with a lurid glare. Surmising the meaning of this direful blazon, Gen. Weitzel threw forward a cavalry party that, entering the city without let, planted its guidons on the capitol. Thus Richmond fell I Marvellous as had been the one year's defence of the confederate capital, its fall was not less strange. Occupied, not captured, Richmond, to gain which such hecatombs of lives had been sacrificed, was at length given up by the civil authorities to a body of forty troopers 1"—Sainton's " Army of the Potomac," p. 60ft,
high as Haman such traitors as these whose rebellion was now hroken up, he went on to say: "Humble as I am, when you ask me what I would do, my reply is, I would arrest them; I would try them; I would convict them, and I would hang them. As humble as I am and have been, I have pursued but one undeviating course. All that I have— life, limb, and property—have been put at the disposal of the country in this great struggle. I have been in camp, I have been in the field, I have been everywhere where this great rebellion was; I have pursued it until I believe I can now see its termination. . . . I am in favor of leniency; but in my opinion, evil doers should be punished. Treason is the highest crime known in the catalogue of crimes; and for him that is guilty of it—for him that is willing to lift his impious hand against the authority of the nation—I would say death is too easy a punishment. My notion is that treason must be made odious, that traitors must be punished and impoverished, their social power broken; that they must be made to feel the penalty of their crimes."
Jeff. Davis, with such escort as he could obtain, took his departure from Richmond at the earliest possible hour after receiving Lee's message, on that eventful Sunday morning, and purposing, if we may believe his foolish boasting, (p. 504) to set up the rebel government in some safer place. He also carried with him all the money that could be got out of the Richmond banks, and whatever else his hasty flight would permit.
Davis, on reaching Danville, issued
a proclamation, April 5th, in which he tried to put the best face he could on matters in the Confederacy." Among other things he said—it was his last chance—" we have now entered upon a new phase of the struggle. Relieved from the necessity of guarding particular points, our army will be free to move from point to point to strike the enemy in detail far from his base. Lei us but will it and we are free. Animated by that confidence in spirit and fortitude which never yet failed me, I announce to you, fellow-countrymen, that it is my purpose to maintain your cause with my whole heart and soul; that I will never consent to abandon to the enemy one foot of the soil of any one of the states of the Confederacy; that Virginia—noble state—whose ancient renown has been eclipsed by her still more glorious recent history; whose bosom has been bared to receive the main shock of this war; whose sons and daughters have exhibited heroism so sublime as to render her illustrious in all time to come; that Virginia, with the help of the people and by the blessing of Providence, shall be held and defended, and no peace ever be made with the infamous invaders of her territory. If, by the stress of numbers, we should ever be compelled to a temporary withdrawal from her limits, or those of any other border state, again and again will we return, until the baffled and exhausted enemy shall abandon in des pair his endless and impossible task of making slaves of a people resolved to be free."*
* The fugitive arch rebel, we may here mention, attempted to escape by way of the r ea-coast. A reward