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The turning-point of the movement was SHERIDAN'S
BATTLE OF FIVE FORKS, Fought Saturday afternoon, with his cavalry and the Fifth Corps. The battle was, practically, LONGSTREET'S ruin. Fifty-seven hundred prisoners, and three batteries of artillery, were the material trophies of the victory, but the moral results were of far greater importance.
Our loss in the battle was severe. The only general officer lost was Brevet Brigadier-General WINTHROP, commanding the First Brigade of General A YERS' division of the Fifth Corps; one of those chivalrous soldiers New England sent into the war.
The battle was fought and won in SHERIDAN'S accustomed style. CUSTER, DEVINS, and Davis, of the cavalry corps, GRIFFIN, A YERS, CRAWFORD, and BARTLETT, of the Fifth Corps, won new laurels in the fight, and the enemy was driven pell-mell from his last Virginia battle-field, with heavy loss in killed and wounded.
LONGSTREET, after his defeat, fled, first north and then westward, probably with the hope to effect a junction with JOHNSTON in North Carolina.
Going from their right to left, the three divisions of HILL’s Corps were holding the line from the Boydton road below Burgess' Mill to opposite the centre of the Sixth Corps, where it joined with GORDON, who held from that point around Petersburg to the Appomattox river.
Time now became the essential element of the situation, and to fully comprehend the rapid changes that followed, it is necessary to bear in mind not days, but hours and minutes.
SATURDAY NIGHT, APRIL 1st, 1865. During the terrible cannonading which lasted all Saturday night, it was determined to assault the line we
had been confronting so long. It was known that it must be weak somewhere, and a grave suspicion rested in the minds of many of our officers that it was in that predicament everywhere. It was known positively that LONGSTREET was not attempting to return to Petersburg as yet, and that Hill and GORDON were alone on the line. It might chance that some one or more of the forts were heavily manned, and be so stubbornly defended as to disarrange our whole programme; but if so, something else might be done. We knew exactly what was before us so far as physical obstacles were concerned. We had been looking on, into and beyond the rebel line of works for months. Our pickets and sharp-shooters knew every inch of the ground ; our generals had correct diagrams of their works; every slashing, rifle-pit, fort, abattis, were old-time acquaintances. The only point on which we would necessarily be in the dark-and it was an all-important one-was as to what disposition Lee might make of his force during the night. Should he leave them scattered along his whole line, from Burgess' Mill to the Appomattox, we could break it and hold it everywhere. Should he mass at certain points during the night, we might be there repulsed, which would cause the whole programme to miscarry. To guard as much as possible against this, it was determined to assault first with the Ninth Corps, immediately in front of Petersburg, in the hope that LEE might be induced to mass to some extent, and leaving his right, the vital point, more exposed to the attempt of the Sixth, Twenty-fourth, and Second Corps. How admirably the ruse succeeded, this narrative will show. It will show further, that, while GRANT's generalship completely bafiled LEE, he succeeded as thoroughly in befogging the North, and those who were present as lookers-on. Men and newspapers talked of a raid to Burkesville by SHERIDAN, of an attempt to reach the
South Side road, at or near Black and White; of every thing and any thing but what was actually intended and accomplished. No one dreamed on Saturday that GRANT'S plans for the succeeding twenty-four hours involved the cutting in two and annihilation of LEE'S army,
the capture of Petersburg and Richmond, the death of the rebellion. Not a man, outside the confidence of GRANT, MEADE, ORD, and the corps commanders.
SUNDAY, APRIL 2d, 4 O'CLOCK A. M. The Ninth Corps initiated our glory. Still lying directly in front of Petersburg, General PARKE was in his old-time position, pressing close up to the town. His divisions were, as of old, Wilcox on the right, resting on the Appomattox ; HARTRANFT, with the glow of Saturday's glory still bright upon him, and his new star to be baptized, was in the centre, and POTTER, with the Second Division, was on the left, joining WHEATON, of the Sixth Corps.
The programme was for Wilcox to make a feint upon the rebel fort upon the Appomattox. It was made promptly to the time, but was a somewhat vigorous feint. Creeping up to within a few feet of the fort, at the word of command the gallant First Division sprang to its feet, and, with the old-time yell, rushed on the work. At four and a quarter o'clock they were in the fort, bad captured the astonished garrison of fifty men, and four guns. This was the feint of Wilcox, and, almost simultaneously, HARTRANFT and POTTER advanced. It was in the same style. Creeping up under cover of the darkness, the two divisions sprang to their feet, and at the double-quick, without firing a shot, broke through the rebel line, capturing four forts, twenty-seven guns, and hundreds of prisoners. The moment they were in possession of the works, they turned their guns on the flying enemy, some
wbat ungraciously using rebel ammunition to accelerate rebel flight.
Thus at daylight PARKE had gained entire possession of the rebel line in his front, and without loss. Later in the day, he had stubborn fighting to do, and heavy losses to sustain.
Simultaneously with the advance of the Ninth Corps, the old Sixth, heroes already, but to be rebaptized in glory to-day, began their work under General WRIGHT, His divisions also advanced in the same order in which they had occupied our works, WHEATON's First Division on the right, SEYMOUR’S Third Division centre, and GETTY'S Second Division on the left, joining at Fort Sampson the new line of the Twenty-fourth Corps, with FOSTER'S Division on its right.
General WRIGHT had to sustain a volley before he reached the rebel line, but his loss from it was very slight. They had orders to carry the rebel line, and carry it they intended to do, and did. The ground between the two lines, all along from Fisher to Lee, where the advance was made, is entirely open, and comparatively level, the only ravine being nearly to the rebel line, and running for some distance parallel with it, a circumstance that was of material advantage to us. Not five minutes elapsed from the time WRIGHT gave the signal to storm, before SEYMOUR, WHEATON and GETTY were over the rebel line, in possession of all its guns, and hundreds of its occupants as prisoners. The enemy flying in wild disorder across the open country to their interior line, we opened upon them with their own pieces, and although without great effect, it served admirably to frighten them. Ob, the wild haste they made from the conquering Yankees in their rear. Many regiments claimed the honor of being first over the rebel line, and among them the Ninth New York Heavy Artillery, and the Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania Infantry;
but amidst conflicting accounts, it is impossible to determine these matters with sufficient accuracy. All regiments, every man, did well, did nobly, could not do better. In the first charge, WHEATON took twelve pieces of artillery, and nearly the entire Mississippi Brigade of HETH's Division, composed of the Second, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Sixteenth, Nineteenth, and Forty-second Mississippi.
Thus by five o'clock we had miles of the rebel line in full and complete possession, and the demoralized enemy was flying in dismay to his interior lines, drawn close in to Petersburg on the south and west. A pause followed the work of the early morning, but at
SEVEN O'CLOCK The Second and Twenty-fourth Corps began the work assigned them. First, of the Twenty-fourth, which joined the Sixth. Generals ORD and GIBBON had been along its front as late as one o'clock in the morning, and satisfied that all was ready, they and their weary staffs snatched a couple of hours of sleep, in the midst of hundreds of great guns thundering along the lines. At the hour named, TURNER and FOSTER assaulted the rebel line in their front, and carried it with very little loss. The ground over which they advanced was difficult in the extreme, cut up into ugly ravines, and encumbered with intricate slashing. The distance was short, fortunately, and somehow the two divisions got over it and over the rebel works at the same time, the One-hundred-andtwenty-third Ohio, of the First Brigade, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel POTTER, Thirty-eighth Massachusetts, being first, had time enough to capture four guns and a large portion of Cook's Brigade, of HETH's Division, consisting of the Third, ,Fourth, Twelfth, Twenty-first