No. 199. Reports of Major General Philip H. Sheridan, U. S. Army, commanding Cavalry.1
Five Forks, White Oak Road, April 2, 1865.
GENERAL: I have the honor to make the following report of our operations of yesterday:
At daylight yesterday morning I moved out with all the cavalry against the enemy’s infantry in front of Dinwiddie Court-House. On our advance they fell back rapidly in line of battle. This sudden withdrawal was in part due to the advance of Ayres’ division of the Fifth Corps from the Boydton plank road. General Ayres was unable to get into the enemy’s rear in time to attack as expected owing to the darkness and bad roads, but his movement was sufficient to turn the enemy from the Five Forks road and force him to cross Chamberlain’s Bed. Custer’s and Devin’s division of cavalry, under General Merritt, followed up the enemy with a gallantry that I have never seen exceeded, charging their infantry and driving them from two lines of works, capturing prisoners from Pickett’s and Johnson’s infantry divisions as well as from the enemy’s cavalry. The enemy made a last stand at the five Forks behind a strong line of earth-works along the White Oak road. After forcing them to this position I directed General Merritt to push his dismounted cavalry well up to the enemy’s works and drive in their skirmishers and make the enemy believe that our main attack would be made on their right flank. In the meanwhile I had ordered up the Fifth Corps to within a mile of the File Forks on the Dinwiddie Court-House road for the purpose of attacking the enemy’s left flank and rear. Between 4 and 5 o’clock, in accordance with these dispositions, the Fifth Corps moved out across the White Oak road, swinging round to the left as they advanced, and struck the enemy in flank and rear. Simultaneously with this attack the cavalry assaulted the enemy’s works in front in compliance with my orders to General Merritt, and the result of this combined movement was the compete rout of the enemy with the loss of 5 pieces of artillery and caissons, a number of their wagons and ambulances, and I think at least 5,000 prisoners and several battle-flags. Gregg’s brigade, of General Crook’s cavalry division, operated upon our extreme left, skirmishing with the enemy’s cavalry. The two other brigades of this division remained in the vicinity of Dinwiddie Court-House guarding the trains and the crossings of Stony Creek. I ordered General Mackenzie’s division of cavalry, which
reported to me in the morning, to the White Oak road by the way of J. Boisseau’s house, with instructions to advance in the direction of Five Forks. When the Fifth Corps reached the White Oak road General Mackenzie joined their right and in the attack swept round over the Ford’s Church road, cutting off this avenue of retreat to the enemy. After the enemy broke our cavalry pursued them for six miles down the White Oak road.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. H. SHERIDAN,
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT,
Commanding Armies of the United States.
May 16, 1865.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following narrative of the operations of my command during the recent campaign in front of Petersburg and Richmond, terminating with the surrender of the rebel Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court-House, Va., on April 9, 1865:
On March 26 my command, consisting of the First and Third Cavalry Divisions, under the immediate command of Bvt. Major General Wesley Merritt, crossed the James River by the bridge at Jones’ Landing, having marched from Winchester, in the Shenandoah Valley, via White House, on the Pamunkey River.
On March 27 this command went into camp near Hancock’s Station, on the military railroad, in front of Petersburg, and on the same day the Second Cavalry Division, which had been serving with the Army of the Potomac, reported to me, under the command of Major General George Crook.
The effective force of these three divisions of cavalry was as follows: General Merritt’s command, First and Third Divisions, 5,700; General Crook’s command, Second Division, 3,300; total effective force, 9,000.
With this force I moved out on the 29th of March, in conjunction with the armies operating against Richmond, and in the subsequent operations I was under the immediate orders of the lieutenant-general commanding. I moved by the way of Reams’ Station, on the Weldon railroad, and Malone’s Crossing, on the Rowanty Creek, where we were obliged to construct a bridge. At this point our advance encountered a small picket of the rebel cavalry, and drove it to the left across Stony Creek, capturing a few prisoners, from whom and from my scouts I learned that the enemy’s cavalry was at or near Stony Creek Depot, on the Weldon railroad, on our left flank and rear. Believing that it would not attack me, and that by pushing on to Dinwiddie Court-House I could force it to make a wide detour, we continued the march, reaching the Court-House about 5 p.m., encountering only a small picket of the enemy, which was driven away by our advance.
It was found necessary to order General Custer’s division, which was marching in rear, to remain near Malone’s Crossing, on the Rowanty Creek, to assist and protect our trains, which were greatly retarded by the almost impassable roads of that miry section.
The First and Second Divisions, went into camp, covering the Vaughan, Flat Foot, Boydton plank, and Five Forks roads, which all intersect at Dinwiddie Court-House, rendering this an important point,
and from which I was expected to make a cavalry raid on the South Side Railroad, and thence join General Sherman or return to Petersburg, as circumstances might dictate. However, during the night the lieutenant-general sent me instructions to abandon the contemplated raid and act in concert with the infantry, under his immediate command, and turn the right flank of Lee’s army if possible.
Early on the morning of the 30th of March I directed General Merritt to send the First Division, Brigadier-General Devin commanding, to gain possession of the Five Forks, on the White Oak road, and directed General Crook to send General Davies’ brigade of his division to the support of General Devin. Gregg’s brigade, of Crook’s division, was held on the Boydton plank road, and guarded the crossing of Stony Creek, forcing the enemy’s cavalry, that was moving from Stony Creek Depot to form a connection with the right of their army, to make a wide detour, as I had anticipated, on the roads south of Stony Creek and west of Chamberlain’s Bed-a very fatiguing march in the bad condition of the roads. A very heavy rain fell during this day, aggravating the swampy nature of the ground, and rendering the movements of troops almost impossible. General Merritt’s reconnaissance developed the enemy in strong force on the White Oak road, in the vicinity of the Five Forks, and there was some heavy skirmishing throughout the day.
Next morning, March 31, General Merritt advanced toward the Five Forks with the First Division, and, meeting with considerable opposition, General Davies’ brigade, of Crook’s division, was ordered to join him, while General Crook, advancing on the left with the two other brigades of his division, encountered the enemy’s cavalry, at Chamberlain’s Creek, at a point a little north and west of Dinwiddie, making demonstrations to cross. Smith’s brigade was ordered to hold them in check, and Gregg’s brigade to a position on his right. The advance of the First Division got possession of the Five Forks, but in the meantime the Fifth Army Corps, which had advanced toward the White Oak road from the Vaughan road, was attacked and driven back, and withdrawing from that point, this force of the enemy marched rapidly from the front of the Fifth Corps to the Five Forks, driving in our cavalry advanced, and moving down on roads west of Chamberlain’s Creek, attacked General Smith’s brigade, but were unable to force his position. Abandoning the attempt to cross in his front, this force of the enemy’s infantry succeeded in effecting a crossing higher up the creek, striking General Davies’ brigade, of the Second Division, which, after a gallant fight, was forced back upon the left flank of the First Division, thus partially isolating all this force from my main line covering Dinwiddie Court-House. Orders were at once given to General Merritt to cross this detached force over to the Boydton plank road and march down to Dinwiddie Court-House and come into the line of battle. The enemy, deceived by this movement, followed it up rapidly, making a left wheel and presenting his rear to my line of battle. When his line was nearly parallel to mine, General Gibbs’ brigade, of the First Division, and General Irvin Gregg’s brigade, of the Second Division, were ordered to attack at once, and General Custer was directed to bring up two of his brigades rapidly, leaving one brigade of his division with the trains, that had not yet reached Dinwiddie Court-House. In the gallant attack made by Gibbs and Gregg the enemy’s wounded fell into our hands, and he was forced to face by the rear rank and give up his movement, which, if continued would have taken in flank and rear the infantry line of the Army of the Potomac. When the enemy had faced to meet
this attack, a very obstinate and handsomely contested battle ensued, in which, with all his cavalry and two divisions of infantry, the enemy was unable to drive five brigades of our cavalry, dismounted, from an open plain in front of Dinwiddie Court-House. The brunt of their cavalry attack was borne by General Smith’s brigade, which had so gallantly held the crossing of Chamberlain’s Creek in the morning. His command again held the enemy in check with determined bravery, but the heavy force brought against his right flank finally compelled him to abandon his position on the creek and fall back to the main line immediately in front of Dinwiddie Court-House. As the enemy’s infantry advanced to the attack, our cavalry threw up slight breast-works of rails at some points along our lines, and when the enemy attempted to force this position, they were handsomely repulsed and gave up the attempt to gain possession of the Court-House. It was after dark when the firing ceased, and the enemy lay on their arms that night not more than 100 yards in front of our lines.
The commands of Generals Devin and Davies reached Dinwiddie Court-House without opposition by way of the Boydton plank road, but did not participate in the final action of the day.
In this well-contested battle the most obstinate gallantry was displayed by my entire command. The brigades commanded by General Gibbs and Colonels Stagg and Fitzhugh, in the First Division, Generals Davies, Gregg, and Smith, in the Second Division, Colonels Pennington and Capehart, in the Third Division, vied with each other in their determined efforts to hold in check the superior of the enemy, and the skillful management of their troops in this peculiarly difficult country entitles the brigade commanders to the highest commendation.
Generals Crook, Merritt, Custer, and Devin, by their courage and ability, sustained their commands and executed the rapid movements of the day with promptness and without confusion.
During the night of the 31st of March my headquarters were at Dinwiddie Court-House, and the lieutenant-general notified me that the Fifth Corps would report to me and should reach me by midnight. This corps had been offered to me on the 30th instant, but very much desiring the Sixth Corps, which had been with me in the Shenandoah Valley, I asked for it, but on account of the delay which would occur in moving that corps from its position in the lines in front of Petersburg it could not be sent me. I respectfully submit herewith my brief account of the operations of the day, the response to which was the ordering of the Fifth Corps to my support and my command, as also the dispatch of the lieutenant-general notifying me of his action. I understood that the Fifth Corps, when ordered to report to me, was in position near S. Dabney’s house, in the angle between the Boydton road and the Five Forks road. Had General 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. Ayres’ division moved down the Boydton plank road during the night, and in the morning moved west by R. Boisseau’s house, striking the Five Forks road about two miles and a half north of Dinwiddie Court-House. General Warren, with Griffin’s and Crawford’s Divisions, moved down the road by Crump’s house, coming into the Five Forks road near J. Boisseau’s house between 7 and 8 o’clock on the morning of the 1st of April. Meantime I move my cavalry force at daylight against the enemy’s lines in my front, which gave way rapidly, moving off by the right flank, and
crossing Chamberlain’s Creek. This hasty movement was accelerated by the discovery that two divisions of the Fifth Corps were in their rear, and that one division was moving toward their left and rear.
The following were the instructions sent to General Warren:
Dinwiddie Court-House, April 1, 1865-3 a.m.
Commanding Fifth Army Corps:
I am holding in front of Dinwiddie Court-House, on the road leading to Five Forks, for three-quarters of a mile, with General Custer’s division. The enemy are in his immediate front, lying so as to cover the road just this side of A. Adams’ house, which leads out across Chamberlain’s bed or run. I understand you have a division at J. Boisseau’s; if so, you are in rear of the enemy’s line and almost on his flanks. I will hold on here. Possibly they may attack Custer at daylight; if so, attack instantly and in full force. Attack at daylight anyhow, and I will make an effort to get the road this side of Adams’ house, and if I do you can capture the whole of them. Any force moving down the road I am holding, or on the White Oak road, will be in the enemy’s rear, and in all probability get any force that may escape you by a flank attack. Do not fear my leaving here. If the enemy remains I shall fight at daylight.
P. H. SHERIDAN,
As they fell back the enemy was rapidly followed by General Merritt’s two divisions-General Devin on the right and General Custer on the left; General Crook in rear. During the remainder of the day General Crook’s division held the extreme left and rear and was not seriously engaged.
I then determined that I would drive the enemy with the cavalry to the Five Forks, press them inside of their works, and make a feint to turn their right flank, and meanwhile quietly move up the Fifth Corps with a view to attacking their left flank, crush the whole force, if possible, and drive westward those who might escape, thus isolating them from their army at Petersburg. Happily, this conception was successfully executed. About this time General Mackenzie’s division of cavalry, from the Army of the James, reported to me, and consisted of about 1,000 effective men. I directed General Warren to hold fast at J. Boisseau’s house, refresh his men, and be ready to move to the front when required; and General Mackenzie was ordered to rest in front of Dinwiddie Court-House until further orders. Meantime General Merritt’s command continued to press the enemy, and by impetuous charges drove them from two lines of temporary works, General Custer guiding his advance on the Widow Gilliam’s house and General Devin on the main Five Forks road. The courage displayed by the cavalry officers and men was superb, and about 2 o’clock the enemy was behind his works on the White Oak road, and his skirmish line drawn in. I then ordered up the Fifth Corps on the main road, and sent Brevet Major Gillespie, of the Engineers, to turn the head of the column off on the Gravelly Church road, and put the corps in position on this road obliquely to and at a point but a short distance from the White Oak road and about one mile from the Five forks. Two divisions of the corps were to form the front line, and one division was to be held in reserve, in column of regiments, opposite the center. I then directed General Merritt to demonstrate as though he was attempting to turn the enemy’s right flank, and notified him that the Fifth Corps would strike the enemy’s left flank, and ordered that the cavalry should assault the enemy’s works as soon as the Fifth Corps became engaged, and that would be determined by the volleys of musketry. I then rode over to
where the Fifth Corps was going into position, and found them coming up very slowly. I was exceedingly anxious to attack at once, for the sun was getting low, and we had to fight or go back. It was no place to intrench, and it would have been shameful to have gone back with no results to compensate for the loss of the brave men who had fallen during the day.
In this connection I will say that 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. As soon as the corps was in position I ordered an advance in the following formation: Ayres’ division on the left, in double lines; Crawford’s division on the right, in double lines; and Griffin’s division in reserve, behind Crawford; and the White Oak road was reached without opposition.
While General Warren was getting into position I learned that the left of the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac, on my right, had been swung around from the direction of its line of battle until it fronted on the Boydton road and parallel to it, which afforded an opportunity to the enemy to march down the White Oak road and attack me in right and rear. General Mackenzie was therefore sent up the Crump road with directions to gain the White Oak road if possible, but to attack at all hazards any enemy found, and if successful then march down that road and join me. General Mackenzie executed this with courage and skill, attacking a force of the enemy on the White Oak road and driving it toward Petersburg. He then countermarched and joined me on the White Oak road just as the Fifth Corps advanced to the attack, and I directed him to swing round with the right of the infantry and gain possession of the Ford road at the crossing of Hatcher’s Run. The Fifth Corps on reaching the White Oak road made a left wheel and burst on the enemy’s left flank and rear like a tornado, and pushed rapidly on, orders having been given that if the enemy’s was routed there should be no halt to reform broken lines. As stated before, the firing of the Fifth Corps was the signal to General Merritt to assault, which was promptly responded to, and the works of the enemy were soon carried at several points by our brave cavalrymen. The enemy were driven from their strong line of works and completely routed, the Fifth Corps doubling up their left flank in confusion, and the cavalry of General Merritt dashing on to the White Oak road, capturing their artillery, and turning it upon them and riding into their broken ranks so demoralized them that the made no serious stand after their line was carried, but took to flight in disorder. Between 5,000 and 6,000 prisoners fell into our hands, and the fugitives were driven westward, and were pursued until long after dark by Merritt’s and Mackenzie’s cavalry for a distance of six miles.
During this attack I again became dissatisfied with General Warren. During the engagement portions of his line gave way when not exposed to a heavy fire, and simply from want of confidence on the part of the troops, which General Warren did not exert himself to inspire. I therefore relieved him from the command of the Fifth Corps, authority for this action having been sent to me before the battle, unsolicited.
When the pursuit was given up I directed General Griffin, who had been ordered to assume command of the Fifth Corps, to collect his corps at once, march two divisions back to Gravelly Church, and put them into position at right angles to the White Oak road, facing toward Petersburg, while Bartlett’s divisions (Griffin’s old) covered the Ford road to Hatcher’s Run. General Merritt’s cavalry went into camp on
I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the troops in this battle and of the gallantry of their commanding officers, who appeared to realize that the success of the campaign and fate of Lee’s army depended upon it. They merit that thanks of the country and reward of the Government. To Generals Griffin, Ayres, Bartlett, and Crawford, of the Fifth Corps, and to Generals Merritt, Custer, Devin, and Mackenzie, of the cavalry, great credit is due, and to their subordinate commanders they will undoubtedly award the praise which is due to them for the hearty co-operation, bravery, and ability which were everywhere displayed.
As daylight on the morning of April 2 General Miles’ division, of the Second Corps, reported to me, coming over from the Boydton plank road. I ordered it to move up the White Oak road toward Petersburg and attack the enemy at the intersection of that road with the Claiborne road, where he was in position in heavy force, and I followed General Miles immediately with two divisions of the Fifth Corps. Miles forced the enemy from this position and pursued with great zeal, pushing him across Hatcher’s Run and following him up on the road to Sutherland’s Depot. On the north side of the run I overtook Miles, who was anxious to attack, and had a very fine and spirited division. I gave him permission, but about this time General Humphreys came up, and receiving notice from General Meade that General Humphreys would take command of Miles’ division, I relinquished it at once, and facing the Fifth Corps by the rear (I afterward regretted giving up this division, as I believe the enemy could at that time have been crushed at Sutherland’s Depot) I returned to Five Forks and marched out the Ford road toward Hatcher’s Run.
The cavalry had in the meantime been sent westward to cross Hatcher’s Run and break up the enemy’s cavalry, which had collected in considerable force north of that stream, but they would not stand to fight, and our cavalry pursued them in a direction due north to the Namozine road.
Crossing Hatcher’s Run with the Fifth Corps, the South Side Railroad was struck at Ford’s Depot, meeting no opposition, and the Fifth Corps marched rapidly toward Sutherland’s Depot, in flank and rear of the enemy opposing Miles as he approached that point. The force of the enemy fled before the Fifth Corps could reach them, retreating along the main road by the Appomattox River, the cavalry and Crawford’s division, of the Fifth Corps, engaging them slightly about dusk.
On the morning of the 3rd our cavalry took up the pursuit, routing the enemy’s cavalry and capturing many prisoners. The enemy’s infantry was encountered at Deep Creek, where a severe fight took place. The Fifth Corps followed up the cavalry rapidly, picking up many prisoners and five pieces of abandoned artillery, and a number of wagons. The Fifth Corps, with Crook’s division of cavalry, encamped that night (the 4th) at Deep Creek, on the Namozine road, neither of these commands having been engaged during the day.
On the morning of the 4th General Crook was ordered to strike the Danville railroad between Jetersville and Burke’s Station, and then move up toward Jetersville. The Fifth Corps moved rapidly to that point, as I had learned from my scouts that the enemy was at Amelia Court-House, and everything indicated that they were collecting at that point. On arriving at Jetersville, about 5 p.m., I learned without doubt that Lee and his army were at Amelia Court-House.
It seems to me that this was the only chance the Army of Northern Virginia had to save itself, which might have been done had General Lee promptly attacked and driven back the comparatively small force opposed to him and pursued his march to Burkeville Junction. A dispatch from General Lee’s chief commissary to the commissary at Danville and Lynchburg, requiring 200,000 rations to be sent to meet the army at Burkeville, was here intercepted.
So soon as I found that the entire army of the enemy was concentrated at Amelia Court-House, I forwarded promptly all the information I obtained to General Meade and the lieutenant-general.
On the morning of April 5 General Crook was directed to send General Davies’ brigade to make a reconnaissance to Paine’s Cross-Roads on our left and front, and ascertain if the enemy was making any movement toward that flank to escape. General Davies struck a trin of 180 wagons, escorted by a considerable force of the enemy’s cavalry, which he defeated, capturing five pieces of artillery. He destroyed the wagons and brought in a large number of prisoners. Gregg’s and Smith’s brigades, of the Second Division, were sent out to support Davies, and some heavy fighting ensued, the enemy having sent a strong force of infantry to attack and cut off Davies’ brigade, which attempt was unsuccessful.
During the afternoon, and after the arrival of the Second Corps at Jetersville (which General Meade requested me to put in position, he being ill), the enemy demonstrated strongly in front of Jetersville against Smith’s and Gregg’s brigades, of Crook’s division of cavalry, but no serious attack was made.
Early on the morning of April 6 General Crook was ordered to move to the left to Deatonsville, followed by Custer’s and Devin’s divisions, of General Merritt’s command. The Fifth Corps had been returned to the command of General Meade at his request. I afterward regretted giving up the corps.
When near Deatonsville the enemy’s trains were discovered moving in the direction of Burkeville or Farmville, escorted by heavy masses of infantry and cavalry, and it soon became evident that the whole of Lee’s army was attempting to make its escape. Crook was at once ordered to attack the trains, and if the enemy was too strong one of the divisions would pass him, while he held fast and pressed the enemy and attack at a point farther on, and this division was ordered to do the same, and so on, alternating, and this system of attack would enable us finally to strike some weak point. This result was obtained just south of Sailor’s Creek and on the high ground over that stream. Custer took the road, and Crook and Devin coming up to his support, 16 pieces of artillery were captured and about 400 wagons destroyed and many prisoners taken, and three divisions of the enemy’s infantry were cut off from the line of retreat.
Meantime Colonel Stagg, commanding the Michigan brigade, of the First Division, was held at a point about two and a half miles south of Deatonsville, and with this force and a section of Miller’s battery, which shell the trains with excellent effect while Colonel Stagg demonstrated to attack them, thus keeping a large force of the enemy from moving against the rest of the cavalry and holding them until the arrival of the Sixth Corps, which was marching to report to me. I felt so strongly the necessity of holding this large force of the enemy that I gave permission to General Merritt to order Colonel Stagg’s brigade
On the arrival of the head of the Sixth Corps the enemy commenced withdrawing. Major-General Wright was ordered to put Seymour’s division into position at once, and advance and carry the road, which was done at a point about two miles or two miles and a half from Deatonsville. As soon as the road was in our possession Wright was directed to push General Seymour on, the enemy falling back, skirmishing briskly. Their resistance growing stubborn a halt was called to get up Wheaton’s division, of the Sixth Corps, which went into position on the left of the road, Seymour being on the right. Wheaton was ordered to guide right, with his right connecting with Seymour’s left and resting on the road. I still felt the great importance of pushing the enemy, and was unwilling to wait for Getty’s division, of the Sixth Corps, to get up. I therefore ordered an advance, sending word to General Humphreys, who was on the road to our right, requesting him to push on, as I felt confident we could break up the enemy. It was apparent, from the absence of artillery fire and the manner in which they gave way when pressed, that the force of the enemy opposed to us was a heavy rear guard. The enemy was driven until our lines reached Sailor’s Creek, and from the north bank I could see our cavalry on the high ground above the creek and south of it, and the long line of smoke from the burning wagons. A cavalryman, who in a charge cleared the enemy’s works and came through their lines, reported to me what was in front. I regret that I have forgotten the name of this gallant young soldier.
As soon as General Wright could get his artillery into position I ordered the attack to be made on the left, and sent Colonel Stagg’s brigade of cavalry to strike and flank the extreme right of the enemy’s line. The attack by the infantry was not executed exactly as I had directed, and a portion of our line in the open ground was broken by the terrible fire of the enemy, who were in position on commanding ground south of the creek. This attack by Wheaton’s and Seymour’s divisions was splendid, but no more than I h ad reason to expect from the gallant Sixth Corps. The cavalry in rear of the enemy attacked simultaneously, and the enemy, after a gallant resistance, were completely surrounded and nearly all threw down their arms and surrendered. General Ewell, commanding the enemy’s forces, and a number of other general officers fell into our hands, and a very large number of prisoners. I have never ascertained exactly how many prisoners were taken in this battle. Most of then fell into the hands of the cavalry, but they are no more entitled to claim them than the Sixth Corps, to which command equal credit is due for the good results of this engagement.
Both the cavalry and the Sixth Corps encamped south of Sailor’s Creek that night, having followed up the small remnant of the enemy’s forces for several miles.
In reference to the participation of the Sixth Corps in this action, desire to add that the lieutenant-general had notified me that corps would report to me. Major McClellan and Lieutenant-Colonel Franklin, of General Wright’s staff, had successively been sent forward to report the progress of the corps in coming up; and on the arrival of Major-General Wright he reported his corps to me, and from that time until after the battle received my orders and obeyed them; but after the engagement was over, and General Meade had communicated with General Wright, the latter declined to make his report to me until directed to do so by the lieutenant-general.
On the 7th instant the pursuit was continued early in the morning by the cavalry, General Crook in the advance. It was discovered that the enemy had not been cut off by the Army of the James, and, under the belief that he would attempt to escape on the Danville road through Prince Edward Court-House, General Merritt was ordered to move his two divisions to that point, passing around the left of the Army of the James. General Crook continued the direct pursuit, encountering the main body of the enemy at Farmville and again on the north side of the Appomattox, where the enemy’s trains were attacked by General Gregg, and a sharp fight with the enemy’s infantry ensued, in which General Gregg was unfortunately captured. On arriving at Prince Edward Court-House I found General Mackenzie, with his division of cavalry from the Army of the James, and ordered him to cross the bridge on the Buffalo River, and make a reconnaissance to Prospect Station on the Lynchburg railroad, and ascertain if the enemy were moving past that point. Meantime I heard from General Crook that the enemy had crossed to the north side of the Appomattox, and General Merritt was then moved on and encamped at Buffalo Creek, and General Crook was ordered to recross the Appomattox and encamp at Prospect Station.
On the morning of the 8th Merritt and Mackenzie continued the march to Prospect Station, and Merritt’s and Crook’s commands then moved on to Appomattox Depot, a point on the Lynchburg railroad five miles south of Appomattox Court-House. Shortly after the march commenced, Sergeant White, one of my scouts, notified me that there were four trains of cars at Appomattox Depot loaded with supplies for General Lee’s army. Generals Merritt and Crook were at once notified, and the command pushed on briskly for twenty-eight miles. General Custer had the advance, and, on nearing the depot, skillfully threw a force in rear of the trains and captured them. Without halting a moment he pushed on, driving the enemy (who had reached the depot about the same time as our cavalry) in the direction of Appomattox Court-House, capturing many prisoners and twenty-five pieces of artillery, a hospital train, and a large park of wagons. General Devin coming up went in on the right of Custer. The fighting continued till after dark, and the enemy being driven to Appomattox Court-House I at once notified the lieutenant-general, and sent word to Generals Ord and Gibbon, of the Army of the James, and General Griffin, commanding the Fifth Corps, who were in rear, that if they pressed on, there was now no means of escape for the enemy, who had reached “the last ditch.”
During the night, although we knew that the remnant of Lee’s army was in our front, we held fast with the cavalry to what we had gained, and ran the captured trains back along the railroad to a point where they would be protected by our infantry that was coming up.
The Twenty-fourth and Fifth Corps and one division of the Twenty-fifth Corps arrived about daylight on the 9th at Appomattox Depot. After consulting with General Ord, who was in command of these corps, I rode to the front, near Appomattox Court-House, and just as the enemy in heavy force was attacking the cavalry with the intention of breaking through our lines, I directed the cavalry, which was dismounted, to fall back gradually, resisting the enemy, so as to give time for the infantry to form its lines and march to the attack, and when this was done to move off to the right flank and mount. This was done, and the enemy discontinued his attack as soon as he caught sight of our infantry. I moved briskly around the left of the enemy’s line of battle, which was falling back rapidly, heavily pressed by the advance of the
infantry, and was about to charge the trains and the confused mass of the enemy, when a white flag was presented to General Custer, who had the advance, and who sent the information to me at once that the enemy desired to surrender.
Riding over to the left at Appomattox Court-House I met Major-General Gordon, of the rebel service, and Major-General Wilcox. General Gordon requested a suspension of hostilities pending negotiations for a surrender then being held between Lieutenant-General Grant and General Lee. I notified him that I desired to prevent the unnecessary effusion of blood, but as there was nothing definitely settled in the correspondence, and as an attack had been made on my lines with the view to escape, under the impression our force was only cavalry, I must have some assurance of an intended surrender. This General Gordon gave, by saying that there was no doubt of the surrender of General Lee’s army. I then separated from him, with an agreement to meet these officers again in half an hour, at Appomattox Court-House. At the specified time, in company with General Ord, who commanded the infantry, I again met this officer, also Lieutenant-General Longstreet, and received from them the same assurance, and hostilities ceased until the arrival of Lieutenant-General Grant.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. H. SHERIDAN,
Bvt. Major General JOHN A. RAWLINS, Chief of Staff.
[Inclosure No. 1.] HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY, Dinwiddie Court-House, March 31, 1865.
Lieutenant-General GRANT, Commanding Armies of the United States:
The enemy’s cavalry attacked me about 10 o’clock to-day, on the road coming in from the west and a little north of Dinwiddie Court-House. This attack was very handsomely repulsed by General Smith’s brigade, of Crook’s division, and the enemy was driven across Chamberlain’s Creek. Shortly afterward the enemy’s infantry attacked on the same creek in heavy force, and drove in General Davies’ brigade, and, advancing rapidly, gained the forks of the road at J. Boisseau’s. This forced Devin, who was in advance, and DAvies to cross to the Boydton road. General Gregg’s brigade and General Gibbs’ brigade, who had been toward Dinwiddie, then attacked the enemy in the rear very handsomely. This stopped the march toward the left of our infantry, and finally caused them to turn toward Dinwiddie and attack us in heavy force. The enemy then again attacked at Chamberlain’s Creek, and forced Smith’s position. At this time Capehart’s and Pennington’s brigades, of Custer’s division, came up, and a very handsome fight occurred. The enemy have gained some ground, but we still hold in front of Dinwiddie, and Davies and Devin are coming down the Boydton road to join us. The opposing force was Pickett’s division, Wise’s independent brigade of infantry, and Fitzhugh Lee’s, Rosser’s, and W. H. F. Lee’s cavalry commands. The men have behaved splendidly. Our loss in killed and wounded will probably number 450 men. Very few were lost as prisoners. We have of the enemy a number of prisoners. This force is too strong for us. I will hold out to Dinwiddie Court-House until I am compelled to leave. Our fighting to-day was all dismounted.
P. H. SHERIDAN,
The Fifth Corps has been ordered to your support. Two divisions will go by J. Boisseau’s and one down the Boydton road. In addition to this I have sent Mackenzie’s cavalry, which will reach you by the Vaughan road. All these forces, except the cavalry, should reach you by 12 to-night. You will assume command of the whole force sent to operate with you, and use it to the best of your ability to destroy the force which your command has fought so gallantly to-day.
U. S. GRANT,
[Inclosure No. 3.] Numerical list of casualties in the First, Second and Third Divisions of Cavalry, commanded by Major General P. H. Sheridan, from the 28th day of March to the 9th day of April, 1865.
P. H. SHERIDAN,
Major-General, U. S. Army.
Petersburg, Va., April 20, 1865.
Petersburg, Va., April 19, 1865.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:
SIR: I have the honor to bring to the notice of the War Department the gallant conduct of the following-named officers, and respectfully request that they be promoted or brevetted an additional grade: Bvt. Major General Wesley Merritt, for distinguished service as chief of cavalry on the cavalry expedition from Winchester, Va., to the James River from February 27 to March 27, 1865, and for meritorious and gallant services at the cavalry engagements at Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, the battle of Five Forks April 1, 1865, the pursuit of the enemy to Bevill’s Bridge, including the cavalry engagement at Tabernacle Church, April 5, 1865, the battle of Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and the cavalry engagements at Appomattox Depot and Appomattox Court-House April 8 and 9, 1865, and for the energy and skill displayed throughout the entire campaign, to be major-general of volunteers.
Bvt. Major General George A. Custer, commanding Third Cavalry Division, to be promoted to the rank of major-general of volunteers for distinguished services and gallant conduct at the battle of Waynesborough March 2, 1865, and untiring skill and energy displayed in the cavalry expedition from Winchester, Va., to the James River; for the personal gallantry and high ability exhibited in fighting and maneuvering his command at the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, Five Forks, Va., April 1, cavalry engagement at Tabernacle Church April 5, battle of Sailor’s Creek April 6, Appomattox Depot and Appomattox Court-House April 8 and 9, 1865, and in the pursuit of the forces of the rebel army from Five Forks to Bevill’s Bridge, on the Appomattox River, and from Jetersville to Appomattox Court-House.
Bvt. Brigadier General J. I. Gregg, colonel Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, Second Cavalry Division, to be promoted to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers for gallant and meritorious services at the cavalry engagements at Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, the cavalry pursuit from Five Forks to Burkeville and Jetersville, and for the cavalry engagement at that point April 5, 1865, and at the battle of Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, at the cavalry engagement on the north side of the Appomattox River near Farmville, Va., during which he was captured whilst gallantly fighting his brigade.
Bvt. Brigadier General C. H. Smith, colonel First Maine Cavalry, commanding Third Brigade, Second Cavalry Division, to be promoted to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers for highly distinguished services at the battle of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, the cavalry pursuit from Five Forks, to Burkeville, to Jetersville, the cavalry engagement near Jetersville April 5, 1865, the battle of Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and at Appomattox Court-House April 9, 1865.
Bvt. Brigadier General James W. Forsyth, lieutenant-colonel and assistant inspector-general Cavalry Corps, my chief of staff, to be brigadier-general of volunteers for gallant and meritorious services during the cavalry campaign from Winchester, Va., to the James River, at the cavalry engagement March 31, 1865, at Dinwiddie Court-House, Va., for conspicuous bravery at the battle of Five Forks April 1, 1865, and at Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and during the engagements at Appomattox Depot and Court-House on the 8th and 9th instant, and for industry, energy, and ability displayed throughout the entire campaign.
Colonel H. Capehart, First West Virginia Cavalry, commanding brigade, Third Cavalry Division, to be promoted to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers for the zeal and energy displayed by him in the cavalry expedition from Winchester, Va., to the James River, for gallantry at the cavalry engagement at Waynesborough, and for distinguished services at the cavalry engagements at Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, battles of Five Forks April 1, and Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, the cavalry engagements of Appomattox Depot and Appomattox Court-House April 8 and 9, 1865, and during the pursuit of the rebel army from Five Forks to Appomattox Court-House.
Bvt. Brigadier General William Wells, colonel First Vermont Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, Third Cavalry Division, to be brigadier-general of volunteers for gallant and meritorious services during the cavalry expedition from Winchester to the James River, and at the battles of Five Forks and Sailor’s Creek April 5 and 6, 1865, and Appomattox Depot and Court-House April 8 and 9, 1865, and for the energy displayed in the pursuit of the rebel army from Five Forks to Appomattox Court-House.
Colonel Charles L. Fitzhugh, Sixth New York Cavalry, commanding Second Cavalry Brigade, First Cavalry Division, to be brigadier-general of volunteers for the gallantry, energy, and ability displayed by him during the cavalry expedition from Winchester, Va., to the James River, and at the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and Appomattox Court-House April 9, 1865, and during the pursuit of the rebel army from Five Forks to Appomattox Court-House.
Colonel P. Stagg, Michigan Cavalry, commanding First Brigade, First Cavalry Division, to be brigadier-general of volunteers for zealously and gallantly and fighting his brigade during the cavalry expedition from Winchester, Va., to the James River, and at the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, Five Forks April 1, 1865, Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and Appomattox Court-House April 9, 1865, and for his unwearied exertions during the pursuit of the rebel army from Five Forks to Appomattox Court-House, Va.
Bvt. Colonel George A. Forsyth (major Eighth Illinois Cavalry), acting aide-de-camp on my staff, to be promoted to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers for highly distinguished services on the cavalry expedition from Winchester, Va., to the James River, and for untiring energy and conspicuous gallantry at the cavalry engagements of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, and at the battle of Five Forks April 1, 1865, the battle of Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and cavalry engagements at Appomattox Depot and Court-House April 8 and 9, 1865. Colonel Forsyth is one of the finest young officers in the service, and has fairly won the promotion asked for him.
Lieutenant Colonel E. W. Whitaker, First Connecticut Cavalry, [acting] assistant inspector-general Third Cavalry Division, to be brevet brigadier-general of volunteers for gallantry and skill displayed in turning the enemy’s left flank at Waynesborough March 2, 1865, and for gallantry and uniform good conduct at the battles of Five Forks April 1 and Appomattox Station April 8, 1865, and throughout the entire campaign.
Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel W. Redwood Price, special inspector of cavalry, to be colonel by brevet for gallant and meritorious services at the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, Five Forks April 1, 1865, Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and during the cavalry engagements at Appomattox Station and Court-House on the 8th and 9th of April, 1865. Lieutenant-Colonel Price acted throughout the entire campaign from Dinwiddie Court-House to the final capture of the rebel army with remarkable energy and ability.
I desire to make special mention of the valuable services of Major H. H. Young, Second Rhode Island Infantry, chief of my scouts, during the cavalry expedition from Winchester, Va., to the James River. His personal gallantry and numerous conflicts with the enemy won the admiration of the whole command. In the late campaign from Petersburg to Appomattox Court-House he kept me constantly informed of the movements of the enemy and brought in prisoners from brigadier-generals down. The information gained through him was invaluable. I earnestly request that he be made a lieutenant-colonel by brevet.
Brigadier General Truman Seymour, commanding Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, to be major-general of volunteers by brevet for the ability and energy which he displayed in handling his division at the battle of Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865. His gallantry and valuable services in this engagement fully entitle him to promotion.
Bvt. Brigadier General Oliver Edwards (colonel Thirty-seventh Massachusetts Infantry), commanding brigade, Sixth Army Corps, behaved with conspicuous gallantry at the battle of Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and is justly entitled to his promotion to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers. General Edwards fought his command at this battle with an ability and persistency that fairly entitles him to this reward.
Bvt. Brigadier General Joseph E. Hamblin (colonel Sixty-fifth New York Volunteers), commanding brigade, Sixth Army Corps, First Division. This officer fought his command with such rare ability at the battle of Sailor’s Creek, Va., April 6, 1865, that he is justly entitled to the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers.
Captain Andrew J. McGonnigle, assistant quartermaster U. S. Volunteers, and acting chief quartermaster on my staff, behaved with the greatest gallantry during the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, particularly at Cedar Creek, in which battle he was severely wounded whilst leading a brigade of infantry. It was owing to his personal exertions during the morning of the 19th of October, 1864, that I am mostly indebted for the saving of the transportation of the army. Captain McGonnigle accompanied me from Winchester, Va., to the James River on the cavalry expedition from February 27 to March 27, 1865, and took part in the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, Five Forks April 1, 1865, Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and in the engagements at Appomattox Station and Court-House April 8 and 9, 1865. For his industry and zeal in the discharge of his duties as quartermaster and meritorious services in the field, I have to request that he be made captain and assistant quartermaster in the U. S. Army. Captain McGonnigle was wounded a second time at the battle of Five Forks April 1, 1865.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. H. SHERIDAN,
Washington, D. C., May 16, 1865.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: I have the honor to bring to the notice of the War Department the gallant conduct of the following-named officers, and to recommend them for promotion as hereinafter stated:
Brigadier General Alfred Gibbs to be major-general of volunteers by brevet for gallant and meritorious services while commanding the regular cavalry brigade at the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, Five Forks April 1, Sailor’s Creek April 6, and at Appomattox Depot and Court-House April 8 and 9, 1865, as well as for his services on the James River raid.
Colonel N. B. Sweitzer, Sixteenth New York Cavalry, to be brigadier-general of volunteers by brevet for meritorious and distinguished services at the battles of the Opequon, Cedar Creek, and the cavalry engagement at Tom’s Creek, in the Shenandoah Valley, and for services in the Department of Washington during the past winter.
Colonel Francis T. Sherman, Eighty-eighth Illinois Volunteers, acting assistant inspector-general upon my staff, to be brigadier-general of volunteers by brevet [sic] during the cavalry expedition from Winchester to the James River from February 27 to March 27, 1865, and
Colonel J. L. Thompson, First New Hampshire Cavalry, to be brigadier-general of volunteers by brevet for distinguished and meritorious services at the battle of Waynesborough, March 2, 1865, and for taking all the prisoners through safely from that point to Winchester, and while performing this duty repelling an attack from and finally defeating the rebel General Rosser with a force quite equal to his own, reaching his destination with more prisoners than he started with.
Lieutenant Colonel W. P. Robeson, Third New Jersey Cavalry, to be colonel by brevet for gallantry at the battles of Five Forks, April 1, Sailor’s Creek April 6, and Appomattox Depot April 8, 1865.
Captain L. W. Barnhart [Sixth] Michigan Cavalry, to be major by brevet for meritorious and distinguished services throughout the entire campaign in front of Richmond and Petersburg, and for especial gallantry at the battle of Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865.
Major Joseph O’Keefe, Second New York Cavalry, to be lieutenant-colonel by brevet for distinguished and meritorious services on the raid from Winchester to the James River, and for great gallantry at the battle of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, and at the battle of Five Forks April 1, 1865, at which place he was very severely wounded while leading his regiment in a dismounted charge upon the enemy’s works.
Captain Mason A. Stone, First Vermont Cavalry, to be major of volunteers by brevet for distinguished services at the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, Five Forks April 1, and Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, and throughout the pursuit and final capture of the rebel army from Five Fork to Appomattox Court-House.
First Lieutenant Vanderbilt Allen, U. S. Engineers, to be major, U. S. Army, by brevet for distinguished services on the raid from Winchester to the James River from February 27 to March 27, 1865, and for meritorious conduct at the battle of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, and great gallantry at the battle of Five Forks April 1, as well as for general good conduct and energy displayed throughout the entire campaign from Petersburg to the final surrender of Lee’s army at Appomottox Court-House April 9, 1865.
First Lieutenant Carle A. Woodruff, Second U. S. Artillery, to be major, U. S. Army, by brevet for distinguished services on the James River raid and at the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, Five Forks April 1, Sailor’s Creek april 6, 1865, and throughout the pursuit of the rebel army from Five Forks to Appomattox Court-House.
Asst. Surg. Henry A. Du Bois, U. S. Army, to be major, U. S. Army, by brevet for distinguished services throughout the campaign from Petersburg to the final surrender of the rebel army at Appomattox Court-House, and also for his services during the James River raid and during last summer’s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley.
First Lieutenant Thomas W. Custer, Sixth Michigan Cavalry, to be major of volunteers by brevet for distinguished conduct at the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, Five Forks April 1, Sailor’s Creek April 6, 1865, at which latter place he leaped his horse over the enemy’s works, being one of the first to enter them, and captured two stand of colors, having his horse shot under him and received a severe wound.
Captain G. A. Gordon, Second U. S. Cavalry, to be lieutenant-colonel, U. S. Army, by brevet for distinguished services during the cavalry expedition to the James River during the month of May, 1864; at the
Captain E. M. Baker, First U. S. Cavalry, to be major, U. S. Army, by brevet for gallant and meritorious services at the battles of Dinwiddie Court-House March 31, 1865, Five Forks April 1, 1865, Sailor’s Creek April 6, Appomattox Depot and Appomattox Court-House April 8 and 9, and for energy and zeal displayed in the James River raid from February 27 to March 27, 1865.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. H. SHERIDAN,
Major-General, U. S. Army.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLVI, Part 1 (Serial Number 95), pp. 1100-1116 ↩