The troops that had formed Lee’s right, a great many of them,
were cut off from getting back into Petersburg, and were pursued
by our cavalry so hotly and closely that they threw away
caissons, ammunition, clothing, and almost everything to lighten
their loads, and pushed along up the Appomattox River until
finally they took water and crossed over.

I left Mr. Lincoln and started, as I have already said, to join
the command, which halted at Sutherland Station, about nine
miles out. We had still time to march as much farther, and time
was an object; but the roads were bad and the trains belonging to
the advance corps had blocked up the road so that it was
impossible to get on. Then, again, our cavalry had struck some
of the enemy and were pursuing them; and the orders were that
the roads should be given up to the cavalry whenever they
appeared. This caused further delay.

General Wright, who was in command of one of the corps which
were left back, thought to gain time by letting his men go into
bivouac and trying to get up some rations for them, and clearing
out the road, so that when they did start they would be
uninterrupted. Humphreys, who was far ahead, was also out of
rations. They did not succeed in getting them up through the
night; but the Army of the Potomac, officers and men, were so
elated by the reflection that at last they were following up a
victory to its end, that they preferred marching without rations
to running a possible risk of letting the enemy elude them. So
the march was resumed at three o’clock in the morning.

Merritt’s cavalry had struck the enemy at Deep Creek, and driven
them north to the Appomattox, where, I presume, most of them were
forced to cross.

On the morning of the 4th I learned that Lee had ordered rations
up from Danville for his famishing army, and that they were to
meet him at Farmville. This showed that Lee had already
abandoned the idea of following the railroad down to Danville,
but had determined to go farther west, by the way of
Farmville. I notified Sheridan of this and directed him to get
possession of the road before the supplies could reach Lee. He
responded that he had already sent Crook’s division to get upon
the road between Burkesville and Jetersville, then to face north
and march along the road upon the latter place; and he thought
Crook must be there now. The bulk of the army moved directly
for Jetersville by two roads.

After I had received the dispatch from Sheridan saying that
Crook was on the Danville Road, I immediately ordered Meade to
make a forced march with the Army of the Potomac, and to send
Parke’s corps across from the road they were on to the South
Side Railroad, to fall in the rear of the Army of the James and
to protect the railroad which that army was repairing as it went
along.

Our troops took possession of Jetersville and in the telegraph
office, they found a dispatch from Lee, ordering two hundred
thousand rations from Danville. The dispatch had not been sent,
but Sheridan sent a special messenger with it to Burkesville and
had it forwarded from there. In the meantime, however,
dispatches from other sources had reached Danville, and they
knew there that our army was on the line of the road; so that
they sent no further supplies from that quarter.

At this time Merritt and Mackenzie, with the cavalry, were off
between the road which the Army of the Potomac was marching on
and the Appomattox River, and were attacking the enemy in
flank. They picked up a great many prisoners and forced the
abandonment of some property.

Lee intrenched himself at Amelia Court House, and also his
advance north of Jetersville, and sent his troops out to collect
forage. The country was very poor and afforded but very
little. His foragers scattered a great deal; many of them were
picked up by our men, and many others never returned to the Army
of Northern Virginia.

Griffin’s corps was intrenched across the railroad south of
Jetersville, and Sheridan notified me of the situation. I again
ordered Meade up with all dispatch, Sheridan having but the one
corps of infantry with a little cavalry confronting Lee’s entire
army. Meade, always prompt in obeying orders, now pushed forward
with great energy, although he was himself sick and hardly able
to be out of bed. Humphreys moved at two, and Wright at three
o’clock in the morning, without rations, as I have said, the
wagons being far in the rear.

I stayed that night at Wilson’s Station on the South Side
Railroad. On the morning of the 5th I sent word to Sheridan of
the progress Meade was making, and suggested that he might now
attack Lee. We had now no other objective than the Confederate
armies, and I was anxious to close the thing up at once.

On the 5th I marched again with Ord’s command until within about
ten miles of Burkesville, where I stopped to let his army pass. I
then received from Sheridan the following dispatch:

“The whole of Lee’s army is at or near Amelia Court House, and
on this side of it. General Davies, whom I sent out to
Painesville on their right flank, has just captured six pieces
of artillery and some wagons. We can capture the Army of
Northern Virginia if force enough can be thrown to this point,
and then advance upon it. My cavalry was at Burkesville
yesterday, and six miles beyond, on the Danville Road, last
night. General Lee is at Amelia Court House in person. They
are out of rations, or nearly so. They were advancing up the
railroad towards Burkesville yesterday, when we intercepted them
at this point.”

It now became a life and death struggle with Lee to get south to
his provisions.

Sheridan, thinking the enemy might turn off immediately towards
Farmville, moved Davies’s brigade of cavalry out to watch him.
Davies found the movement had already commenced. He attacked
and drove away their cavalry which was escorting wagons to the
west, capturing and burning 180 wagons. He also captured five
pieces of artillery. The Confederate infantry then moved
against him and probably would have handled him very roughly,
but Sheridan had sent two more brigades of cavalry to follow
Davies, and they came to his relief in time. A sharp engagement
took place between these three brigades of cavalry and the
enemy’s infantry, but the latter was repulsed.

Meade himself reached Jetersville about two o’clock in the
afternoon, but in advance of all his troops. The head of
Humphreys’s corps followed in about an hour afterwards. Sheridan
stationed the troops as they came up, at Meade’s request, the
latter still being very sick. He extended two divisions of this
corps off to the west of the road to the left of Griffin’s corps,
and one division to the right. The cavalry by this time had also
come up, and they were put still farther off to the left,
Sheridan feeling certain that there lay the route by which the
enemy intended to escape. He wanted to attack, feeling that if
time was given, the enemy would get away; but Meade prevented
this, preferring to wait till his troops were all up.

At this juncture Sheridan sent me a letter which had been handed
to him by a colored man, with a note from himself saying that he
wished I was there myself. The letter was dated Amelia Court
House, April 5th, and signed by Colonel Taylor. It was to his
mother, and showed the demoralization of the Confederate army.
Sheridan’s note also gave me the information as here related of
the movements of that day. I received a second message from
Sheridan on the 5th, in which he urged more emphatically the
importance of my presence. This was brought to me by a scout in
gray uniform. It was written on tissue paper, and wrapped up in
tin-foil such as chewing tobacco is folded in. This was a
precaution taken so that if the scout should be captured he
could take this tin-foil out of his pocket and putting it into
his mouth, chew it. It would cause no surprise at all to see a
Confederate soldier chewing tobacco. It was nearly night when
this letter was received. I gave Ord directions to continue his
march to Burkesville and there intrench himself for the night,
and in the morning to move west to cut off all the roads between
there and Farmville.

I then started with a few of my staff and a very small escort of
cavalry, going directly through the woods, to join Meade’s
army. The distance was about sixteen miles; but the night being
dark our progress was slow through the woods in the absence of
direct roads. However, we got to the outposts about ten o’clock
in the evening, and after some little parley convinced the
sentinels of our identity and were conducted in to where
Sheridan was bivouacked. We talked over the situation for some
little time, Sheridan explaining to me what he thought Lee was
trying to do, and that Meade’s orders, if carried out, moving to
the right flank, would give him the coveted opportunity of
escaping us and putting us in rear of him.

We then together visited Meade, reaching his headquarters about
midnight. I explained to Meade that we did not want to follow
the enemy; we wanted to get ahead of him, and that his orders
would allow the enemy to escape, and besides that, I had no
doubt that Lee was moving right then. Meade changed his orders
at once. They were now given for an advance on Amelia Court
House, at an early hour in the morning, as the army then lay;
that is, the infantry being across the railroad, most of it to
the west of the road, with the cavalry swung out still farther
to the left.

CHAPTER LXVI.

BATTLE OF SAILOR’S CREEK–ENGAGEMENT AT FARMVILLE
–CORRESPONDENCE WITH GENERAL LEE–SHERIDAN INTERCEPTS THE ENEMY.

The Appomattox, going westward, takes a long sweep to the
south-west from the neighborhood of the Richmond and Danville
Railroad bridge, and then trends north-westerly. Sailor’s
Creek, an insignificant stream, running northward, empties into
the Appomattox between the High Bridge and Jetersville. Near
the High Bridge the stage road from Petersburg to Lynchburg
crosses the Appomattox River, also on a bridge. The railroad
runs on the north side of the river to Farmville, a few miles
west, and from there, recrossing, continues on the south side of
it. The roads coming up from the south-east to Farmville cross
the Appomattox River there on a bridge and run on the north
side, leaving the Lynchburg and Petersburg Railroad well to the
left.

Lee, in pushing out from Amelia Court House, availed himself of
all the roads between the Danville Road and Appomattox River to
move upon, and never permitted the head of his columns to stop
because of any fighting that might be going on in his rear. In
this way he came very near succeeding in getting to his
provision trains and eluding us with at least part of his army.

As expected, Lee’s troops had moved during the night before, and
our army in moving upon Amelia Court House soon encountered
them. There was a good deal of fighting before Sailor’s Creek
was reached. Our cavalry charged in upon a body of theirs which
was escorting a wagon train in order to get it past our left. A
severe engagement ensued, in which we captured many prisoners,
and many men also were killed and wounded. There was as much
gallantry displayed by some of the Confederates in these little
engagements as was displayed at any time during the war,
notwithstanding the sad defeats of the past week.

The armies finally met on Sailor’s Creek, when a heavy
engagement took place, in which infantry, artillery and cavalry
were all brought into action. Our men on the right, as they
were brought in against the enemy, came in on higher ground, and
upon his flank, giving us every advantage to be derived from the
lay of the country. Our firing was also very much more rapid,
because the enemy commenced his retreat westward and in firing
as he retreated had to turn around every time he fired. The
enemy’s loss was very heavy, as well in killed and wounded as in
captures. Some six general officers fell into our hands in this
engagement, and seven thousand men were made prisoners. This
engagement was commenced in the middle of the afternoon of the
6th, and the retreat and pursuit were continued until nightfall,
when the armies bivouacked upon the ground where the night had
overtaken them.

When the move towards Amelia Court House had commenced that
morning, I ordered Wright’s corps, which was on the extreme
right, to be moved to the left past the whole army, to take the
place of Griffin’s, and ordered the latter at the same time to
move by and place itself on the right. The object of this
movement was to get the 6th corps, Wright’s, next to the
cavalry, with which they had formerly served so harmoniously and
so efficiently in the valley of Virginia.

The 6th corps now remained with the cavalry and under Sheridan’s
direct command until after the surrender.

Ord had been directed to take possession of all the roads
southward between Burkesville and the High Bridge. On the
morning of the 6th he sent Colonel Washburn with two infantry
regiments with instructions to destroy High Bridge and to return
rapidly to Burkesville Station; and he prepared himself to resist
the enemy there. Soon after Washburn had started Ord became a
little alarmed as to his safety and sent Colonel Read, of his
staff, with about eighty cavalrymen, to overtake him and bring
him back. Very shortly after this he heard that the head of
Lee’s column had got up to the road between him and where
Washburn now was, and attempted to send reinforcements, but the
reinforcements could not get through. Read, however, had got
through ahead of the enemy. He rode on to Farmville and was on
his way back again when he found his return cut off, and
Washburn confronting apparently the advance of Lee’s army. Read
drew his men up into line of battle, his force now consisting of
less than six hundred men, infantry and cavalry, and rode along
their front, making a speech to his men to inspire them with the
same enthusiasm that he himself felt. He then gave the order to
charge. This little band made several charges, of course
unsuccessful ones, but inflicted a loss upon the enemy more than
equal to their own entire number. Colonel Read fell mortally
wounded, and then Washburn; and at the close of the conflict
nearly every officer of the command and most of the rank and
file had been either killed or wounded. The remainder then
surrendered. The Confederates took this to be only the advance
of a larger column which had headed them off, and so stopped to
intrench; so that this gallant band of six hundred had checked
the progress of a strong detachment of the Confederate army.

This stoppage of Lee’s column no doubt saved to us the trains
following. Lee himself pushed on and crossed the wagon road
bridge near the High Bridge, and attempted to destroy it. He
did set fire to it, but the flames had made but little headway
when Humphreys came up with his corps and drove away the
rear-guard which had been left to protect it while it was being
burned up. Humphreys forced his way across with some loss, and
followed Lee to the intersection of the road crossing at
Farmville with the one from Petersburg. Here Lee held a
position which was very strong, naturally, besides being
intrenched. Humphreys was alone, confronting him all through
the day, and in a very hazardous position. He put on a bold
face, however, and assaulted with some loss, but was not
assaulted in return.

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