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The Battle Of Five Forks

The Battle Of Five Forks image
Parent Issue
Day
14
Month
April
Year
1865
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

We extract from the N. Y. World a graphic desoriptioa of the battla of Five Forks, fought by General Sjieuidan, on Saturday, April lst. It was this splendid viclor.y which compeUed the rebels to evaou,a.to. b.oth Petersburg and Riub,rnond :, On Fríday uight Gen. Grsnt, dissatistíed, üke uvost observers, with the diy's busines-8, plueed General Kheridun in tho supreuie couimand of tho wholu of Warren's corps aud all tlio eavalry. Gen. Warren roported to liim at nigiitfall, and th-e litt! army was thus componed : (ji4Ni:r,L siieiudan's fouces, satckuay,. april l : Threo divisious of Jniantrv, under Gene. nis Griffin, Ayrea and Crawford. Two clivisions of cavairy, foriner y eonstituting the Arniy of thu Shenaudoab, dow commauded by General iMerritt, under Generáis Devin and üustor. Ono división cavalry of the Anny of the Po tomaCi lindar Gen. Crook. Brigade or more cavajry Arrny of the Jan;es, mider General ALiickenzie. Id this composition the infautry was to the cuvalry in the proportion of about two to. 011e, and thu eriliro fovee, wliioh I am forbidden to euuin.orate, would be a considerable army, far up in the teens. Sheridan was absolute, and bis oddlyahapcd bod)' began to bob up aud down straightway ; he visited overy part of his line, though it slrotehed Trom Dinwiddio Conrt House to the Quaker road, along the Boydton Plank and its adjuncfs. At düybreak on Baturday he ürgd four signa] gnns to ndmonish "Warren he was off; and his cavalry, by diverging roadii, (truck their camps. suk.iudan's cavaluy bismoüx'íed. We must start with tho tipposition thut our own men far putnuir(bere4 the rebels. The latter were widely separated fi'Qni their pomrades before Petersburg, and tbe adjustiueuc oi our infantry as wü!1 as the great moveable force at Sbendan's disposal, renders it doubtf'ul that thoy could have retiirned. At any rato they did uot do so, whethor from choiee or oejessity, and it was a ,art of our pcheme to puah them back into their intrenohmentij.' Thia work was deleg;itüd to the cavalry entirely, but, as 1 have said before, mounted curbineers are do match for stubborn, bayoneted infantry. So when the horuemen were close up to the rebels, thoy were difltuourited, aud acted as infantry to all intents. A portion of them, undor Grogg aud Mackenzie, still adhered to the saddle, that they might be put in rapid motioo for flauking and charging purposes ; bul fully five thousand indurated men, who had seen service iu the Sheuandoah aud elsew.here, were formed in line of battle on foot, and by charge and deploy cssayed tho diffi.cult work of pressiug bauk the cutiré rebel column. This they ivere to j do so evenly and ingeniously that the ! rebels ehould go es artbcr than tLcir irrrks, either to escape eastward or to discover the whereabouts of Warren's forcee, which wero ilreudy forming - Had tliL-y espied the lattpr thoy might liave becoine so diücounged as to break ml tuke tu the woods; and Slieridau's übjocl was to copiare ihem as woll to fout them. S-, dl the afternoou the oavalry pushcd them hard, and the Btrife went un uniiitenuptcdly and terrifieally. Witb tbfir s within cali, the cavul ryinen in line of batlle, stood liko wal! oí' stone, 3welliug onward liko those gnidunlly eleva! ing ridgüs of which hyell speaka. Throogh wend and brake and swamp, aero-;" h'tld and treuoli, we pushed the fighúng defenderá sfeadily. For a part of the time, Sli rsdsn hhuself was thcre, short and broad, :iud activo, waviug bis hu t, giviag orders, seldoni out of fire, but ncver stationary, and close by feil the long, yellow loeke of Custer, saber extended, fighting like a Viking, though he was worn and hnggard with much work. At 4 o'clock the rebols were beland tlieir wooden walls at Fivo Ferks, and eiill the, cavalry p-ressod (heiu hard, in feint rather thau solemn cflort, whüe a battallioD dismouutod, eharged square y upon the face of their breastworks, which lny in the tnain on the north side of the White Oak road. Then hile the cavalry worked round towrd tho rear, tho mfantry of Worrcn, though couitnauded by Shcridan, propared to take part io the battle, BY ECHELON TO TIIB RIOIIT, The genius of Sheridan's moveinent l.'iy in bis disposition of the infantry. - The skill with which he arranged it, and the diflicult manoeuvres ho projected and so wcll executod, should place him as high in infantry táctica as he has heretoforo shown himself superior in cavalry. Tne infantry which ha marchcd at P. M., from the house of Boisseau ou the Boydtown plauk road, was drawn up, in for battfa linas, a inile íd length, and in the beginning facing the White Oak road obliquoly ; the left or pivot was the división of Gen. Ayres; Crawford had the center, aud Griffiu the right. These advunced from the Boydtown plank roa-J, at 10 o'clock, while Bheridan was thunderiog away with the cavalry, tü.o.unted and dismounted, and deluding the rebels with the idea that he was tho sole attacking party ; tltey lay coQcealed in the woods behind the Gravel run meetiug Uouse, but their left waB not a half-mile distant from ths rebel works, thougb tlieir right reached so far oiï that a would havo criticwed the position sharply. Litilo by li'tle, Sheridan, extending bis lines, drove the whole rebel forc-o iuto their breastworks; then he dismounted. the mass of his cavalry, and charged the works straight in the front, stilt thunderiug ou their flank.. At last every rebel was safe behind bid intrenchments. Then the sigaal was given and the concealed iufautry, many thousand strong, sprang up and advanced by echelon to the right. A Y RES - -OHIFFIN. Stick a piu through Ayres and turn Griffiu and Cravford forward as you would a spoke ia a wheel, but move your pin up also a very little. In this way Ayres will advance, say half a inile, and Griffin, to describe a cuarter revolution,! will move throngh a radius of four miles. But to complícate thia movemeut by echelon, we must imagine tho right when half way advanoed cutiing across the center and reforuiing, while Grawford became the right and Griffin the middle of tho lino of battle. Warren was with Grawford on tliis march. Gregory commanded the Rkirmisera. Ayres was so close to the rebel left that he might be said to Jiicge upon it; and at 6 o'clock the whole corps column cam6 crash upon tho full flank of the astonislied rebels. - Now oame the PITUII Of SBB BATTLE. It was juft at the coming up of the infantry that Shei'idan'a littlo band was pusbed the hardsst. At one time, indeed, tbey seemed about to undergo extermination ; not that they wavered,. but that they were so vastly overpowored'. It wiil remain to the latest time a matter of marvel that so paltry a cavalry forcf could p.ress back sixteen thou sand iufantry ; but when the iufantry blew liko a great barn door - the siniilo best applicuble - upon the euemy's lefc, tho victory that was to como had passed the región of strategy and resolved to an aöair of personal courage. We bad met the enemy ; wero they to be ours ? To expedito this consutnmation every offieer fought as if he were the forloru hope. Mounted on bis black pony, the same which he rode at Winchester, Shcridan gallopod overywhere, his fiushed face all the redder, aud his plethoric, but nervous figure all the more ubiquitous. He galloped once straight down the rebel front, with but a haudful of his staff. A dozen bullets whistled for him together ; one grazed his arm, at whieh a faithful orderly rode; the black pony leaped high in iright, and Shoridan was uutouched, but the orderly lay dead in the field, and tho saddlo dashed afar empty. General Warren rodo with Crawford most of the afternoon, mounted likewise, and making tno or threo uarrow escapea, lie was dark, dashing aud individual as ever, but forsome reasou or othcr was rehevcd of his command aftor the battle, and Giiffin was instafed in his plaee. General Shoridan ordered Warren to report to General Grant's quarters, scnding the order by an aid. We shall probably have an explahation of chis fall from graoe soon. - Warren, on his owu hook, did not meet on Frlday with his general succes, and on Saturdaj títieridan was the masterBpirit ; but Warren is a gentleman as well as a general, and íb only overshadowed by a greater goniqs - not obliteratod, Ayros, accounted the best soldier in the 5 th corps, but too quietly modest for bis ovn favor, fought like a lion in this piteh of battle, making all tho faintheartud around him ashainsd to do ill with such an cxarnpla eontiguous. - General Bartlett, keen faced aud active liko a fjery scimitar, leadjng bis división as if he wero an immortal. He was closed at hand in tho ïpost gallant episodes, and held at nigbtfall a bundle of capturñd battlc-flags. Kut Griffin, tall and slight. was the master genius of the Fifih Uorps,. to which by right ho hos temporarily succeeded. He led the charge on the flank, and was the first to mount the parapet with his horeo, riding over the gunricrs as May did at (Jerro Gordo, and cuUing them down. Bart-i lett'rt brigade, behind bira, finishuü tho business, and the lust cannon was fired for the day aguiust the oonquering Federáis. Qoueiiil Crawford fulfilled I1Í3 fu!l sharo of dfftes throughout the day, I amply stistaiucd by such spleudid j ad e oommandera as liaxter, Gouher and Kellogg, while flwic and Bowerymau were at hand in the división of General Ayre.- ; not to omit tho fallen Winthrop, who died to savo a frieud and win ancw laurel. What shall I say for Chamberlaine, who, beyojid all question, is the Grst of our brigade comaianders, having been tho l:ero of' both Quaker lload ma Gravel Ij Run, and in this action of Five Forks ruakiug the air ring wilh the applauding" liuzzas of hia soldier., wh love him ? His is one of the narnes that will eurvive the common wreek of shoulder straps after l;ie war. One prolougod roar of rifle chook Ihc aftenicon ; we carried no artillery, and the rebc-l battory, until its capture, raked us likü BD irreprensible demon., uad at every foot of tlie intrenchm,ent& a fcrue man fought both in front and behind. Imagine along a line f a full mile, Ihir tv thousaud men straggüag for üfe aud prestige ; the woods gathttring about them - but yesterday tho home of hermit hawks and chipmonks - now ablaze with bursting sholls, and showiug q the dust the ourl of flames in the tangled graas, and, rising tip' the boles of the pine' trees, the scitling, eeorohing tongues. - Seven hours this terrible spectncle had beon enacted, but tho finale of il had almoüt come. 8uRRHNDK.il oj? tíik nv.;:).?-.. At seven o'elock the rebel ofuna to tbo couelusior, that tUoy wre ouiil-iiiked and whipped. They bad been so busily engaged that they were a long time fiudiog out how desperate were their oiroumstances; but uow, wearied with peraiatent assaults in irout, they feil bm-k to the left, ouly to s e four close line.-i of battle waiting to drive thein ticosa the field, decimated. At tht) right tho. horsemen eliarged them in ihir vain titempt to fyht "butj" and. in the rr straggling loot and eavalrv bji'ifiiri also to assemble; slaut iire, cro-s firo, and direat firo, by file aud volL-y, rulled in perpotually, cutting down tlioir bravest offioers ana s'.rowing the field wilh bleeding men ; groans resonnded in the intervals of exploding powdér. ari'l to add to their terror and d' spnii-, their owu artillery, captured froin thern, threw into their own raks, fom its oivn positimi, ungrateful grape and minster, enfilading theii bresstworke, wLizzing amj plungiog by air line and rteochet, ai.d I at laat bodiea of cavalry fairly inouiitud their entrünoliments, r.nd ehurged. d -uvu the panipet, ülasbiog and trainpling f them, and pFodueiug inextricable i lu-iin. ïlioy had uo cominauders, at least' no. orders, aud looked in vain lor S"me guidi-ug hand to lead them out ojf ;v toil Hito vv'fiieli they had fallen so bravely and so blindl}-. A few more volloys, u new and irresistible charge, a shrill and waruing command to die or surrender, and, with a sul!-n and tearfu.1 iipulse, five tliousand rnuskcls are flung upon the ground, and five thousand hotx exhausted, and impo'cnt men are Sheri dan's prisonors of war. TUK CAPTIVA AND FtTINQ HKBE1.S. Acting with his usual decisión, Sheridan placed his eaptives. in eire of a provostguard, and eeut them at once to the rear. Those whioh. oscaped, he ordered the fiery Cus'.er to pursuo with brand and veneance ; and tbey were pressad tar into the desolate foren 6, speut and hungry, many fal'ing by ti,y way of wounris or exhaustion. many prossed down by hoof or saber-stroke. and mauy picked up in mercy and gent back to rójoio their brethren in bonds. We captured in all fully six thousand prisoners. General Sheri.dan estrmated tliem modestly at nv6 thousand, 'wu! the Pro vost Marshal assured me that ly; bad a line four abreast a full unie leng. I en tirely bear him out, having ridrtun for forty minutes in a direetiun r-pptisis to. that they were tuking, arn! growing woary at last of counting or nf seeing them. Thev were fine, nearty fellows, alinost all Virginians, aud seitmed to take their onpturo not pnhindly. Thus ended the spleudid victory of Five Forka, the least bloody to us, bui the most sticcessful, proportionutfl to numbers engaged, that haa been tought during the war. We captnred fourcanuons, an ambulance train and baggage teams, eight thousand mukets and twenty eight battle-flag, Gen. Lougetreet, it is thought, öomniuDdd. ecF.N'K at subridan's imvotac:. A mile past the churcli, gfOÏUg away from headquarters all the time, lie= Five Forks, the object and name of tho battle. A iarge open field of perhaps thirty acros iuterposes betvveen the church and the commenceineut of the rebel works. Their left is only soine rails and logs to maak inarksmon, but the work proper is a very long stretch of all obstructions of a man 's height in relief. The White Qak road runs directly in fi'ont of tlieso intrenchmonts and was, at the timo I pansed, the general highway for infantry returniug from the field .and cavalrymen concenlriiting at General Sheridan's bivouac. Riding a mile I carne upon the Fivo Forks proper, and just to the lüft, at the foot of somo piuee, the victor and his assistants were oongregatod. Sheridan sat by some faggota, examining a topographical map of tho country Le had eo well traversod; posaibly with a view to design furthor aggressive movements in the raorning. - He is oppoaite me now as I peu these paragraphs by the imperfect blaze of his bivouac firo. Ho is good humored and talkativc, like all men conscious of having achieved a great work, and lias been good enough to sketch for me the plan of the day's operntion, from which I hnvo compilad much of liio 3(atement above. Close by lies Onster, trying to sleep, his long yellow hair covering his f aco ; and Gen. Griffin, now coinmauding tfae 5th corps, goos here and there issuiog orders, wliile aids and orderlios ride in and out, bearing furthor fresh rnessages of deeds üousuminated or proponed. Threo thousand of the work uien in tho Brooklyn Mavy Yard are on a strike owing to a reduolioa of fiity cents per day on their wages.

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Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus