The Fifth Corps was at once ordered to intrench, with a view to holding Jetersville until the main army could come up.
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