Custer was ordered to thoroughly destroy the track toward Richmond as far as Beaver Dam, while General Merritt did the same thing from Louisa Court-House to Frederick's Hall.
While at this latter place Major Young's scouts from Richmond notified me of preparations being made there to prevent me from getting to the James River, and that Pickett's division of infantry was coming back from Lynchburg, via the South Side Railroad, as was also the cavalry, but that no advance from Richmond had yet taken place. I at once determined that there was no way to stop me unless General Longstreet marched directly for the White House, and that he would be unable to do so if I pushed boldly on toward Richmond, as he would be forced to come out and meet me near Ashland; then I could withdraw, cross the South and North Annas, and march to White House on north side of the Pamunkey. It proved true.
But, to divert from the narrative, when General Custer struck Frederick's Hall Station, he entered it so suddenly that he captured the telegraph office with all the dispatches; among them was one from Lieutenant-General Early to General Lee, stating that he had been informed that Sheridan's forces were approaching Goochland, and that he intended to move up with 200 cavalry which he had and attack them in the flank at daylight. General Custer immediately ordered a regiment of cavalry in pursuit of this bold party, which, in about two hours, it overtook, attacked, and captured or dispersed in every direction, Lieutenant-General Early escaping on a side road with five or six orderlies and two staff officers; he was, however, closely followed by a small detachment, and his staff officers captured, he barely escaping over the South Anna with a single orderly; and the next day he made his way to Richmond, after a campaign in the Shenandoah Valley in which he lost nearly the whole of his army, together with his battle-flags, and nearly every piece of artillery which his troops opened upon us, and also a large part of his transportation.
But, to resume, General Custer, on the morning of the 14th instant, was directed to push down the Negrofoot road and cross the South Anna. He sent his scouting parties up to within eleven miles of Richmond, where they burned a hospital train. The object of this move was to divert the attention of the enemy from the North and South Anna bridges, and bridges over Little River, which Merritt was ordered to destroy with Devin's division, Custer's main column meanwhile being held at the Negrofoot crossing of the South Anna. General Merritt was ordered to follow the railroad to Hanover Junction, cross the Little River, and go into camp on north bank of South Anna.
In the attack upon the railroad bridge over the South Anna the Fifth U. S. Cavalry charged up to the bridge, dismounted, dashed across it, and drove away the company of artillery who tried to defend it, and turned their own guns - four 20-pounder Parrotts - upon them.
I here received a dispatch from the lieutenant-general that supplies were at the White House for me and one brigade of infantry, and also captured the following dispatch, which led me to doubt whether General Longstreet had yet determined in his own mind where I was going:
HANOVER JUNCTION, March 14 - 11.25.
General Longstreet desires you to follow the enemy, if he goes east, until he crosses the Rapidan or Blue Ridge. If he goes toward the peninsula, follow as far as you can.
By order of Lieutenant-General Ewell:
T. O. CHESTNEY,