The next morning General Custer was ordered to move by the Negrofoot crossing of the South Anna and thence to Ashland, and General Devin was ordered to proceed to the same point; this developed the situation. The prisoners captured in front of Ashland reported Longstreet, with Pickett's and Johnson's divisions, and Fitz Lee's cavalry, on the Ashland road in the direction of Richmond, and four miles from Ashland. My course was now clear and the feint successful; General Devin was quickly ordered to the north side of the South Anna, and General Custer was ordered to follow, sending Colonel Pennington's brigade to amuse the enemy, cover his front, and gradually fall back.
The whole command was meanwhile ordered to cross the North Anna, and go into camp at Carmel Church, and at daylight take up the line of march for White House, via Mangohick Church.
I then knew I could get to White House before the enemy, and that he could not operate upon the Chickahominy, as it would be too close to the lines of the Army of the James.
The enemy finding that he had made a mistake, moved rapidly during the night toward the Pamunkey, through Hanover Court-House, but forgot his pontoon trains and could not cross the river. It would have made no difference, however, as I then could have gotten to the White House without question.
At daylight on the morning of the 16th we leisurely resumed the march to White House, encamping at Mangohick Church; on the 17th we marched to and encamped at Prince [King] William Court-House; on the 18th we reached Indiantown; and on the 19th crossed the Pamunkey at White House, on the railroad bridge which had been repaired by Lieutenant-Colonel Babcock, of Lieutenant-General Grant's staff. We here found supplies in abundance.
The amount of private and public property collected for the use of the enemy and destroyed, and the destruction of lines of communication and supplies, was very great and beyond estimating. Every bridge on the Central railroad between Richmond and Lynchburg, except the one over the Chickahominy, and that over the James River at Lynchburg, and many of the culverts, were destroyed. The James River Canal was disabled beyond any immediate repair.
There perhaps never was a march where nature offered such impediments and shrouded herself in such gloom as upon this; incessant rain, deep and almost impassable streams, swamps, and mud, were overcome with a constant cheerfulness on the part of the troops that was truly admirable. Both officers and men appeared buoyed up by the thought that we had completed our work in the Valley of the Shenandoah, and that we were on our way to help our brothers-in-arms in front of Petersburg in the final struggle.
Our loss in horses was considerable - almost entirely from hoof-rot. After refitting at White House, until the 24th [25th] instant, we resumed our march, crossed the Chickahominy at Jones' Bridge, arriving at and crossing the James River on the evening of the 25th [26th] of March, and on the following day [27th], by direction of the lieutenant-general, went into camp at Hancock's Station, on the railroad, in front of Petersburg.
The whole number of prisoners captured on the march was about 1,600, but some of them we were obliged to parole, as they were unable to keep up with the column, though, after the first three days, our marches did not average over eighteen miles per day.
To General Merritt, chief of cavalry; Generals Custer and T. C. Devin, division commanders; Generals Gibbs and Wells, and Colonels