I then gave directions to secure the position we had gained, by entrenching, and proceeded with my staff back about two miles to the Boydton plank road, at which place I could communicate by telegraph with General Meade during the night. General Meade's headquartered were distant four miles and a half, near where the Vaughan road crosses Hatcher's Run; General Grant's were near Dabney's Mills, about four miles from me; General Sheridan's at Danwiddie Court House distant five miles and a half, and separated from me by a stream not fordable for infantry, where it crossed the boydton plank road, and the brigade broken down.
At 8 p. m. I received the following dispatch from General Meade, written 7.30 p. m.:
Dispatch from General Sheridan says he was forced back to Dinwiddie Court-House by strong force of cavalry, supported by infantry. This leaves your rear and that of the Second Corps on the Boydton plank road open, and will require great vigilance on your part. If you have sent the brigade down the plank road it should not go farther than Gravelly Run, as I don't think it will render any service but to protect your rear.
General Pearson had been compelled to stop at Gravelly Run on account of the swollen stream and broken bridge.
At 8.20 p. m. I wrote to General Webb:
I sent General Bartlett out on the road running from the White Oak road and left him there. He is nearly down to the crossing of Gravelly Run. This will prevent the enemy communicating by that road to-night. I have about two regiments and the artillery to hold the plank road toward Dinwiddie Court-House. It seems to me the enemy cannot remain between me and Dinwiddie Court-House if Sheridan keeps fighting them, and I believe they will have to fall back to the Five Forks. If I have to move to-night. I shall leave a good many men who have lost their way. Does General Sheridan still hold Dinwiddie Court-House?
At 8.40 p. m. I received by telegraph the following from General Webb, marked "confidential," written 8.30 p. m.:
The probability is that we will have to contract our lines to-might. You will be required to hold, if possible, the Boydton plank road, and to Gravelly Run; Humphreys and Ord along the run. Be prepared to do this at short notice.
I regretted exceedingly to see this step foreshadowed, for I feared it would have the morale of giving a failure to our whole movement, as similar orders had done on previous occasions. It would besides relieve the enemy in front of Sheridan from the threatening attitude my position gave me, and I therefore sent the following by telegraph, at 8.40 p. m. to General Webb:
The line along the plank road is very strong. One division, with my artillery, I think can hold it if we are not threatened south of Gravelly Run east of the plank road. General Humphreys and my batteries, I think, could hold this securely, and let me move down and attack the enemy at Dinwiddie Court-House on one side and Sheridan on the other. On account of Bartlett's position they (the enemy) will have to make a considerable detour to re-enforce their troops at that point from the north. Unless General Sheridan has been too badly handled I think we have a chance for an open field that should be made use of.