I proceeded to make the necessary orders and arrangements to move with the two divisions as soon as I could. The movement had to be made without artillery or ambulances or ammunition wagons, and instructions had to be given in the two letters cases for special provisions. The chief of artillery had to be informed and relations established between him and General Humphreys, commanding the Second Corps, whose troops were required to take my place along the plank road.
At twenty minutes past 12 I received the following from General Humphreys:
I am directed to resume my position of this morning, &c., &c. At what time do you propose to move? I propose to move simultaneously with you.
To this I sent the following reply:
I have just received your dispatch by Captain Wister. Under the order to withdraw at once (viz, that received at 9.17 p. m.) I thought we each could do so individually, under cover of darkness, and so ordered. I have since received orders to attack the enemy with two divisions, sending one down the plank road to report to General Sheridan. My artillery, five four-gun batteries, under General Wainwright, will remain on the line of the plank road. I think the enemy that drove General Sheridan must withdraw to-night. I had a brigade on the road north from J. Boisseau's. I have now orders to move against the force that attacked Sheridan, and shall send all the force I have to move there, or wherever the firing of battle near us may indicate.
At 1 a. m. I received reports from my officers who had returned from carrying my orders of 11 p. m., and learned the position of Generals Crawford and Griffin.
At this time I received the following dispatch from General Meade, written by him at 11.45 p. m.:
A dispatch, partially transmitted, is received, indicating the bridge over Gravelly Run is destroyed, and time will be required to rebuild it. If this is the case, would not time be gained by sending the troops by the Quaker road? Time is of the utmost importance. Sheridan cannot maintain himself at Dinwiddie without re-enforcements, and yours are the only ones that can be sent. Use every exertion to get troops to him as soon as possible. If necessary, send troops by both roads and give up the rear attack. If Sheridan is not re-enforced and compelled to fall back he will retire by the Vaughan road.
On receiving this dispatch showing so much solicitude for General Sheridan's position and the necessity of re-enforcing him directly, even if I had to countermand the previous order and forego entirely the rear attack and which also left the question for me determine, I felt much anxiety about what to do. The night was far advanced. The distance to Dinwiddie Court-House by the Quaker road from the location of my troops was over ten miles. It was impossible for them to reach there by that road before 8 a. m. By that time they could be of no use in holding Dinwiddie Court-House.
In this case the most direct route for the rear attack would be down the plank road, where General Ayres was marching. This attack, too, would be then the most effective, as the whole corps would be together in making it, and all in communication with headquarters and General Sheridan, which might be of great importance. If General Sheridan retired by the Vaughan road the rear and right flank of General Humphreys would be left exposed, as stated in General Meade's dispatch, received by me 8 p. m. (already given here). To send the division around by the Quaker road was to break my command up in three pieces, and if it had been done it is doubtful if the success of the 1st of April would have been gained, as the men thus sent would have