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Whittaker, Frederick, 1838-1889 / A complete life of Gen. George A. Custer: Major-General of Volunteers; Brevet Major-General, U.S. Army; and Lieutenant-Colonel, Seventh U.S. Calvery

Chapter IV. Five forks,   pp. [279]-296

Page 280

for defence-a desolate land of scrub woods, abandoned tobacco
fields and dirt roads, where the defence and attack were alike
depressing to the spirits, and where knowledge of the country
was the one point of importance.
    When Sheridan, with Custer's and Devin's divisions, went
into camp at Hancock Station, he received an accession of force.
The old Second Cavalry division; once Gregg's, was restored to
its old comrades, this time under the command of General
Crook. Poor Crook was, at the moment of joining, under a
cloud. He had done very well in the Valley, under Sheridan's
command, till late in the winter. Then, owing to inexcusable
negligence, he was one night snapped up in his headquarters
by a party of guerillas, carried off, and made a prisoner. At
the close of the winter he was exchanged, and found himself at
Petersburg, where he was given the command of this little
   The curious and very unphilosophical grades of rank in the
Federal army at that time, as contrasted with those of the Con-
federates, was illustrated by the number of major-generals in the
cavalry corps. Sheridan, Crook, Merritt, and Custer, were all
major-generals, the last two being brevets assigned. Devin and
Gibbs were brigadiers. The assignment to command of each
was curious. Sheridan seemed to have a sort of roving comn-
mission to go where he pleased and Merritt was in the same
interesting condition. Devin, Custer and Crook each had a
division, though each held a different rank, the first a brigadier,
the second a brevet major-general, the third a full major-gen-
eral. Gibbs, although of the same rank as Devin, had only a
brigade, and all the other brigade commanders under Custer
and Devin were colonels. Crook's division was the only one
that was properly and philosophically officered, having three
brigadiers for the brigades, and a major-general for the division.
   Apart from all these confusions of rank, the anomalous
position of Merritt in the campaign, as well as that of Sheridan,
was marked. Nominally Merritt had been commander of Custer

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