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[551] that his artillery and draught horses were too weak for the roads as they were then, and that he would have to wait until they became firmer. There naturally followed consideration of the line of retreat. A considerable time before this General Hood had sent me a paper, presenting his views and conclusion that, if it became necessary for the Army of Northern Virginia to retreat, it should move toward Middle Tennessee. The paper was forwarded to General Lee and returned by him with an unfavorable criticism and the conclusion that, if we had to retreat, it should be in a southwardly direction toward the country from which we were drawing supplies, and from which a large portion of our forces had been derived. In this conversation the same general view was more specifically stated, and made to apply to the then existing condition of affairs. The program was to retire to Danville, at which place supplies should be collected and a junction made with the troops under General J. E. Johnston, the combined force to be hurled upon Sherman in North Carolina, with the hope of defeating him before Grant could come to his relief. Then the more southern states freed from pressure and encouraged by this success, it was expected, would send large reenforcements to the army, and Grant, drawn far from his base of supplies into the midst of a hostile population, it was hoped, might yet be defeated, and Virginia be delivered from the invader. Efforts were energetically continued to collect supplies in depots where they would be available, and, in furtherance of the suggestion of General Lee as to the necessary improvement in the condition of his horses, the quartermaster general was instructed to furnish larger rations of corn to the quartermaster at Petersburg.

Though of unusually calm and well-balanced judgment, General Lee was instinctively averse to retiring from his enemy, and had so often beaten superior numbers that his thoughts were no doubt directed to every possible expedient which might enable him to avoid retreat. It thus fell out that, in a week or two after the conference above noticed, he presented to me the idea of a sortie against the enemy near to the right of his line. This was rendered the more feasible by the constant extension of Grant's line to the left, and the heavy bodies of troops he was employing to turn our right. The sortie, if entirely successful, so as to capture and hold the works on Grant's right, as well as three forts on the commanding ridge in his rear, would threaten his line of communication with his base, City Point, and might compel him to move his forces around ours to protect it; if only so far successful as to cause the transfer of his troops from his left to his right, it would relieve our t

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Ulysses S. Grant (4)
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