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 communication which enabled the Confederate troops to be moved from our northern to our eastern lines of defence, without exciting the attention of the enemy. Under these circumstances, it can well be understood that the Confederate authorities were ever on the alert to guard so important a post. They relied, however, on the facility with which its garrison could be reinforced, when threatened, and not on an army of occupation, for it could not afford to keep so many troops idle. Though equally important to the success of the Northern armies, in their operations in Virginia, no serious effort was directed against it until the spring of 1864. On the 6th of June, 1864, General Grant wrote from the lines around Richmond to General David Hunter, then commanding the Department of West Virginia, informing him that General Sheridan would leave the next day for Charlottesville for the purpose of destroying the Central (now the Chesapeake & Ohio) Railway. Having given this information, he directed General Hunter to operate with the same general end in view, adding that ‘the complete destruction of this road and of the canal on the James river is of great importance to us.’ He further says, ‘you [Hunter] are to proceed to Lynchburg and commence there. it would be of great value to us to get possession of Lynchburg for a single day.’ According to this letter, Hunter, after reaching Staunton, was to move on Lynchburg, via Charlottesville, and thence along what Grant calls ‘the Lynchburg branch of the Central Road,’ meaning the Lynchburg extension of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Having captured Lynchburg and destroyed the bridges and vast stores there concentrated, he was to return by the same route, join Sheridan, and together they were to move east and unite with Grant, who then proposed to move his whole army south of the James and make his attack on Lee at, and south of, Petersburg. (70 War of Rebellion, 598.) Hunter was given some latitude as to how he should execute this order, and as to the best mode of reaching Lynchburg. It seems he determined to move up the Valley, and to that end called on General William W. Averell to ‘suggest a plan of operations, the purpose of which was the capture of Lynchburg and the destruction of the railroads running from that place in five days.’ （Id., 146.) During the first three years of the war, raids were made upon the line of the Virginia & Tennessee Railway (now Norfolk & Western)
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