begun the construction of a line of defences to cover this route, along which, since the seizure of the Weldon
road, they were obliged to wagon all their supplies from the Atlantic coast
; and before these defences should be completed, Grant
designed to move to the left, and not only seize the Boydton
road, but, if possible, the Southside
road itself, the last of the great avenues connecting Richmond
with the outside Confederacy.
Six months before, at Culpeper
, he had pointed out to his staff the Southside
road as the line he intended to secure.
‘When once my troops are there,’ he said, ‘Lee
must surrender, or leave Richmond
Accordingly, on the 24th of October, he instructed Meade
: ‘Make your preparations to march out at an early hour on the 27th, to gain possession of the Southside railroad, and to hold it, and fortify back to your present left.’
Butler at the same time was to make a demonstration north of the James
, to attract the enemy's attention to that quarter.
,’ said Grant
, ‘will move from our left, with the design of seizing and holding the Southside railroad.
To facilitate this movement, or rather to prevent reinforcements going from the north side of the James river
, I wish you to demonstrate against the enemy in your front. . . I do not want any attack made by you against entrenched and defended positions, but feel out to the right beyond the front, and if you can, turn it. . . Let it be distinctly understood by corps commanders that there is to be no attack made against defended entrenched positions.’
In this operation Meade
was to take out forty