To many this task would have been more unacceptable because, while the chief was lying comparatively inactive in front of Richmond
, the subordinates were fighting important battles and winning brilliant victories elsewhere.
had captured Atlanta
, and Sheridan
had overrun the Valley
, while Thomas
was entrusted with a command where the mightiest issues were at stake; and the interest of the country was transferred from the commander of them all to the great soldiers so rapidly rising into reputations which might eclipse his own. But such considerations not only never influenced Grant
, they never seemed to occur to him. He went on soberly and steadily with his work, careless whether it brought him into prominence or left him in the shade; and as glad of any success of the national cause when won by another, as if it had been his own.
Nevertheless, when events over the whole theatre of war were ripe; when Sherman
should have reached a base, and the rebel army at the West
be destroyed or rendered harmless; when the Presidential election should be over, while Washington
remained secure against attacks from the Shenandoah
—then, if the extension had not yet reached Lee
's last line of supply, Grant
intended to force the hand of Lee
. He was like a chess-player, looking forward to a daring, but if successful, a finishing move, and clearing the board in advance of the pieces of his adversary which might obstruct his plan.
When he telegraphed to Stanton
: ‘This reconnoissance, which I had meant for more, points out to me what is to be done,’ he meant, if Lee
's lines did not break in the