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[359] strategic position in any northern movement of Sherman's army. ‘As the rebels,’ continued Halleck, ‘have probably removed their most valuable property from Augusta, perhaps Branchville would be the most important point at which to strike, in order to sever all connection between Virginia and the South-Western railroad.’ But, with the usual policy of the general-in-chief towards his important commanders, Halleck was then instructed to say: ‘General Grant's wishes, however, are that this whole matter of your future actions should be left entirely to your discretion.’

Sherman answered promptly on the 24th, and, in response to an invitation from Grant to present his views, he proposed to move on Branchville, ignoring Charleston and Augusta, then occupy Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, and strike for the Charleston and Wilmington railroad, somewhere between the Santee and Cape Fear rivers. ‘Then,’ he said, ‘I would favor an attack on Wilmington, in the belief that Porter and Butler will fail in their present expedition.’ After Wilmington should have fallen, he proposed to move upon Raleigh, in North Carolina. He would thus break up the entire railroad system of South and North Carolina, and place himself within a hundred and fifty miles of Grant. ‘The game then,’ he said, ‘would be up with Lee, unless he comes out of Richmond, avoids you, and fights me, in which case I should reckon on your being on his heels.’

Grant replied at length on the 27th of December: ‘Your confidence in being able to march up and join this army pleases me, and I believe it can be done. The effect of such a campaign will be to disorganize ’

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