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Meanwhile, it was becoming important for Schofield to move, and, on the 8th of February, Grant said to that commander: ‘The quicker you can bring your troops against Wilmington, the smaller the force you will have to contend against.’ Sherman preferred that Schofield should start from Newbern, but the general in-chief was anxious to provide against every contingency, and, in the event of disaster to the advancing column, the road from Wilmington, bearing further south, would be preferable. On the 19th, therefore, he instructed Schofield to turn his attention to Wilmington. ‘You will either capture the place,’ he said, ‘or hold considerable of the enemy from Sherman's front.’ A dispatch from Sherman had now been received by Admiral Dahlgren, off the coast, and forwarded to the general-in-chief; and on the 19th, Grant communicated the contents to Schofield: ‘Sherman,’ he wrote, was ‘encountering bad roads and much water, and was not certain but those causes would force him to turn upon Charleston. In that case, he would want his supplies sent to Bull's bay. Richmond papers of yesterday, however, announce the capture of Columbia on the 17th. As he was then across the Congaree, it is not likely he will turn back. This success will probably force the evacuation of Charleston. In that case, Gillmore [who had superseded Foster in South Carolina]1 will have a disposable force of ten or twelve thousand men, which I have directed him to send to you. Should you find an advance on Wilmington impracticable, ’

1 Foster was relieved solely because of physical incapacity, resulting from an old wound. ‘We want a man,’ said Grant, ‘who is not confined to his quarters.’

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