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[382] and Ord were besieging it in front, Stoneman had been ordered to move athwart the country from East Tennessee in the direction of South Carolina, and Sheridan was now instructed to penetrate to the west of Richmond from the Valley of the Shenandoah. As early as the 8th of February, Grant had said to Sheridan: ‘I believe there is no enemy now to prevent you from reaching the Virginia Central railroad, and possibly the canal, when the weather will permit you to move.’ On the 13th, however, he said: ‘I do not care about your moving until the weather and roads are such as to give assurance of overcoming all obstacles except those interposed by the enemy.’ Finally, on the 20th, he issued full instructions: ‘As soon as it is possible to travel, I think you will have no difficulty about reaching Lynchburg with a cavalry force alone. From there you could destroy the railroad and canal in every direction, so as to be of no further use to the rebellion. . . . This additional raid, with one now about starting from East Tennessee, under Stoneman, numbering about four or five thousand cavalry; one from Eastport, Mississippi, ten thousand cavalry; Canby, from Mobile bay, with about eighteen thousand mixed troops—these three latter pushing for Tuscaloosa, Selma, and Montgomery, and Sherman, with a large army eating out the vitals of South Carolina—is all that will be wanted to leave nothing for the rebellion to stand upon. I would advise you to overcome great obstacles to accomplish this. Charleston was evacuated on Tuesday last.’

Grant now looked upon the destruction of the principal armies of the enemy as near at hand, and

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