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[387] of Thomas: ‘When did Stoneman start on his expedition?’

Although Grant believed that Sherman would be perfectly safe as soon as he came within supporting distance of Schofield, even if Lee should proceed to North Carolina, this movement of the rebels was what he now most feared, and every effort was made to detect and prevent it. Fifteen thousand men were kept on picket duty on Meade's front, and half the army of the Potomac was constantly prepared for attack. ‘Our information,’ says the diary of an officer of the staff, ‘is that an attack on our centre is probable. Grant says he wishes one might be made, but thinks it would be a cover to hide the movements of Lee southward . . . . The only hope of the enemy now is to fall on Sherman before he can be supported by Schofield.’ Grant frequently said, at this time, that a daring plan for the enemy would be to gather up his entire force, and rush out through West Virginia into East Tennessee and Kentucky, transferring the seat of war to a territory full of supplies, threatening the states north of the Ohio, and giving a new lease of life to the rebellion, however short. Such an attempt, he said, would surely result in the utter destruction of the army that began it; but it would have had the strength of desperation, and might have occasioned serious trouble.

At this time the general-in-chief manifested much anxiety about Sherman, more than ever before, and far more than when he was himself engaged in active operations. As the various despatches came in from one army or another, he discussed the movements of all his commanders, sometimes with the

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