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[412] Virginia to support and co-operate with Sheridan; but Sheridan made his campaign, and arrived at White House, and Stoneman had not yet set out.

On the 19th, Grant said to Thomas: ‘If Stoneman has not yet got off on his expedition, start him at once with whatever force you can give him. He will not meet with opposition now that can not be overcome by fifteen hundred men. If I am not much mistaken, he will be able to come within fifty miles of Lynchburg.’

On the 19th of March, Sheridan arrived at White House with his command. He had started from Winchester on the 27th of February, with ten thousand men, all cavalry. Custer and Devin were his division generals, and Merritt was chief of cavalry. He took four days rations in haversacks, and fifteen days coffee, sugar, and salt in wagons, thirty pounds of forage for each horse, eight ambulances, and his ammunition train. Only two other wagons and a pontoon train for eight boats accompanied the command. His orders were to destroy the Virginia Central railroad and the James river canal, capture Lynchburg, if practicable, and then join Sherman, wherever he might be found, or return to Winchester; but, with regard to joining Sherman, he must be governed by the condition of affairs after leaving Lynchburg. The command was in fine condition, but the weather was bad, for the spring thaws and heavy rains had begun. The snow in the valleys and on the surrounding mountains was fast disappearing, and all the streams were too high to ford.

Sheridan proceeded as rapidly as possible up the Valley, and in two days marched sixty miles.

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