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‘ [420] next [March 25th], you had better start, even if you have to stop here, to finish shoeing up.’

This new movement of Sheridan was of extreme importance to the national armies both in Virginia and North Carolina. Lee was at this very time conferring with Johnston in regard to the union of their commands, and all of Johnston's manoeuvres were made with a view to facilitate this result.1 Sheridan's movement was intended to prevent it. On the 22nd of March, Grant said to Sherman: ‘Sheridan will make no halt with the armies operating here, but will be joined by a division of cavalry five thousand five hundred strong, from the army of the Potomac, and will proceed directly to the Southside and Danville roads. His instructions will be to strike the Southside road as near Petersburg as he can, and destroy it so that it can not be repaired for three or four days, and push on to the Danville road as near to the Appomattox as he can get. Then I want him to destroy the road towards Burksville as far as he can, then push on to the Southside road west of Burksville, and destroy it effectually.’ These, it will be remembered, were the lines and positions to which Lee had announced his intention to retire in the event of the evacuation of Richmond.

‘When this movement commences,’ said Grant, ‘I shall move out by my left with all the force I can, holding present entrenched lines. I shall start with no distinct view further than holding Lee's forces from following Sheridan. But I shall go along myself, and will take advantage of anything that turns up. If Lee detaches, I will attack, or, if he comes out of his lines, I will endeavor to repulse ’

1 Johnston's ‘Military Narrative.’

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