commanders were conferring in order to effect a junction.1 Sherman
had recommended that Grant
should wait for his arrival from North Carolina
before taking the initiative, and thus make the result absolutely secure; but the general-in-chief considered that by moving out now and destroying the railroads, he would not only put the armies before Richmond
in a better position for pursuit, but retard the concentration of Lee
, besides compelling the rebels to abandon important material which they might otherwise be able to remove.
He had also another reason for preferring immediate action.
The army of the Potomac was in front of its original enemy, with which it had been contending for four weary years, in battles and marches and sieges and campaigns.
At last, it had its antagonist down.
If assistance was summoned before the final blow, it would be said, and believed by many, that the Eastern
troops were unable of themselves to conquer their adversary.
But the army of Lee
was in reality at the mercy of its old-time foe; there was no need to call in aid, no need to share the victory.
The Western men had laurels enough and to spare.
thought of the soldiers he had led for a year, and reserved for them alone the reward they had fairly earned.
On the 24th of March, the orders for the movement were issued.
were at first to be left in the trenches in front of Petersburg
, but all of Meade
's command except the Ninth corps was under marching orders.
, with three divisions from the army of the James, was also to join the moving column, leaving Weitzel
in command north