Sheridan’s victories in the Shenandoah Valley have given me reason to believe that a movement against Lee’s lines could meet with great success. Butler will attack north of the James River. Meade will then attempt to catch the enemy off balance by sweeping south around Petersburg. I wrote Gen. Butler,
CITY POINT, VA., September 27, 1864.
Commanding Army of the James:
Prepare your army according to the verbal instructions already given for moving on the morning of the 29th instant. Your lines between the James and Appomattox Rivers can be held with new regiments and such artillery as you deem necessary. All garrisons from your command below the mouth of the Appomattox will be left as they are now. The movement should be commenced at night, and so as to get a considerable force north of the James River, ready to assault the enemy’s lines in front of Deep Bottom, and from Aiken’s house or other point above Deep Bottom, where the two assaulting columns will be in easy supporting distance of each other, as soon as the enemy’s line is broken at the dawn of day. If one good division from each of your corps are over in time for this, with the balance of these corps following, with a pontoon bridge for each, it will answer. The object of this movement is to surprise and capture Richmond, if possible. This cannot be done if time is given the enemy to move forces to the north side of the river. Success will depend on prompt movement at the start. Should the outer line be broken, the troops will push for Richmond with all promptness, following roads as near the river as possible. It is impossible to point out the line of march for an army in the presence of the enemy, make it impracticable. It is known that the enemy has intrenched positions on the bank of the river between Deep Bottom and Richmond, such as Chaffin’s farm, which are garrisoned. If these can be captured in passing, they should be held by suitable garrisons. If not captured, troops should be left to hold them in their position, and should intrench to make themselves strong. It will be necessary, therefore, to have your engineer troops, with their tools, well up with the advance. Should you succeed in getting to Richmond, the interposition of the whole army (rebel) between you and your supplies need cause you no alarm. With the army under General Meade, supplies could be cut off from the enemy in the event of so unexpected a move, and communication opened with you either by the south side or from the White House before the supplies you would find in the city would be exhausted. In case you reach Richmond, the details for garrisoning and holding the place are left to or the senior officer of the troops that get in. One thing I would say, however, all the bridges connecting the city with the south side should be destroyed at once or held beyond a peradventure. As the success of the enterprise depends entirely on celerity, the troops will go right. They will take only a single blanket rolled and carried over the shoulder, three days’ rations in haversack, and sixty rounds of ammunition in box and on the person. No wagons will be taken. They will be supplied, however, with six days’ rations, half forage for the same time, and forty rounds of extra ammunition for men, to follow if they should be required. No wagons will cross the James River till ordered by you. The whole of the force under General Meade will be under arms at 4 a.m. on the 29th, ready to attack Petersburg or move to South Side road, as circumstances may determine. As against any force now north of the James River you can go to Richmond even without a surprise. If enemy resists you by sufficient force to prevent your advance, it is confidently expected that General Meade can gain a decisive advantage on his end of the line. The prize sought is either Richmond or Petersburg, or sa position which will secure the fall of the latter. Please furnish me with a copy of your detailed instructions.
U. S. GRANT,
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 12, p 219-21
O.R., I, xlii, part 2, p 1058-9