I have spent the past two days at Fort Monroe, near Norfolk Virginia, consulting with General Butler about the upcoming campaign. I propose that he will take a force, christened the Army of the James, to move up the James River to threaten Richmond while the Army of the Potomac moves against Lee’s army preventing him from sending reinforcements. If successful, this movement would force Lee to fall back to Richmond to prevent his supply lines from being cut. I formalized these discussions in the following letter.
FORT MONROE, VA., April 2, 1864.
Major General BENJAMIN F. BUTLER,
Commanding Dept. of Va. and N. C., Fort Monroe, Va.:
In the spring campaign, which it is desirable shall commence at as early a day as practicable, it is proposed to have co-operative action of all the armies in the field, as far as the object can be accomplished. It will not be possible to united our armies into two or three large ones, to act as so many units, owing to the absolute necessity of holding on to the territory already taken from the enemy; but, generally speaking, concentration can be practically effected by armies moving to the interior of the enemy’s country from the territory they have to guard. By such movement they interpose themselves between the enemy and the country to be guarded, thereby reducing the number necessary to guard important points, and at least occupy the attention of part of the enemy’s force, if no greater object is gained. Lee’s army and Richmond being the greater objects toward which our attention must be directed in the next campaign, it is desirable to unite all the force against them.
The necessity for covering Washington with the Army of the Potomac and of covering your department with your army makes it impossible to united these forces at the beginning of any move. I propose, therefore, what comes nearest this of anything that seems practicable. The Army of the Potomac will act from its present base, Lee’s army being the objective point.
You will collect all the forces from your command that can be spared from garrison duty–I should say not less than 20,000 effective men–to operate on the south side of the James River, Richmond being your objective point. To the force you already have will be added about 10,000 men from South Carolina, under Major-General Gilmore, who will command them in person. Major General W. F. Smith is ordered to report to you to command the troops sent into the field from your own department.
General Gillmore will be ordered to report to you at Fort Monroe, with all his troops on transports, by the 18th instant, or as soon thereafter as practicable. Should you not receive notice by that time to move, you will make such disposition of them and your other forces as you may deem best calculated to deceive the enemy as to the real move to be made. When you are notified to move take City Point with as much force as possible. Fortify, or rather intrench, at once, and concentrate all your troops for the field there as rapidly as you can. From City Point directions cannot be given at this time for your further movements.
The fact that has already been stated, that is, that Richmond is to be your objective point, and that there is to be co-operation between your force and the Army of the Potomac, must be your guide. This indicates the necessity of your holding close to the south bank of the James River as you advance. Then, should the enemy be forced into his intrenchments in Richmond, the Army of the Potomac would follow, and by means of transports the two armies would become a unit.
All the minor details of your advance are left entirely to your direction. If, however, you think it practicable to use your cavalry south of you so as to cut the railroad about Hicksford about the time of the general advance it would be of immense advantage.
You will please forward for my information at the earliest practicable day all orders, details, and instructions you may give for the execution of this order.
U. S. GRANT,
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 245-7
O.R., I, xxxiii, p 794-5