A very considerable force, under command of Major-General Sigel, was so held for the protection of West Virginia and the frontiers of Maryland and Pennsylvania. While these troops could not be withdrawn to distant field without exposing the North to invasion by comparatively small bodies of the enemy, they could act directly to their front and give better protection than flying idle in garrison. By such movement they should either compel the enemy to detach largely for the protection of his supplies and lines of communication or he would lose them.
General Sigel was therefore directed to organize all his available force into two expeditions, to move from Beverly and Charleston, under command of Generals Ord and Crook, against the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. Subsequently, General Ord having been relieved at his own request, General Sigel was instructed, at his own suggestion, to give up the expedition by Beverly and to form two columns-one under General Crook, on the Kanawha, numbering about 10,000 men, and one on the Shenandoah, numbering about 7,000 men. The one on the Shenandoah to assemble between Cumberland and the Shenandoah, and the infantry and artillery advanced to Cedar Creek, with such cavalry Crok would take possession of Lewisburg with part of his force and move down the Tennessee railroad, doing as much damage as he could, destroying the New River bridge and the salt-works at Saltville, Va.*
Owing to the weather and bad condition of the roads operations were delayed until the 1st of May, when, everything being in readiness and the roads favorable, orders were given for a general movement of all the armies not later than the 4th of May. My first object being to break the military power of the rebellion and capture the enemy's important strongholds, made me desirous that General Butler should succeed in his movement against Richmond, as that would tend more than anything else, unless it were the capture of Lee's army, to accomplish this desired result in the East. If he failed, it was my determination, by hard fighting, either to compel Lee to retreat or to so cripple him that he could not detach a large force to go north and still retain enough for the defense of Richmond. It was well understood by both Generals Butler and Meade before starting on the campaign that it was my intention to put both their arms south of the James River in case of failure to destroy Lee without it.
Before giving General Butler his instructions I visited him at Fort Monroe, and in conversation pointed out the apparent importance of getting possession of Petersburg and destroying railroad communication as far south as possible. Believing, however, in the practicability of capturing Richmond, unless it was re-enforced, I made that the objective point of his operations. As the Army of the Potomac was to over simultaneously with him, Lee could not detach from his army with safety, and the enemy did not have troops elsewhere to bring to the defense of the city in time to meet a rapid movement from the north of James River.
I may here state that, commanding all the armies as I did, I tried, as far as possible, to leave General Meade in independent command of the Army of the Potomac. My instructions for that army were all through him, and were general in their nature, leaving all the details
*See Vol. XXXIII, pp. 874, 901, and 911.