Lincoln went to Virginia just as Grant was preparing to attack Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s lines around Petersburg and Richmond, an assault that promised to end the siege that had dragged on for 10 months. Meanwhile, Sherman’s force was steamrolling northward through the Carolinas. The three architects of Union victory convened for the first time as a group—Lincoln and Sherman had never met—at Grant’s City Point headquarters at the general-in-chief’s request.
As part of the trip, Lincoln went to the Petersburg lines and witnessed a Union bombardment and a small skirmish. Prior to meeting with his generals, the president also reviewed troops and visited wounded soldiers. Once he sat down with Grant and Sherman, Lincoln expressed concern that Lee might escape Petersburg and flee to North Carolina, where he could join forces with Joseph Johnston to forge a new Confederate army that could continue the war for months. Grant and Sherman assured the president the end was in sight. Lincoln emphasized to his generals that any surrender terms must preserve the Union aims of emancipation and a pledge of equality for the formerly enslaved people.
After meeting with Admiral David Dixon Porter on March 28, the president and his two generals went their separate ways. Less than four weeks later, Grant and Sherman had secured the surrender of the Confederacy.