Robert E. Lee had few choices other than surrender by April of 1865. His Army of Northern Virginia had been reduced to a shell of its former self by massive casualties and desertions, and his last remaining hope, which had been to link with Joseph E. Johnston's force in North Carolina to continue the fight, became hopeless when Grant maneuvered his army in between them. So Grant was in a position to dictate whatever terms he deemed necessary. President Lincoln had been thinking about the aftermath of the war for almost a year at that point, and he directed Grant and William T. Sherman, pursuing Johnston's force, to issue lenient terms when the time came for the rebels to surrender. Grant accordingly allowed Lee and his army to go free on parole, and even allowed them to keep their horses and mules, as well as their sidearms. This was largely a symbolic move, having little impact on the turbulent course of events that characterized Reconstruction, but the knowledge that they would receive similar terms, in addition to the surrender of the most important Confederate force, encouraged other rebel forces still in the field to lay down their arms as well.