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Civil War Encyclopedia >> Campaigns
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood campaigns of the Civil War, the Meridian Campaign took William Tecumseh Sherman's Army of the Mississippi back to Vicksburg to complete the destruction of the Confederate rail system begun following the victory at Vicksburg. Opposing Sherman's total force of 30,000 men (including the cavalry support of William Sooy Smith) was the Army of Mississippi, now under the command of Leonidas Polk.
With the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee relieved and Ulysses S. Grant heading north to Nashville, Sherman had some "unfinished business" he wanted to complete. Leaving George Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland to distract the Army of Tennessee in Dalton, Georgia, Sherman's army headed west by boat on the Tennessee River, then south along the Mississippi to Vicksburg. Brigadier General William Sooy Smith in charge of a cavalry force of some 7,000 effectives, was ordered to advance from Memphis to support Sherman's column.
With two columns of roughly 12,000 men each under Stephen Hurlbut and James McPherson, Sherman marched west towards Jackson, destroying infrastructure, especially related to railroads. Sherman's stated goal was to increase the number of men who could participate in the Atlanta Campaign by decreasing the number of men he had to leave to patrol the Mississippi. Also, Nathan Bedford Forrest had been operating in the area, and Sherman wanted to discourage (or capture) the "Wizard of the Saddle."
Leaving Vicksburg on February 3, 1864, Sherman ordered his men to travel light ... bring no tents and live off the land. This has led some to compare the Meridian Campaign to the March to the Sea, although only limited comparisons can be made. Sherman reached Jackson, capital of Mississippi, on February 5 and headed east to Meridian. During his advance he kept pressure on Polk by threatening Mobile.
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Meridian Campaign was last changed on - February 5, 2007
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