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Sherman's Mississippi Campaign

Written by Buck T. Foster

Publication Year: 2006

The rehearsal for the March to the Sea. 
 
 
With the fall of Vicksburg to Union forces in mid-1863, the Federals began work to extend and consolidate their hold on the lower Mississippi Valley. As a part of this plan, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman set out from Vicksburg on February 3, 1864, with an army of some 25,000 infantry and a battalion of cavalry. They expected to be joined by another Union force moving south from Memphis and supported themselves off the land as they traveled due east across Mississippi.
 
Sherman entered Meridian on February 14 and thoroughly destroyed its railroad facilities, munitions plants, and cotton stores, before returning to Vicksburg. Though not a particularly effective campaign in terms of enemy soldiers captured or killed, it offers a rich opportunity to observe how this large-scale raid presaged Sherman’s Atlanta and Carolina campaigns, revealing the transformation of Sherman’s strategic thinking.
 

 

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Contents

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pp. v-

List of Maps

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pp. vii-

Preface

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pp. ix-xii

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1. Sherman’s Transformation

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pp. 1-13

During the first year of the American Civil War, William T. Sherman considered proper treatment of noncombatants and their property to be his soldierly duty. He took great care in seeing that his policies and the conduct of his men did not trample upon the perceived rights of secessionist or unionist civilians...

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2. The Plan

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pp. 14-32

After retaking Jackson in the summer of 1863, Sherman had thought about moving down the railroad track toward Meridian, a small town of about four hundred people, located about one hundred miles east of Jackson near the Alabama border. This bustling community contained warehouses, storehouses, depots, an armory, a hospital, and other pertinent military items. It served as a hub for Confederate traf

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3. “We Whipped Him Handsomely”

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pp. 33-62

By the beginning of 1864, the Confederacy’s early hopes for a quick victory had vanished. With the loss at Gettysburg in the East and crushing Federal victories at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and Chattanooga in the West, Southern civilians began to reexamine their attitudes toward the war. Confederate casualty reports listed their fathers, sons, and brothers. The scarcity of provisions and enormously inflated food prices resulting from the Confederacy’s prosecution..

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4. “A Miss Is as Good as a Mile”

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pp. 63-89

As William T. Sherman thought about leaving Jackson for Meridian, he expected to see William Loring’s and Samuel French’s divisions along with Stephen D. Lee’s cavalry force over the next rise in the road. Sherman did not know where Leonidas Polk would choose to make his stand, but he believed that the bishop would not let him pass without providing opposition somewhere...

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5. Meridian Falls

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pp. 90-105

William T. Sherman’s army had traveled nearly 150 miles in less than two weeks to reach the eastern edge of Mississippi. By the time he reached Meridian, near the Alabama border, Sherman realized that a key to his success had been his careful planning and preparation. Mississippi, although appearing to be under Confederate control, was nothing more than an empty shell...

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6. “One of the Most Pestiferous Nests . . . in All the Limits of Dixie”

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pp. 106-124

While the Union army destroyed the railroad and property in Meridian and the surrounding area, attempting to leave the region unusable to the Confederacy, several incidents occurred that illustrate the Federal soldiers’ attitude toward Southern civilians and how much it had changed under William T. Sherman’s destructive war strategy. Pillaging and looting of private property remained a problem...

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7. An Opportunity Lost

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pp. 125-149

As February 19 came to a close, Sherman gazed into the distance and searched for dust rising on the horizon. He was looking for one of his couriers with news of Sooy Smith’s arrival. He saw nothing. Sherman, thinking of Sooy Smith, now nine days late, may have remembered the words he had written to Grant in December: “I deem General Sooy Smith too mistrustful of himself for a leader against Forrest.”...

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8. “Meridian . . . No Longer Exists”

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pp. 150-167

When William T. Sherman’s army left Meridian, the town and the surrounding region lay devastated. The commanding general later noted in his report: “For five days 10,000 men worked hard and with a will in that work of destruction, with axes, crowbars, sledges, clawbars, and with fire, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing the work well done...

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Conclusion

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pp. 168-176

The signi¤cance of William T. Sherman’s Meridian campaign can be assessed on several levels: its immediate impact on the war and its participants, on Mississippi’s inhabitants, and on Sherman in his ¤rst major attempt at hard war. The short-term consequences of the expedition proved far less important than the campaign’s role in the shaping of Sherman’s distinctive type of warfare...

Notes

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pp. 177-198

Bibliography

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pp. 199-210

Index

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pp. 211-215


E-ISBN-13: 9780817381325
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817315191

Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Campaigns.
  • Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891 -- Military leadership.
  • Strategy -- Case studies.
  • Meridian (Miss.) -- History, Military -- 19th century.
  • Mississippi -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Campaigns.
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