February 14-20, 1864
Following the Federal breakout from Chattanooga in November of 1863, Major General William T. Sherman returned to Vicksburg Sherman intended to destroy Southern infrastructure in the area, thereby freeing up troops to move east and participate in his upcoming Atlanta Campaign.
Following the Federal breakout from Chattanooga in November 1863, Major General William T. Sherman returned to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Sherman intended to destroy Southern infrastructure in the area, thereby freeing up troops to move east and to participate in his upcoming Atlanta Campaign.
Sherman left Vicksburg on February 3, 1864 with 20,000 soldiers headed for Meridian, Mississippi, an important Confederate rail center and military outpost. To augment his force, Sherman ordered Brigadier General William Sooy Smith to lead a cavalry force of 7,000 troopers from Memphis, Tennessee and to join him at Meridian.
As Sherman’s main force of 20,000 soldiers moved toward Meridian, the Confederate commander in the area, Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, began consolidating troops for the city’s defense. Ultimately, however, Polk decided that he could not withstand a Federal assault, so he evacuated Meridian on February 14. Sherman entered the city on the same day and settled in to await Smith’s cavalry.
As events unfolded, Smith never reached Meridian. After delaying the start of his advance ten days beyond Sherman’s ordered date of departure, his force was defeated by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry at the Battle of Okolona on February 22. Forrest forced Smith to retreat back into Tennessee, preventing his unification with Sherman.
Unaware of Smith’s troubles, Sherman waited at Meridian for his arrival from February 14 through February 20. During that period, Sherman ordered his troops “to wipe the appointed meeting place off the map.” His soldiers responded by destroying over one hundred miles of railroad and burning anything that might be of value to the Southern cause. When Sherman left Meridian to return to Vicksburg, he reportedly stated that “Meridian, with its depots, store-houses, arsenal, hospitals, offices, hotels, and cantonments no longer exists.”
Casualties at the Battle of Meridian are unknown or were nonexistent, as there was no real combat action. Sherman succeeded in temporarily destroying some significant Southern transportation facilities, but in less than one month, the Confederates restored railroad traffic. On a grander scale, the Battle of Meridian or the Meridian Campaign was significant because it provided Sherman with the opportunity to implement and to perfect the concept of “total war,” which he would later employ in Georgia and the Carolinas.
Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Meridian included:
20th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
32nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
68th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
72nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
78th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
3rd Ohio Independent Battery of Ohio Volunteer Artillery
7th Ohio Independent Battery of Ohio Volunteer Artillery
8th Ohio Independent Battery of Ohio Volunteer Artillery
15th Ohio Independent Battery of Ohio Volunteer Artillery
4th Ohio Independent Cavalry Company