Alabama, come upon the flank of Gen. Polk's army, and harass his retreat while Sherman rushed upon him in front; and thus by the possession of Mobile and Selma to obtain two important water-bases — the one on the Mississippi at Vicksburg, the other at Mobile on the Gulf, and to establish his army firmly in the triangle formed by the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers, and the railroad leading from Selma to Demopolis and Meridian.
The immediate objects of the movement were to cut off Mobile from Johnston, who lay in front of Grant on the lines in North Georgia, to break up Polk's army, and then to turn down on Mobile, and co-operate with Farragut's fleet, which was at that time thundering at the gates of this city.
On the 3d February, Sherman left Vicksburg with about thirty thousand infantry, pushed east, and crossed the entire State of Mississippi to Meridian.
A few days later the column, eight thousand strong, under command of Gens. Smith and Grierson, started from Corinth and Holly