“  twenty-five hundred which General Smith had brought with him from Middle Tennessee. With this force General Smith was ordered to move from Memphis, straight for, Meridian, Mississippi, and to start by February 1st. I explained to him personally the nature of Forrest as a man and of his peculiar force; told him that in his route he was sure to encounter Forrest, who always attacked with a vehemence for which he must be prepared, and that after he had repelled the first attack,he must in turn assume the most determined offensive, overwhelm and utterly destroy his whole force. I knew that Forrest could not have more than four thousand cavalry, and my own movement would give employment to every other man of the Rebel army not immediately present with him, so that he (General Smith) might act on the hypothesis I have stated.” Again, referring to the same subject, General Sherman, in his Memoirs, says: “The object of the Meridian expedition was to strike the roads inland, so to paralyze the Rebel forces that we could take from the defence of the Mississippi river the equivalent of a corps of twenty thousand men, to be used in the next Georgia campaign, and this was actually done. At the same time, I wanted to destroy General Forrest, who, with an irregular force of cavalry, was constantly threatening Memphis and the river above, as well as our routes of supply in Middle Tennesse. In this we utterly failed, because General W. Sooy Smith did not fulfill his orders, which were clear and specific, as contained in my letter of instruction to him of January 27th, at Memphis, and my personal explanations to him at the same time.” As this letter is very important in this connection, and has never been published, I give it in full:
headquarters Department of the Tennessee, Memphis, July 27th, 1864.Dear General — By an order issued this day, I have placed all the cavalry of this department subject to your command. I estimate you can make a force of full seven thousand men, which I believe to be superior and better in all respects than the combined cavalry which the enemy has in all the State of Mississippi. I will, in person, start for Vicksburg to-day, and with four divisions of infantry, artillery and cavalry, move out for Jackson, Brandon and Meridian, aiming to reach the latter place by February 10th. General Banks will feign on Pascagonla, and General Logan on Rome. I want you, with your cavalry, to move from Collierville on Pontotoc and Okalona, thence sweeping down near the Mobile and Ohio railroad, disable that road as much as possible, consume or distroy the resources of the enemy along that road, break up the connection with Columbus, Mississippi, and finally reach me at or near Meridian, as near the date I have mentioned as possible. This will call for great energy of action on your.part; but I believe you are equal to it, and you have the best and most experienced troops in the service, and they will do anything that is possible. General Grierson is with you, and is familiar with the whole country. I will send up from Hains Bluff an expedition of gunboats and transports combined to feel up the Yazoo, as the present stage of water will permit. This will disconcert the enemy. My movement on Jackson will also divide the enemy, so that by no combination can he reach you with but a part of his force.
Brigadier-General William Sooy Smith, Commanding Cavalry, &c.: