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Chapter 7:

General Sherman relates that in the Winter following the battle of Chattanooga, he conceived the idea of a movement eastward from the line of the Mississippi to penetrate the interior, and so break up railroads, and paralyze the rebel forces in that section, as to release a large body of troops for the coming campaign from Chattanooga.

Marching from Vicksburg February 3d, 1864, his columns reached Meridian on the 14th, remained there till the 20th, causing much destruction of roads, rolling-stock, stores, and manufacturing establishments of value to the enemy, and arrived at Canton, near Vicksburg, on his return, February 26th:

Much more had been expected at the North from the preparations made for the movement, and the statements circulated as to its object. It was the general belief that the expedition was to penetrate as far east as Selma, one of the interior points of greatest value to the enemy, and also turn upon Mobile. This impression was current at General Grant's headquarters and at Washington, and General Grant himself had written to Halleck, under date of January 15th, 1864, in the same letter which unfolded his plan for the general Spring campaign as follows:

‘I shall direct Sherman, therefore, to move out to Meridian with his spare force—the cavalry going from Corinth, and destroy the railroads east and south of there so effectually that the enemy will not attempt to rebuild them during the rebellion. He will then return, unless the opportunity of going into Mobile with the force he has, appears perfectly plain.’

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