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[187] and try to hold his force there. ‘I look upon the next line for me to secure to be that from Chattanooga to Mobile; Montgomery and Atlanta being the important intermediate points. The destruction which Sherman will do the roads around Meridian will be of material importance to us in preventing the enemy from drawing supplies from Mississippi and in clearing that section of all large bodies of rebel troops.’

Sherman was of course ready for the work of demolition, and wrote that he hoped to destroy Meridian and its railroad connections as he had wrecked Jackson in the previous summer. In a letter to Banks he said, ‘You know the Memphis & Charleston road is either ruined or in our hands, and that the single track from Meridian to Selma is the only link that unites Mississippi to Alabama and Georgia, and will agree with me that its destruction will do more to isolate the State of Mississippi than any single act.’

General Johnston, at Dalton, was at the same time reporting that on account of lack of troops and supplies for them, he could hope to do nothing more than fall back if attacked; and he repeatedly suggested that northern Mississippi be selected as the Confederate base of offensive operations from which west Tennessee and its abundant supplies could be seized.

Lieut.-Gen. Leonidas Polk was now in command of the department of Mississippi, Alabama and East Louisiana, with headquarters at Meridian, and had an effective force of about 16,000, the strongest parts of which were cavalry, some 7,500, under Maj.-Gen. S. D. Lee, and Loring's division, about 5,500 men, at Canton. Forney's command had been transferred to General Maury, at Mobile, leaving the infantry brigades of Featherston, John Adams, Buford, with Loring, and of Ector and Cockrell with French at Brandon. The Texas cavalry brigade with Lee was commanded by Col. Lawrence S. Ross. Small commands were stationed at the military

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