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[312]

As stated, Generals Pemberton's and Gardner's Confederate forces had been captured, and there remained in observation of this large force in Mississippi two small divisons of Confederate States infantry—Loring at Canton, and French at Jackson—about 9,000 men, with several batteries. General Stephen D. Lee, with four brigades of cavalry, Stark's, Adams' and Ross', composing Jackson's Divison, and General S. W. Ferguson's Brigade, which had been drawn from northeast Mississippi, covering the country from opposite Yazoo City to Natchez, Miss. (over 300 miles), and numbering about 3,500 effectives. General Forrest was south of the Tallahatchie river in northwest Mississippi, picketing towards Memphis and the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, his force numbering about 3,500 men. The entire Confederate force in Mississippi did not exceed 16,000 men.

This was the condition of affairs in January, 1864. The concentration of troops at Vicksburg and the marshaling of 10,000 cavalry in west Tennessee was duly observed and reported to General Polk, commanding in Mississippi. Spies reported the force as consisting of an army of four divisions of infantry with the usual complement of artillery and a brigade of cavalry, making an army of over 26,000 men, to move from Vicksburg early in February. Another column of 7,000 cavalry, under General W. Sooy Smith, was to move from west Tennessee direct to Meridian to meet the army under General Sherman from Vicksburg near that point, and then the combined forces to go either to Selma or Mobile, as might be indicated. General Sherman was to hold Lee's Confederate cavalry and any infantry in his front, and General W. Sooy Smith was to engage Forrest with his cavalry force, which outnumbered Forrest by double as many men.

To meet the enemy, General Lee concentrated his cavalry in front of Vicksburg, along the Big Black river and near the Yazoo river. On January 28th, the Yazoo river expedition began to move. Federal cavalry advancing on the Yazoo City road from Snyder's Bluff on the Yazoo. This force was met by Ross' Texas Brigade and driven back. On February 3rd, Federal infantry began crossing the Big Black river at the railroad crossing and six miles above, at Messenger's ferry, distant from Vicksburg twelve or fifteen miles, and rapidly drove in the cavalry pickets on the two roads leading to Clinton. Early on the morning of February 4th, there was severe skirmishing on both roads, the enemy deploying their force in the open country and steadily driving back the brigades of Adams and

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