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[316] Vicksburg. One of his corps took the road on which he came through Decatur to Hillsboro, the other marching from Lauderdale Station, on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, by Union to Hillsboro, the latter corps feeling northward, hoping to hear of or find General W. Sooy Smith's command; which Sherman had ordered to join him at Meridian about the 10th of February. The cavalry brigade (with General Sherman) was also detached as far north as Louisville and Philadelphia, and circled west and south through Kosciusko to Canton. The two corps met at Hillsboro and moved across Pearl river to Canton, marching on two separate roads. They remained at Canton several days, devastating and destroying the town and country for miles, and then returned to Vicksburg.

In the meantime, February 17th, General Lee, under orders from General Polk, left only a few regiments to watch the army of General Sherman at Meridian and moved with all of his disposable force northward to unite with General Forrest in an attempt to crush the column under General Smith, estimated by General Forrest at 7,000 men. Lee put his four cavalry brigades (Ross had joined him the day before in the vicinity of Marion Station), in motion on the morning of February 18th, and reached the Line creek north of Starkville, and nine miles southwest of West Point, on the morning of February 22d. It was found that the enemy had begun a hasty retreat early on the morning of February 21st. General Forrest, as soon as he knew the probable destination of this column, concentrated his command in the vicinity of Starkville, and on the 20th had a part of his force at West Point, one brigade being in front of the town. He had up to this time offered no opposition to the advance of the Federal cavalry. He intended avoiding a battle until the arrival of General Lee's force, which was rapidly approaching, and he offered slight opposition at West Point, retreating across Sookartonichie creek, three miles from West Point. General Forrest knew that General Smith's force of 7,000 well equipped cavalry would outnumber his command when united with General Lee's, and he believed also that there would be trouble in avoiding a battle before the junction of the two commands.

General Sooy Smith began his march with the cavalry (7,000) and an infantry brigade on February 10th, a week later than General Sherman had expected him to start. Under cover of the advance of his infantry, he moved eastward with his cavalry to New Albany, then towards Pontotoc, and to within a few miles of Houston, where

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