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[447] men under his command, but the necessity of occupying a large number of posts had reduced the number of troops he could place in the field to forty-six thousand combatants. Of these, he had only thirty thousand with him. Sherman was ordered to bring over sixteen thousand from Memphis, and this order was the more pressing because these troops, if once engaged, could no longer be called back to form part of McClernand's independent corps, the formation of which was a constant threat suspended over the head of Grant. The small army of Curtis, which we left at Helena, in Arkansas, on the borders of the Mississippi, in the middle of July, also emerged from its inaction under the direction of Steele, its new commander. About seven thousand men, nearly all cavalry, were transported to Delta, on the other bank of the river, and Generals Washburn and Hovey, who were in command, were ordered to destroy the railway track in the rear of Pemberton, through which he obtained his supplies.

They took the field on the 20th of November. Crossing Cold Water River, one of the natural canals which run into the Tallahatchie from the Mississippi, they captured a Confederate camp, and by a forced march reached, at Granger, the point of junction of the two railroads from Memphis and from Grand Junction to Grenada. After destroying the track as well as they could, they proceeded upward as far as Coffeeville, on the Mississippi Central Railroad, returning to Delta about the 30th of November. They had not irreparably damaged the lines of railway, but they had threatened Pemberton's communications seriously enough to convince the latter of his inability to maintain himself on the Tallahatchie. By a combined march, Grant and Sherman had reached the borders of this river on the 29th of November, one in front of Abbeville and the other at Wyatt. They had anticipated a desperate conflict before this obstacle; the enemy's works had even seemed so formidable that Grant, deeming it impossible to carry them by main force, was preparing to turn them, and had already sent his cavalry across the Tallahatchie on his extreme left, when, on the morning of December 1st, Pemberton evacuated all his positions and retired toward Grenada. The Federals pursued his rear-guards as far as Oxford, halfway between Grand Junction and Grenada; but being obliged to repair the railroad

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