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[473] Polk had in the aggregate from fourteen to fifteen thousand men. Nine thousand. infantry under the command of Generals Loring and French, and five thousand cavalry, under the command of S. D. Lee, Wirt Adams, and Ferguson. In an advantageous position this force, if concentrated, might perhaps have made a stand and caused us considerable delay, but the result could not but have been disastrous to the rebels The braggadocio spirit, and even the disposition to fight, has nearly gone out of the confederates. Very many of them are convinced that it is of no use to fight longer, and that they can get just as good terms now as ever. They think the war is kept up merely for the leaders, and that is a poor cause to fight for.

Meridian is a new town, built in the pine woods, and derives its only importance from its railroad connections. The Mobile and Ohio Railroad intersects the Southern. These roads not only afforded the confederates means of communication, but supplies from Mobile and other points were obtained over these roads. Their importance to the confederates is almost incalculable. One great object of the expedition was the destruction of these roads, and it is needless to say that it was successfully accomplished. The rails were first torn up, and then the ties were dug up and piled together. Afterward the rails were placed across the ties and fire set to them. The rails becoming heated, bent down at each end, thus becoming totally unfit for use. This process was carried on for at least a dozen miles in each direction from Meridian, besides at other places along the route. The scarcity of iron in the Confederacy makes the loss doubly severe to the rebels. It will be a long time before the roads are repaired again, if it is ever done by the confederates. A force was sent south as far as Enterprise, where they had a slight skirmish with the enemy. Also one as far north as Marion, where they had another skirmish. Our cavalry was saved a great deal of skirmishing by the use of artillery. A few shells sent among the rebs judiciously would invariably send them skedaddling pell-mell. The booming of our cannon was always the signal for them to start. It seems that the confederates thought they were perfectly secure in Meridian, as the officers were building for themselves fine residences. General Polk, the fighting Bishop, had one partly finished. Our boys finished it for him, as well as those belonging to the other officers. There was quite an extensive arsenal in the place where old guns and pistols were altered, so as to be good as new. Also bayonets were altered to what they think a superior pattern, but our boys did not like their appearance as well as our own. They were broader and more flat than ours. The arsenal was destroyed, together with the railroad buildings, and several buildings containing commissary stores. The confederates had removed most of their stores. Had General W. S. Smith's cavalry expedition arrived as was intended, no doubt much of their stores would have been destroyed. During our stay at Meridian, some foraging parties were attacked by the enemy's cavalry, and a few of our boys were wounded, but none killed. To destroy what was of use to the enemy in and around Meridian, required five days. It is needless to say that the destruction was thoroughly accomplished, and that it will be a long time before the rebels will wish to see the Union army in that vicinity again.

Having accomplished the object of the expedition, and our provisions running low, the expedition started back on the twentieth ultimo. The route chosen was through Canton, to the northward of the one going out. This was done, partly that supplies might be obtained, and partly for the reason that there was confederate property to be destroyed. On the return march, the contrabands began to pour in upon us by hundreds. Old men and young men, women and children, of all ages, some on foot, some on horseback, and some in wagons drawn by oxen. It was a motley sight. Officers were appointed over them, who sought to keep them together, but this was next to impossible. Men might be seen who started with a large family and lost them every one. They were undoubtedly somewhere with the train, and cared for as well as possible.

One thing the darkeys showed themselves fully susceptible of: the art of foraging. Not a chicken or a pig showed its luckless head, but, in the words of the darkeys themselves, it was a goner. Nothing so nettled the secessionists as to have things taken from them by the negroes. If our soldiers took what they wanted to eat, they seldom uttered a word, but took it as a matter of course; but let a contraband capture any thing, and they complained bitterly.

Our march to Canton was devoid of interest. The country is sandy and the soil poor, until we approach Pearl River. This we crossed on a pontoon-bridge. Afterward the country becomes better, and we passed many fine plantations. We found considerable cotton at different places on the route, all of which was burned. One of our men who had straggled from his command, was found tied to a tree and shot. He was not dead when found, and was taken along with us, but the poor fellow could hardly recover. During the march we lost several men by straggling, but for the distance marched the number of stragglers was remarkably small. As a general thing our soldiers stood the march remarkably well. Enough horses and mules were captured so that those who were sick and tired out could ride. Canton is a fine village and contains many splendid residences. It is really the prettiest place in the State. It is situated about one hundred miles from Meridian, and seventy from Vicksburgh. Fifteen locomotives were captured near this place. Their loss will be great to the rebels, as they are very much troubled to obtain rolling stock. Their cars and engines are nearly worn out, and their means for replacing them are very limited. The railroad was destroyed at this place for a long distance. A large quantity of meal was obtained at this place, which came very opportunely for

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Leonidas Polk (2)
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