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[481] Sherman and General Hurlbut's division crossed at Messenger's Ferry, five miles above the line of the Southern Railroad, and General McPherson's division at the railroad-crossing. After the entire army had crossed safely, orders were at once given to push on to Bolton, a small station at the Raymond Junction, on the Southern Railroad, some fifteen miles from the Big Black River. At this point our advance had a lively skirmish with the enemy, resulting in the killing of twelve men, and the wounding of thirty-five. The rebel loss was much larger, a number of their dead being left on the field. General McPherson's infantry forces marched up rapidly, and dispersed Lee's cavalry, estimated at six thousand men, without any serious encounter. With his usual energy, General McPherson continued to press them closely, and so hotly were the retreating rebels pursued, that, four miles east of Bolton, Acting Brigadier-General Winslow, formerly a Colonel of the Fourth Iowa cavalry, succeeded in flanking them with a force of one thousand four hundred cavalry. The capture of the whole force seemed inevitable at this juncture, but the main body escaped, and only a few prisoners were taken.

Without much opposition, the entire army marched rapidly toward Jackson, Lee's rebel cavalry fleeing in the greatest disorder in the direction of Canton, a flourishing little town twenty miles north of Jackson. Here Acting Brigadier-General Winslow's cavalry closed in upon the rebel columns, capturing a large number of prisoners and one piece of artillery, a ten-pounder Parrott gun, together with a caisson stocked with ammunition, which was subsequently used with good effect upon the enemy's lines. The prisoners taken belonged to Mississippi and Georgia cavalry regiments, with a few mounted infantrymen. Jackson was reached on the evening of February fifth, and General McPherson at once ordered the gallant Tenth Missouri cavalry regiment to secure the rebel pontoon-bridge across Pearl River. General French, the rebel officer, had crossed this bridge but a few moments in advance of our cavalry, and a large gang of rebels were busily engaged in destroying it, when the sudden appearance of the brave and determined Missourians caused them to beat a precipitate retreat. A number of their men embraced this favorable opportunity to desert to our lines, telling us doleful stories of the demoralization of the so-called confederates. The bridge was saved, and the next day our troops found this rebel pontoon-bridge convenient for crossing Pearl River. General Sherman ordered the advance to proceed to Brandon, some twelve miles distant, arriving there Sunday noon, meeting with but slight resistance on their march.

At Jackson, some twenty buildings were destroyed by the slaves, in retaliation for the inhuman cruelties perpetrated upon them by their rebel masters. At Brandon, similar scenes were witnessed, and the outraged bondmen and bond-women revenged the brutality of those they once were compelled to call masters.

From Brandon the expedition moved on to Morton, a small village depot on the Southern Railroad, where the depot and outbuildings were speedily consumed by fire. Only a few buildings were burned at Brandon by the troops, the socalled confederate government not occupying many. There was, however, every evidence that Brandon was shortly to be a supply-depot of considerable importance, large quantities of stores having been removed at the news of our approach.

General Loring, with his demoralized army, crossed Pearl River on the fifth of February, at Madison Crossing, and formed a junction with General French; the two forces amounting to one thousand five hundred men. General Sherman felt quite confident the enemy would make a stand at this strong position, but our scouts soon brought the amusing intelligence that the rebels were in full retreat on the Hillsboro road. The cause of this change of base, we learned from a deserter who entered our lines, was the supposition that General Sherman was endeavoring to flank them via the line of the Southern Railroad. Colonel Winslow, commanding a brigade of cavalry, consisting of the Fourth Iowa, Sixth Wisconsin, Tenth Missouri, and Eleventh Illinois, chased the enemy to Meridian, capturing and killing quite a number. Our cavalry occupied the town on February fourteenth, and remained there seven days, destroying the State arsenal, which was filled with damaged fire-arms and immense quantities of ammunition of all kinds, together with a large supply of copper and lead.

The Ragsdale and Burton Hotels were destroyed, after the furniture had been removed, it being the intention of General Sherman to destroy nothing except that which might be used by the rebel government. The State arsenal was stocked with valuable machinery for the manufacture and repair of small-arms, and all sorts of ordnance stores, the destruction of which will prove a serious blow to the enemy. Twelve extensive government sheds, a large building called the Soldier's Home, and a number of hospitals and ware-houses, filled with miscellaneous military stores, were set on fire and totally destroyed. Two large grist-mills were likewise burned, after our army had ground a sufficient supply of corn-meal. Twenty thousand bushels of corn fell into our hands, and was speedily converted into corncakes for the hungry soldiers. Nearly every building in Meridian was destroyed, save those which were occupied, and the smoking ruins, with their blackened walls and chimneys standing as giant sentinels over the sorrowful scene, sent a thrill of pity to the hearts of those whom stern war and military necessity compelled to apply the torch.

It was part of the military programme for General Smith's cavalry expedition, which left Memphis, Tennessee, to operate in conjunction with General Sherman's forces, and to unite at Meridian; and it was the failure of this portion of the plan that induced General Sherman to remain seven days in Meridian. General Sherman sent out several scouting-parties as far north as Louisville


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