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Sherman's Mississippi expedition.

[from our own Correspondent.
Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 26, 1864.
The vital part of the great combined movement by the Federal armies against our defensive positions has failed, and with it the whole plan must come to naught. The advance of Sherman's army was full of danger, as in the event of success he would have been in a position to derange all our plans and render the fell of Atlanta only a question of time; but this, like many previous combinations of the enemy, failed because too much was attempted. The objective point at which the enemy aimed was, beyond all doubt, the great railway centre of the Confederacy; and the naval attack upon Mobile, the advance of Sherman upon Meridian, and the forward movement upon Dalton, were all parts of the plan by which that point was to be reached. The scheme was a bold one, and showed great originality if not soundness of judgment Gen. Grant is a hold clap, and if he had succedced in his combinations the North might well have claimed that he was really a great captain. In all this we have a fresh illustration of the poetical truth that

‘ The best laid schemes of mice and men
Aft gang agley!

There is reason to believe that Gen. Sherman expected when he marched out of Vicksburg to reach Selma, in Alabama. The heavy column of cavalry that started from Memphis, and constituted an important part of his forces, was to move rapidly across Mississippi and Alabama, cut the interior railway lines, destroy the bridges and Government work-shops, lay waste the country, and gain the rear of Gen Polk, harass and delay his retreat, and, if possible, force him down towards Mobile, while Sherman rushed upon him in front. Had Gen. Polk retreated upon Mobile, the attack upon which by the Federal fleets was calculated if not designed to draw him in that direction, Sherman would have occupied Meridian, Demopolis, and Selma, and thus have rendered his escape impossible, and the fall of Mobile, from lack of provisions and without a blow, a matter of absolute certainty. The possession of Mobile and Selma would have given the Federal commander two important water bases, the one on the Mississippi at Vicksburg the other at Mobile on the Gulf, two navigable rivers communicating with the latter — the Alabama and Tombigbee, and two railways ready to hand, viz: the Mobile and Ohio and the Vicksburg and Jackson roads. Once in possession of these important points, and his army firmly established in the triangle formed by the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers and the railroad leading from Selma to Demopolis and Meridian, and we should no more have been able to dislodge him from his position than we have been to drive the enemy from he Virginia Peninsula and Fortress Monroe. Indeed, a successful lodgment in this fertile region of Alabama would not only have carried with it the fall of Mobile and Montgomery, and secured to the enemy points of great material and strategic importance, but it would have been equivalent to the removal of the Mississippi river, it such a thing were physically possible, from Vicksburg and New Orleans to Montgomery and Mobile. Nay, more — it would have been a grand flank movement, as it was designed to be, against Gen. Johnston, which, if successful, would have resulted, as has already been intimated, in the fall of Atlanta and the occupancy by the legions of the enemy of the Northern half of the great State of Georgia. Every man we might have sent to Mobile would only have enhanced the victory of our foes as it did at Vicksburg. Had Gen. Polk retired upon Mobile, Sherman would have thrown himself in his rear and cut off his supplies, as Grant did at Vicksburg when he threw himself between Pemberton and all hope of succor. There could have been no escape by water; for there was Farragut's fleet already hurling its thunders at Fort Powell; nor through the Mississippi, for there was Banks and his column marching up from New Orleans. If Johnston should send reinforcements to the scene of action, as it was doubtless expected he would do, then Grant would fall upon him at Dalton and force him back upon Atlanta, against which it was finally hoped Sherman would be able to advance from the west, while Grant pressed down from the north — indeed, the telegraphic wires inform us that Grant has already moved out from Chattanooga, and that a battle is imminent at Dalton; but when he hears, as he must in the course of a few hours, that Sherman has been failed, he will probably retire to Chattanooga, as the latter has to Vicksburg.

But how was this formidable combination defeated? It failed because too much was attempted, and because it was met by the Confederates with consummate skill and courage. The co-operating columns were too widely separated, were exposed to too many chances of failure, and were entrusted to too many different heads. The column of cavalry, though far outnumbering the Confederate horse, met with more than a match in those superb soldiers, Lee. Forrest, and Roddy, and their brave followers. The commander of the Federal cavalry not only failed in his part of the programme, but it seems that he has been beaten back with heavy loss. The retreat of Gen. Polk was a masterly thing. He showed great judgment when he declined to accept battle and retired behind the Tombigbee, instead of upon Mobile.--Having taken his position on the east bank of that stream, it was impossible for Sherman to move upon Mobile without exposing his flanks and rear to ruinous assaults, or to march upon Selma and Montgomery, except after a delay and a series of engagements on the Tombigbee, and Alabama, which would have been equally fatal to his designs. Nor should we fall to make grateful acknowledgment of that kind Providence which delayed the attack of the enemy upon the water defences of Mobile by adverse winds.

This combined movement was undertaken after mature deliberation and elaborate preparation. Its failure gives us two months more time in which to prepare for the great campaign of 1864. The middle of April, and perhaps the first of May, will have come before a new campaign can be devised and the necessary preparation made for its successful execution. In the meantime the ranks of the foe are becoming thinner every day by reason of the expiration of the terms for which his troops enlisted, whilst our numbers are growing larger each successive day. That our civil authorities at Richmond and our Generals in the field will take advantage of these favoring circumstances, the country may feel assured. The prospect before us in encouraging, and gives promise, under the benign favor of heaven, of eventual success and independence. Let each and all of us then work and fight as we have never worked and fought before. A long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether, will carry us through, and give us peace and liberty for our reward.


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