Portrait of Nathan Bedford Forrest

On February 22, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest launched a full-scale attack against Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s soldiers south of Okolona. [Wikimedia Commons]

Battle of Okolona Facts

February 22, 1864

Key facts about the Battle of Okolona.

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Date

  • February 22, 1864

Location

  • Chickasaw, Clay, Monroe, and Pontotoc Counties, Mississippi

Campaign

Principal Union Commanders

Principal Confederate Commanders

Union Forces Engaged

  • Smith’s cavalry detachment

Confederate Forces Engaged

  • Forrest’s Cavalry Corps

Number of Union Soldiers Engaged

  • Estimated to be around 7,000

Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged

  • Estimated to be around 2,500

Estimated Union Casualties

  • 388 (54 killed, 179 wounded, and 155 missing or captured)

Estimated Confederate Casualties

  • 110 (25 killed, 75 wounded, and 10 missing or captured)

Result

  • Confederate victory

Significance

  • To augment his main force during the Meridian Campaign, Major General William T. Sherman ordered Brigadier General William Sooy Smith to lead a cavalry force of 7,000 troopers south from Memphis, Tennessee, on February 1, and rendezvous with him at Meridian on February 10.
  • For inexplicable reasons, Brigadier General William Sooy Smith delayed his departure from Memphis until February 11, 1864, ten days beyond the date that Major General William T. Sherman specified in his orders.
  • Slowed by muddy roads, it took Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s troopers five days to travel roughly 100 miles from Memphis and cross the Little Tallahatchie River at New Albany in northern Mississippi.
  • On February 20, ten days after his appointed rendezvous with Major General William T. Sherman at Meridian, Mississippi, Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s troopers skirmished with lead elements of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry between Prairie Station and West Point, still more than ninety miles from Meridian.
  • Shortly before dawn on February 21, 1864, a Confederate cavalry brigade commanded by Colonel Jeffrey Forrest (General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s younger brother) engaged Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s troopers, forcing them to withdraw to a swampy area west of the Tombigbee River.
  • During the Battle of Okolona, Union forces outnumbered Confederate soldiers nearly three to one.
  • On February 21, 1864, Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s troopers fell back nearly fifteen miles toward Okolona.
  • On February 22, 1864, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest launched a full-scale attack against Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s soldiers south of Okolona.
  • During the Battle of Okolona, a gunshot to the neck mortally wounded Colonel Jeffrey Forrest (General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s younger brother).
  • Distraught over the death of his brother during the Battle of Okolona, General Nathan Bedford Forrest led a wild charge that overwhelmed the Federals. Eyewitness accounts claim that Forrest exacted revenge for his brother’s death by personally killing three Yankees while having two horses shot beneath him.
  • As Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s troopers retreated toward the end of the Battle of Okolona, General Nathan Bedford Forrest called off his pursuit because his men were running out of ammunition.
  • After the Battle of Okolona, Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s defeated troopers returned to Memphis, Tennessee, arriving there on February 27, 1864.
  • Although Sherman’s Meridian Campaign was an overall success, Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s expedition was an undeniable disaster.
  • Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s failure to rendezvous with Major General William T. Sherman at Meridian by the appointed date may have denied Sherman the opportunity to continue his expedition farther into Mississippi, and possibly Alabama, destroying even more Confederate infrastructure before returning to Vicksburg.

Timeline of the Meridian Campaign

These are the main battles and events of the Meridian Campaign in order.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Battle of Okolona Facts
  • Coverage February 22, 1864
  • Author
  • Keywords Battle of Okolona
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date August 1, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 15, 2021
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