Black and white photo of William T. Sherman.

William T. Sherman’s Meridian Campaign served as a modest rehearsal for his later “March to the Sea” in Georgia, and the Carolinas Campaign, by spreading a path of destruction across central Mississippi in early 1864. [Wikimedia Commons]

Meridian Campaign Facts

February 3–March 4, 1864

Key facts about the Meridian Campaign of 1864.

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Also Known As

  • Meridian Expedition
  • Meridian and Yazoo River Expeditions

Date and Location

  • February 3–March 4, 1864
  • Warren, Hinds, Rankin, Scott, Newton, Lauderdale, and Chickasaw Counties, Mississippi

Timeline of the Meridian Campaign

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

Principal Union Commanders

Principal Confederate Commanders

Union Forces Engaged

  • Army of the Tennessee (16th and 17th Army Corps), Smith’s cavalry detachment

Confederate Forces Engaged

  • Scattered troops from the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, Forrest’s Cavalry Corps

Number of Union Soldiers Engaged

  • 32,000

Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged

  • 8,000-10,000

Estimated Union Casualties

  • 558 (killed, wounded, and missing/captured)

Estimated Confederate Casualties

  • Undetermined

Result

  • Union victory

Significance

  • William T Sherman’s primary target during the Meridian Campaign was Meridian, Mississippi, about 150 miles east of Vicksburg.
  • Meridian Mississippi was located at the juncture of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and the Southern Railroad.
  • At the time of the Meridian Campaign, Meridian, Mississippi, was the largest remaining Confederate railroad center in the state.
  • On February 3, 1864, Major General James B. McPherson’s 17th Army Corps and Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut’s 16th Army Corps, augmented by roughly 5,000 cavalry troopers and artillerists, departed from Vicksburg in two columns under Major General William T. Sherman’s command.
  • Believing that the success of the Meridian Campaign hinged upon speed, Sherman instructed his men to travel light. He ordered that “Not a tent will be carried, from the commander-in- chief down.”
  • During the Meridian Campaign, Confederate Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, commanding the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, had fewer than 10,000 troops under his command, including about 3,000 stationed at Meridian, commanded by Major General Samuel G. French.
  • Confederate Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk was reluctant to mobilize a larger force to stop William T. Sherman’s force during the Meridian Campaign because Major General Nathaniel Banks’ troops in the Department of the Gulf were engaging in naval maneuvers feigning an attack on Mobile Bay.
  • By February 9, 1864, William T. Sherman’s soldiers entered the town of Morton, Mississippi, about half-way between Vicksburg and Meridian, where they spent several hours destroying railroad track.
  • On February 11, 1864, at Lake Station, William T. Sherman’s soldiers destroyed railroad track and demolished “the railroad buildings, machine-shops, turning-table, several cars, and one locomotive.”
  • In the face of Sherman’s overwhelming numbers, Polk ordered the evacuation of Meridian, and the Yankees occupied the railroad hub on February 14, 1864
  • From February 14-20, 1864, William T. Sherman’s soldiers wreaked havoc on Meridian, Mississippi and surrounding areas.
  • During his occupation of Meridian, Mississippi, while awaiting the arrival of Brigadier General William Sooy Smith’s cavalry, Major General William T. Sherman ordered his troops “to wipe the appointed meeting place off the map.”
  • After delaying the start of his advance ten days beyond Sherman’s ordered date of departure, Brigadier General William Sooy Smith encountered Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry near Prairie Station, Mississippi, on February 20, 1864.
  • On February 22, 1864, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry troopers routed Brigadier General William Sooy Smith cavalry troopers at the Battle of Okolona. The Confederate victory forced Smith to retreat back into Tennessee, preventing his unification with Major General William T. Sherman at Meridian, Mississippi.
  • William T. Sherman’s force left Meridian, Mississippi, on February 20, 1864.
  • William T. Sherman’s force returned to Vicksburg, Mississippi, on March 4, 1864.
  • On March 7, 1864, Major General William T. Sherman reported that “We subsisted our army and animals chiefly on his stores, brought away about 400 prisoners and full 5,000 negroes, about 1,000 white refugees, about 3,000 animals (horses, mules, and oxen), and any quantity of wagons and vehicles.”
  • On March 7, 1864, Major General William T. Sherman reported that “Meridian, with its depots, store-houses, arsenal, hospitals, offices, hotels, and cantonments no longer exists.”
  • Historians estimate that Sherman’s troops destroyed 115 miles of railroad, 61 bridges, 1,852 miles of trestle work, twenty locomotives, twenty-eight railroad cars, and three sawmills during the Meridian Campaign.
  • After the Meridian Campaign, Confederate soldiers repaired most of the damage to the railroads and bridges within a month. The locomotives, however, were nearly irreplaceable and the restoration projects siphoned away resources that were needed elsewhere.
  • The Meridian Campaign was significant because Major General William T. Sherman demonstrated that his army could operate independently and live off of the land deep within enemy territory while engaging in total war.
  • The Meridian Campaign served as a modest rehearsal for Major General William T. Sherman’s later successful “March to the Sea” in Georgia (November 15, 1864 – December 21, 1864) and his subsequent Carolinas Campaign (February – April 1865).
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Meridian Campaign Facts
  • Coverage February 3–March 4, 1864
  • Author
  • Keywords meridian campaign facts
  • 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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