On January 27, 1864, William T. Sherman ordered Brigadier General William Sooy Smith to drive south through Mississippi and rendezvous with him at Meridian on or about February 10.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE
Memphis, January 27, 1864
Brig. Gen. WILLIAM SOOY SMITH,
Commanding Cavalry, &c., present:
DEAR GENERAL: By an order issued this day I have placed all the cavalry of this department subject to your command. I estimate you can make a force of full 7,000 men, which I believe to be superior and better in all respects than the combined cavalry which the enemy has in all the State of Mississippi. I will in person start for Vicksburg to-day, and with four divisions of infantry, artillery, and cavalry move out for Jackson, Brandon, and Meridian, aiming to reach the latter place by February 10. General Banks will feign on Pascagoula, and General Logan on Rome. I want you with your cavalry to move from Collierville on Pontotoc and Okolona; thence sweeping down near the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, disable that road as much as possible, consume or destroy the resources of the enemy along that road, break up the connection with Columbus, Miss., and finally reach me at or near Meridian as near the date I have mentioned as possible. This will call for great energy of action on your part, but I believe you are equal to it, and you have the best and most experienced troops in the service, and they will do anything that is possible. General Grierson is with you, and is familiar with the whole country. I will send up from Haynes Bluff an expedition of gun-boats and transports combined to feel up the Yazoo as far as the present stage of water will permit. This will disconcert the enemy. My movement on Jackson will also divide the enemy, so that by no combination can he reach you with but a part of his force. I wish you to attack any force of cavalry you meet and follow them southward, but in no event be drawn into the forks of the streams that make up the Yazoo nor over into Alabama. Do not let the enemy draw you into minor affairs, but look solely to the greater object, to destroy his communication from Okolona to Meridian and thence eastward to Selma. From Okolona south you will find abundance of forage collected along the railroad, and the farms have standing corn in the fields. Take liberally of all these, as well as horses, mules, cattle, &c. As a rule respect dwellings and families as something too sacred to be disturbed by soldiers, but mills, barns, sheds, stables, and such like things use for the benefit and convenience of your command. If convenient, send into Columbus and destroy all the machinery there and the bridge across the Tombigbee, which enables the enemy to draw the resources of the east side of the valley, but this is not of sufficient importance to delay your movement. Try and communicate with me by scouts and spies from the time you reach Pontotoc. Avoid any large force of infantry, leaving them to me. We have talked over this matter so much that the above covers all points not provided for in my published orders of to-day.
I am, yours, &c.,
Major- General, Commanding.