Sherman enters Meridian, Mississippi - HISTORY
Year
1864

Sherman enters Meridian, Mississippi

On this day in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman enters Meridian, Mississippi, during a winter campaign that served as a precursor to Sherman’s March to the Sea campaign in Georgia. This often-overlooked Mississippi campaign was the first attempt by the Union at total warfare, a strike aimed not just at military objectives but also at the will of the Southern people.

Sherman launched the campaign from Vicksburg, Mississippi, with the goal of destroying the rail center at Meridian and clearing central Mississippi of Confederate resistance. Sherman believed this would free additional Federal troops that he hoped to use on his planned campaign against Atlanta, Georgia, in the following months.

Sherman led 25,000 troops east from Vicksburg and ordered another 7,000 under General William Sooy Smith to march southeast from Memphis, Tennessee. They planned to meet at Meridian in eastern Mississippi. The Confederates had few troops with which to stop Sherman. General Leonidas Polk had less than 10,000 men to defend the state. Polk retreated from the capital at Jackson as Sherman approached, and some scattered cavalry units could not impede the Yankees’ progress. Polk tried to block the roads to Meridian so the Confederates could move as many supplies as possible from the city’s warehouses, but Sherman pushed into the city on February 14 in the middle of a torrential rain.

After capturing Meridian, Sherman began to destroy the railroad and storage facilities while he waited for the arrival of Smith. Sherman later wrote: “For five days, 10,000 men worked hard and with a will in that work of destruction… Meridian, with its depots, storehouses, arsenals, hospitals, offices, hotels, and cantonments no longer exists.” Sherman waited for Smith to arrive, buthe never reached Meridian. On February 21, Confederate troops under General Nathan Bedford Forrest waylaid Smith at West Point, Mississippi, and dealt the Federals a resounding defeat. Smith returned to Memphis, and Sherman turned back towards Vicksburg.

Ultimately, Sherman failed to clear Mississippi of Rebels, and the Confederates repaired the rail lines within a month. Sherman did learn how to live off the land, however, and took notes on how to strike a blow against the civilian population of the South. He used that knowledge with devastating results in Georgia later that year.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The B-52’s play their first gig

The B-52’s, one of the strangest and, to fans, most irresistible, pop groups ever to achieve mainstream success, makes its worldwide debut at a Valentine’s Day house party in Athens, GA, on this day in 1977. In their official Warner Brothers bio, the B-52’s described themselves ...read more

Valentine’s Day Massacre takes place

In Chicago, gunmen in the suspected employment of organized-crime boss Al Capone murder seven members of the George “Bugs” Moran North Siders gang in a garage on North Clark Street. The so-called St. Valentine’s Day Massacre stirred a media storm centered on Capone and his ...read more

Penicillin discovered

Sir Alexander Fleming was a young bacteriologist when an accidental discovery led to one of the great developments of modern medicine on this day in 1929. Having left a plate of staphylococcus bacteria uncovered, Fleming noticed that a mold that had fallen on the culture had ...read more

Captain Cook killed in Hawaii

On February 14, 1779, Captain James Cook, the great English explorer and navigator, is murdered by natives of Hawaii during his third visit to the Pacific island group.In 1768, Cook, a surveyor in the Royal Navy, was commissioned a lieutenant in command of the HMS Endeavor and ...read more

St. Valentine beheaded

On February 14around the year 278A.D., Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed.Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a ...read more

Gallup Poll released

Despite an increasingly active antiwar movement, a Gallup Poll shows that a majority of those polled (55 percent) oppose an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. Those that favored American withdrawal had risen from 21 percent, in a November poll, to 35 percent. ...read more

Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother die

On this day in 1884, future President Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and mother die, only hours apart.Roosevelt was at work in the New York state legislature attempting to get a government reform bill passed when he was summoned home by his family. He returned home to find his mother, ...read more

The Boz Ball celebrates Dickens

On this day, fans of Charles Dickens organize the Boz Ball, an elite party for the celebrated writer who had arrived in the United States in January for a five-month tour. (Dickens’ earliest works had been published under the pseudonym Boz.)Only members of New York’s aristocracy ...read more

Tornadoes sweep through southern Georgia

On this day in 2000, a series of tornadoes moves through southern Georgia, wreaking havoc and killing 18 people.The storm system that swept across the southeastern United States on February 14 was highly unusual. Tornadoes in the United States typically strike on spring ...read more

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

Fourmen dressed as police officers enter gangster Bugs Moran’s headquarters on North Clark Street in Chicago, line seven of Moran’s henchmen against a wall, and shoot them to death. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, as it is now called, was the culmination of a gang war between ...read more

Sandinistas agree to free elections

At a meeting of the presidents of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador, the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua agrees to free a number of political prisoners and hold free elections within a year; in return, Honduras promises to close bases being ...read more

Toyota patriarch born

Sakichi Toyoda, whose textile machinery company spawned the Toyota Motor Corporation, is born in Japan on February 14, 1867. In 2008, Toyota surpassed the American auto giant General Motors (GM) to become the world’s largest automaker.Referred to as Japan’s Thomas Edison, Sakichi ...read more