Page:Confederate Military History - 1899 - Volume 7.djvu/676

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Under cover of this diversion, Sherman’s two corps of infantry rapidly crossed the Big Black and advanced to Clinton. Here the brigades of Adams and Starke engaged in a heavy skirmish February 4th, and then hung on the front of the advancing columns during the following day, steadily fighting though fully aware of the overwhelming strength of the enemy. Marching through Jackson on the night of the 5th, General Lee turned to the north to cover Loring’s division while it could cross Pearl river to Brandon, and was joined by Ferguson's brigade. Early on the 8th, finding that Sherman was crossing Pearl river toward Meridian, Lee sent Ferguson to Morton to cover Loring’s front, called Ross up from Yazoo and ordered Jackson with Adams’ and Starke’s brigades to harass the flank of the enemy.

General Polk became convinced that Sherman's object was Mobile, not Meridian, and ordered Lee on the 9th to cover the railroad south of Meridian while he returned to Mobile its garrison which he had withdrawn. The cavalry made every effort to disable the enemy’s column, but it marched with such care that a dash made by Adams’ brigade on the 12th, disabling thirty wagons, was the most successful attack, and that was followed by an instant advance of the enemy in line of battle. The enemy occupied Meridian on the 14th, and Polk fell back with the small command of infantry at his disposal to Demopolis, Ala., putting General Lee in command of all cavalry in Mississippi, with orders to communicate with General Forrest.

Sooy Smith's cavalry expedition made a fatal delay of ten days in starting. After making demonstrations toward Panola and Wyatt, Forrest being behind the Tallahatchie, he crossed that river at New Albany and marched toward Pontotoc and Houston, not encountering any of the Confederate forces until General Gholson with a small body of State troops confronted him near Houston. As the enemy approached Houston closer a determined