General Stephen D. Lee. 315
In the meantime General Sherman, after crossing Big- Black river on two different roads, advanced rapidly to Jackson, arriving there on the morning of February 6th. He crossed Pearl river on the 6th and yth of February, and pressed out towards Brandon on the road to Meridian, arriving at Brandon on February yth, at Morton February yth, and at Meridian February i4th at 3 P. M., the Con- federate infantry and cavalry gradually falling back before him.
General Lee made a dash at some wagons near Decatur. The enemy was found moving with every precaution, their trains per- fectly and judiciously arranged with each brigade, no foraging parties out, and their large infantry force ready to punish any ill-advised attempt on their column. Colonel R. C. Wood's Mississippi Regi- ment disabled about twenty wagons, but could not bring them off, as the infantry advanced on him from the front and the rear of the column. This was found to be the case wherever an attempt was made by the cavalry to impede the march.
On the 1 3th General Polk ordered General Lee to again get to the north of General Sherman's line of march, as he proposed to evacuate Meridian and inarch with his infantry towards Demopolis, Ala. The enemy arrived at Meridian at 3 P. M., February I4th, the Confederate cavalry retiring towards Marion station. On this date (February I4th) General Polk issued an order placing Major- General Stephen D. Lee in command of all the cavalry west of Ala- bama. That officer at once put himself in rapid communication with General Forrest, who was then concentrating his command near Starkville, Miss., to check the large cavalry force which had left Collerville, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and was rapidly moving southward in the direction of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and towards the great prairie region. For some reason this cavalry force of 7,000 men had delayed a week in starting to join General Sherman.
From February i5th to 2Oth, General Sherman, while at Merid- ian, was engaged in destroying the railroad in every direction, north, south, east and west, for this purpose placing two divisions of infantry on each road. The road was destroyed for twelve miles in each direction, making a destruction of about fifty miles of rail- road. Attempts to stop the work were made by the cavalry, but the enemies' force was too large for it. In addition to destroying the railroads, they destroyed the city of Meridian, burning most of the houses, depots, hotels, boarding houses, and those near them. On February 2oth, General Sherman began his return march to