February 22, 1864
Please click on link below for map.
Okolona, Chickasaw, Mississippi, United States
Meridian and Yazoo River
From Vicksburg, Mississippi,
Maj. Gen. William T.
Sherman began a campaign to take the important railroad center at
Meridian, Mississippi, and, if possible, to proceed to Selma, Alabama and
ordered Brig. Gen. William S. Smith to lead
his cavalry force of 7,000 from Memphis, Tennessee, on February 1, 1864.
Smith was to
move south through Okolona, along the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, and to meet the
rest of the Union force at Meridian, MS on February 10th.
On February 3rd, Sherman
left for Meridian with the main force of 20,000 men.
Brig. Gen. William S. Smith
Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest
Instead of leaving on February 1st as ordered,
Smith waited for reinforcements and did not
leave Memphis until February 11th.
met almost no opposition, destroyed crops and railroad track along the way, and
was joined by 1,000 former slaves.
supposed to rendezvous with Sherman at
Meridian on the 10th, but he never arrived there.
Meridian on the 20th, due in part to apprehension over
West Point, 90 miles north of Meridian, on the 20th, and he fought with
Confederate cavalry units at Prairie Station and Aberdeen.
that Nathan Bedford Forrest commanded
the troops he was fighting, concerned about the fate of the former slaves with
him, and not knowing how many of the enemy he faced—decided to concentrate at
Prairie Station, and, on the morning of the 21st, he set out for West Point.
Shortly after dawn on the 21st,
Col. Jeffrey Forrest’s Confederate
cavalry brigade engaged Smith.
Withdrawing at times,
Forrest drew Smith into a swamp west of the Tombigbee River.
Other Rebel troops arrived and the fighting
Smith was sure
that this was a trap set for him, and, discerning that he was greatly
outnumbered, he ordered a retreat, leaving a rearguard.
The rearguard held off the Confederates for about
two hours before withdrawing in good order.
About the same time,
Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest arrived and ordered a pursuit.
Skirmishing occurred the rest of the day.
At sunup on the 22nd, the Rebels attacked
Smith just south of Okolona on the prairie.
More Confederate troops arrived, causing breaks in
the Union battle line, precipitating a retreat.
For most of the rest of the day, they engaged in a
running battle for a distance of eleven miles, with both sides attacking and
was killed during one Rebel charge. The Yankees finally broke off the fighting
and headed for Pontotoc.
Maj. Gen. Nathan
Bedford Forrest, the commander on the field, realized that his
men were nearly out of ammunition and did not order a pursuit. Mississippi
militia harassed Smith to the state line.
in Collierville, Tennessee, near Memphis, on the 26th.
had caused much destruction during his expedition, Okolona forced him to retire
before he could do more. Smith’s actions
against Sherman’s orders jeopardized the
1 National Park
- having a decisive influence on a
campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war
having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign
having observable influence on the
outcome of a campaign
having a limited influence on the
outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important
3 Casualties are
someone killed, injured, wounded, captured or missing.