Chronological History of the American Civil War
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Okolona area in northern Mississippi. Sherman is still waiting on General William Sooy Smith (U.S.) and his 7,000 men to join him and continue his advance to Alabama. In Baltimore, Maryland the Constitutional Convention adopts resolutions endorsing President Lincoln for re- election. Friday, February 19, 1864 : The Confederate capture of a Union forage train of 35 wagons at Waugh's farm, 12 miles from Batesville, Arkansas. More skirmishes near Meridian, Egypt Station, and Houston in Mississippi. General William Sooy Smith (U.S.) never arrives at Meridian, Mississippi, so General Sherman had to forget his aspirations for continuing into Alabama, and go look for him. Saturday, February 20, 1864 : In what would become the largest battle in Florida, a Union force of 5,500 men confronted a similar number of Southern troops at Olustee, Florida. The Confederates were successful as the Union troops (many of whom were ‘substitutes’) turned and fled. Many of the Union troops were armed with the new Spencer rifle, and nearly 1,600 of these were left behind. Union casualties were a total of 1,861 men or about 34%. Confederate losses were lower with a total of 946 casualties in all, but still about 19%. The ratio of Union casualties to the number of troops involved made this the second bloodiest battle of the war with 265 casualties per 1,000 troops. General Sherman (U.S.) leaves Meridian heads west by way of Canton, Mississippi looking for General William Sooy Smith (U.S.) and his force. Meanwhile, General Smith (U.S.) was busy fighting his initial battle with Confederate forces under Nathan Bedford Forrest’s (CSA) command at Prairie Station and Aberdeen, Mississippi. In Bolivar, Tennessee, John Houston Bills, planter, settler and diarist writes: “A portion of the 6th Tennessee Right (Fielding Hurst) enter town at noon. They capture several prisoners & search most of the houses in town taking watches & other articles not Contraband. It has been a fearful day with many of our citizen, ladies especially. I loss nothing, today.” Sunday, February 21, 1864 : At Okolona, Mississippi, Col. James J. Neely of Bolivar, Tennessee was in command of the 14th Tennessee (CSA), and a part of General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s (CSA) forces in his engagement with Federal General William Sooy Smith (U.S.). Col. James. J. Neely was assigned the task of guarding the ferries and fords across the Tibbee River. General Smith was already about 2 weeks late in meeting General Sherman (U.S.) at Meridian, Mississippi. Besides leaving Memphis late, during Smith’s (U.S.) march through Mississippi, he seemed to be gathering slaves as he went. Now with General Forrest (CSA) in the area, and Smith (U.S.) with over 1,500 slaves following him, General William Sooy Smith (U.S.) was afraid to leave them behind. Smith (U.S.) decides to withdraw to West Point, Mississippi, because of concern over the size of the Confederate forces, and the fate of the slaves, if they were captured. Smith (U.S.) was lured into the swampy area around the Tombigbee River by a Confederate cavalry brigade under Col. Jeffrey Forrest (CSA), the younger brother of General Forrest (CSA). Smith (U.S.) was now forced again to retreat.
Monday, February 22, 1864 : General Nathan Bedford Forrest had just arrived on the field with his younger brother, Col Jeffrey Forrest (pictured) to conduct the battle just as the Smith’s (U.S.) rearguard began to retreat. General Forrest led the first attack at dawn. His brother, Jeffrey was shot in the neck. Witnessing his fall, Nathan Bedford Forrest rushed to his dying brother's side, and ‘dropped to his knees and held [his] head in his arms,’ before he died. Overtaken with grief and emotion, Nathan
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