The rehearsal for the March to the Sea.
With the fall of Vicksburg to Union forces in mid-1863, the Federals began work to extend and consolidate their hold on the lower Mississippi Valley. As a part of this plan, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman set out from Vicksburg on February 3, 1864, with an army of some 25,000 infantry and a battalion of cavalry. They expected to be joined by another Union force moving south from Memphis and supported themselves off the land as they traveled due east across Mississippi.
Sherman entered Meridian on February 14 and thoroughly destroyed its railroad facilities, munitions plants, and cotton stores, before returning to Vicksburg. Though not a particularly effective campaign in terms of enemy soldiers captured or killed, it offers a rich opportunity to observe how this large-scale raid presaged Shermans Atlanta and Carolina campaigns, revealing the transformation of Shermans strategic thinking.
William T. Sherman's March to the Sea is the stuff legends are made of: huge armies, eccentric generals, and epic battles... Sherman's Mississippi Campaign is the first modern study of not only Sherman's battlefield tactics in Mississippi but also their philosophical underpinnings. Additionally, the book assesses the expedition in terms of its immediate impact on the western theater of war and its effect on Sherman's long-term military thinking... Buck T. Foster's Sherman's Mississippi Campaign is a noteworthy addition to the historiography of the Civil War's western campaigns and to the military life of William T. Sherman. - Civil War History With Sherman's Mississippi Campaign Foster has contributed significantly to the literature on the Civil War's western theater. He engages notable Civil War historians ... arguing that the Meridian campaign holds a greater significance in the development of Sherman's 'hard war' strategy than has been previously admitted. Although focused on Sherman's strategy, Foster also provides a thorough analysis of the Confederate military's strategic and tactical mistakes... The book has useful and well-placed maps that help the reader follow the detail-oriented narrative. - Journal of Southern History This book fills a gap in Sherman's military life that has heretofore been overlooked by his biographers as well as students of strategy and tactics. The Mississippi Campaign dramatically affected Sherman's evolution of policy; Foster explains how Sherman came to formulate the strategy that he used so successfully in the Confederate Southeast. - Anne J. Bailey, author of The Chessboard of War: Sherman and Hood int he Autumn Campaigns of 1864 This book is the first modern analytical study of the Mississippi Campaign. It should appeal to readers interested in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, the generalship of William Tecumseh Sherman, and the evolution of what many historians term 'total war' by Union armies. - Arthur W. Bergeron Jr., author of Confederate Mobile Those who look to the Georgia campaign as Sherman's coming-out party (to be followed by the Carolinas campaign) would do well to consider the working assumption of this book: Sherman's strategic thinking had been evolving toward a more destructive brand of warfare since early 1862, to be tested first in the Mississippi campaign. - Daniel E. Sutherland, author of Seasons of War: The Ordeal of a Confederate Community, 1861-1865