Polk had left for Demopolis at 10.30 that morning in the cars. One locomotive and a train were burning as we reached the depot, but all other rolling-stock had been removed to Mobile or toward Selma, 107 miles distant. I knew we could not overtake the enemy before he would cross the Tombigbee, and in fact I was willing to gain our point without battle, at so great a distance from the river, where the care of wounded men would have so taxed our ability to provide for them.
So I rested the army on the 15th, and on the 16th began a systematic and through destruction of the railroads centering at Meridian. The immense depots, warehouses, and length of side-track demonstrated the importance to the enemy of that place. Through it he has heretofore transported his armies and vast supplies, and by means of the railroads large amounts of corn, bacon, meal, and produce have been distributed to his armies. For five days 10,000 men worked hard and with a will in that work of destruction, with axes, crowbars, sledges, clawbars, and with fire, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing the work as well done. Meridian, with its depots, store-houses, arsenal, hospitals, officers, hotels, and cantonments no longer exists.
To General Hurlbut I instructed the destruction north and east of the town, and to General McPherson south and west. the former reports to me officially the destruction of 60 miles of road, with ties burned and iron bent, one locomotive destroyed, and 8 bridges burned. The latter reports officially 55 miles of road destroyed, with 53 bridges and culverts burned, and 6,075 feet of trestle=work below Enterprise across a swamp burned, 19 locomotives, 28 cars, and 3 steam saw-mills destroyed and burned. The railroad is destroyed all the way from Jackson to Meridian, 100 miles; from Meridian to and including the large bridge over the Chicksawha below Quitmanl north to and including a bridge at Lauderdale Springs, and east about 20 miles. Then enemy cannot use these roads to our prejudice in the coming campaign.
Having learned positively that the enemy's infantry had crossed the Tombigbee eastward on the 17th, and there being nothing between me and the Pearl River but cavalry, which I could not strike with infantry, I remained at Meridian until the 20th of February, leaving me ten days to reach Vicksburg and keep my appointment with General Banks, and hearing nothing whatever of General Smith, I ordered General McPherson to move neck slowly on the main road, taking four days to Hillsborough, while I, with General Hurlbut's command and Colonel Winslow's cavalry, moved to the north to feel for general Smith.
On the 20th, I moved from Marion Station toward Muckalusha Old Town, thence to union, where I dispatched Colonel Winslow with three regiments of cavalry to Philadelphia and Louisville, some 50 miles in the direction of Columbus, over the very road by which General Grierson moved during his celebrated raid, and by which road I supposed he would feel for us. If no tidings could be had of the cavalry, Colonel Winslow was to send a couple of scouts to find General Smith and order him to come to me at Canton, after which Colonel Winslow was to swing across to Kosciusko and come to Canton. The two infantry columns came together as appointed on the 23rd at Hillsborough.
Next day we marched for Pearl River on separate roads, making for Ratliff's Ferry. Securing the ferry-boats there and at Edwards'