Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New---The Battle of West Point Bridge, Mississippi Clearly and Concisely Presented

The Battle of West Point: Confederate Triumph At Ellis Bridge, John McBryde, History Press, 128 pages, maps, photographs, illustration, appendices, bibliographic notes, bibliography, $19.99.

William T. Sherman's early 1864 Meridian Mississippi Campaign in some ways prepared him and his troops for the late 1864 Savannah Georgia Campaign.  From February 3–20, 1864, Sherman and the Army of the Tennessee marched from Vicksburg in western Mississippi to Meridian in eastern Mississippi. The primary purpose was to destroy Meridian an important railroad hub, the location of an arsenal, a military hospital, and a prisoner of war camp.  Since the capture of Jackson, the state's capital, Meridan held important Mississippi state offices.

Sherman planned to take Meridian and possibly advance further east to Selma, Alabama or south to Mobile, Alabama. He  ordered Brigadier General William S. Smith and 7,000 cavalry to leave Memphis, Tennessee and to Okolona, Mississippi and follow the route of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to Meridian.  Smith cavalry met the troopers of  Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest at West Point, Mississippi.   He forced Smith to begin to retreat back into Tennessee. Forrest followed Smith's retreat. Forrest caught Smith and his troops at Okolona, Mississippi  and forced them to retreat even more quickly.  Smith's coverage of Sherman's left flank failed though Smith troops were a magnet for CSA resistance and Forrest did not impede Sherman's advance nor his retreat.

John McBryde's The Battle of West Point: Confederate Triumph At Ellis Bridge, focuses upon the February 21 one as a precursor to the February 22 Battle of Okolona. On the banks of the Chuquatonchee Creek which is crossed by Ellis Bridge, Smith's 7,000 exhausted troops met Forrest's fresher and more experienced 2,500 cavalrymen.  Citing primary sources of troopers and civilians, McBryde's account is concise, well-paced and well organized. He offers ten pages of civil accounts of the engagement.  The period and modern photographs, the officers' photographic portraits and post-war sketches are appropriate and clarify the text. McBryde's narrative is clear and is a fine example of local history well done.

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