December 6, 2017 10:37:47 AM
Columbus saved by Forrest
Columbus and The Dispatch are fortunate to have Rufus Ward as historian and columnist. His piece for Dec. 3 is packed full of useful information about the importance of Columbus during the Civil War.
However, I disagree with him about Grant saving Columbus. The article stopped too soon in October 1863. It was 1864, the worst year of the war, when Columbus was in real danger.
In February 1864, Union generals Sherman and Smith advanced from Jackson and Memphis respectively, moving to join forces in Meridian. Smith was able to burn his way down the line of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad through Okolona.
He had discretionary orders to attack Columbus if he chose to do so. Accordingly, he sent a portion of his force under Col. Benjamin Grierson to Aberdeen to cross the river and come south for Columbus. But when Smith learned Confederates under Gen. Forrest were nearing West Point, he hurriedly countermanded his order, just before Grierson headed south. The battles of Ellis Bridge and Okolona followed, driving Smith back to Memphis.
It was Forrest's approach that saved Columbus. From what? The record shows that in 1864, Union forces brought total ruin to places less important than Columbus.
Grant, at the time, was preparing to become Commander-in-Chief of all Union forces, on March 2, 1864, eight days after the Battle of Okolona.
Brandon H. Beck