Anticipating an end to the winter weather, the Union military in early February prepared for an attack against the very heartland of the Confederacy. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman with a force of over 26,000 men was prepared to leave Vicksburg, Mississippi on a raid into the interior of that state, with the intention of destroying Confederate held railroads.
From Memphis 7600 Union cavalry under William F. “Baldy” Smith would assist Sherman. Opposing these Federals would be approximately 20,000 Confederates in Mississippi, commanded by General Leonidas Polk, who at best could offer little more than token resistance in the face of a superior, invading force.
Sherman would begin his relentless destruction of the Confederate homeland, an action which Southerners would hold personally against him for any decades to come.