During the summer of 1864 a Union column, commanded by Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson Smith, set out from Tennessee with a goal that had proven impossible in all prior attempts - to find and defeat the cavalry under the command of Confederate major general Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest's cavalry was the greatest threat to the long supply line feeding Sherman's armies as they advanced on Atlanta. Smith marched at the head of his "gorillas", veteran soldiers who were fresh from the Red River Campaign. Aside from diverting Confederate attention away from Sherman, Smith's orders were to destroy Southern railroads and confront Forrest in Mississippi. Just weeks earlier, a similar Union expedition had met with disaster at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads, perhaps the greatest victory of Forrest's military career.
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