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Beck’s ‘Battle of Okolona: Defending the Mississippi Prairie’ debuts


Jan Swoope



Near the site of the historic Civil War conflict, Friends of the Battle of Okolona will host a book signing for Dr. Brandon H. Beck''s latest release, "The Battle of Okolona: Defending the Mississippi Prairie."  


The event Saturday, Dec. 12, at Okolona''s Carnegie Library, 321 Main St., from 10 a.m. until noon, will be the book''s first public viewing since its publication by The History Press of Charleston, S.C.  


Beck, of Columbus, taught for 23 years at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and founded the McCormick Civil War Institute there. He retired to Northeast Mississippi to research and document the history of the February 1864 clash between forces of the Union''s Gen. William Sooy Smith and the Confederacy''s Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. 




Battle summary 


A statement from The Friends of the Battle of Okolona reads:  


"Gen. William Sooy Smith led a force of over 7,000 cavalry on a raid into the Mississippi Prairie, bringing fire and destruction to one of the very few ''breadbaskets'' remaining to the Confederacy. Smith''s raid was part of Gen. William T. Sherman''s campaign to march across Mississippi from Vicksburg to destroy the railroad junction at Meridian.  


"Both Smith and Sherman intended to burn everything in their path that could aid in the Southern war effort. It was a harbinger of things to come in Georgia, South Carolina and the Shenandoah Valley. But neither reckoned with Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. 


"Forrest''s small Confederate cavalry force defeated Smith in a running battle that stretched from West Point to Okolona and beyond. Forrest''s victory prevented Smith from joining Sherman and saved the Prairie from total destruction."  


Organizers invite the public to hear Beck narrate the exciting story of cavalry warfare. Also included is a brief guided tour of the extant sites, preserved for future generations by the Friends of the Battle of Okolona Inc. 


Beck''s book, his eighth, includes information for self-guided tours of related sites and routes readers to the Stephen D. Lee Home and Friendship Cemetery in Columbus. 


For more information about the signing in Okolona, contact Patsy Green at 662-401-0715. 


The book will also be available in paperback at and Or, e-mail the author at [email protected]


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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