Meridian, Miss. Valentine's day is normally a day of love, but historically speaking for Meridian, it's a day that holds a dark memory. One hundred fifty years ago, Gen. William T. Sherman marched through Meridian and burned the whole city to the ground. Merrehope was one of the few structures to survive.
On this the 150th anniversary of the burning, Meridian and Lauderdale County Tourism unveiled its Meridian Civil War Trail.
"We identified this as an initiative for our team over a year ago and we've done a little bit of work on it ever since," said tourism director Dede Mogollon. "About three months ago we started solidly working on this, not just the markers but the research, the archive of photos, video, narration, websites. There's a lot that goes into something like this."
The trail consists of 10 markers spread across the city of Meridian, Marion, and Lauderdale County. The railroad was a significant part of Meridian and General Sherman knew this and reaped horrible devastation on the railroad here. It's then fitting that the first two markers on the trail are located at the railroad museum in Meridian.
"The one that we're standing in front of right now is number one. It's called Railroads in the War. Obviously Meridian was pivotal because of its railroads," said Mogollon. "He wanted them to be beyond repair and so he took the cross ties, made a big fire, laid the rails over it, and then bent them around trees. So we have a second marker showing the Sherman bow tie and we even have our own Sherman bow tie."
Civil War tourism is a major part of southern states. This is especially true for Mississippi. Meridian and Lauderdale County Tourism hope that since Meridian's Civil War history is now well packaged, it will greatly boost revenue to the city and county.
The Battle of Meridian took place over four days, starting Feb, 14, 1864. One hundred fifteen miles of railroad, 6,000 feet of trestle, and 20 locomotives were destroyed. the city was back in operation 26 days after the fire.