See the mod_alias and mod_rewrite documentation over at apache.org. To get initially-oriented, see the RedirectMatch and RewriteRule directives in those two modules, respectively.
There are some introductory tutorials in our Apache Forum Library, which I commend to you.
meta-refresh is not a server-side redirect, it is a client-side (browser) page reload or replacement. Best results with search engine listings will be had with a true server-side redirect.
Also note that if your site is dynamic -- using PHP or .asp for example, you can do scripted redirects from within your "page generation" script. As long as you explicitly send the 301-Moved Permanently status response header (which is *not* sent by default), this is entirely equivalent to a server-configuration-code redirect, and may be a more familiar programming environment for you.