In honor of Pvt. Nathan R. Oakes, CSA

150 years ago, my great grandfather, Nathan Richardson Oakes, served as a private in Company D of the distinguished 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment in the Army of Tennessee. He participated in the great Civil War campaigns, including the battles of Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin, Nashville, and Bentonville. I am writing about his engagements as well as some details about fighting for the Lost Cause. I hope to honor him and commemorate the events and individuals that contributed to making this a renowned unit in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Louis Kossuth, Freedom Fighter

He was one of the more famous leaders and spokesmen of the European Revolutions of 1848. He led the Hungarian branch of this movement, which achieved its independence from the Habsburg Monarchy in 1849, and his name was Louis Kossuth. His influence was felt as far away from Hungary as the little North Mississippi village named in his honor, the community of my ancestors.

Freedom Fighter Louis Kossuth
The 1848 "Year of Revolution" was a wide spread wave of democratic and nationalistic uprisings, beginning in France and spreading throughout Europe, and even to Latin America. Americans followed these events in Europe with interest. Europe’s revolutionary leaders appeared on front pages of American papers. Many of these visited America, the most celebrated being freedom fighter Louis Kossuth.

In 1852, Kossuth embarked on a triumphal tour of America, speaking and raising funds and political support for his Hungarian revolution. Apparently the famous leader created a lasting impression among his American audiences. A statue of Kossuth now stands in New York City near the Columbia University campus, and another in front of the county Court House in Algona, Iowa. Other statues of Kossuth are sprinkled throughout the US. Kossuth County, Iowa, is named in his honor. I even bumped (literally) into a Kossuth bust during a tour of our nation’s capital building a few years ago. And, of course, the village of Kossuth, Mississippi, is named for him.*

Photo by Mark Dolan, 2007
Kosssuth, Mississippi
The ancestral home of the Oakes's family
The Revolution of 1848 eventually collapsed, and most Americans took comfort in the belief that their country was more conservative and, therefore, more stable than their European counterparts. However, seeds of this “European Spring” were sown in American society and politics, thrusting them into their own radical upheaval in the tragic "Civil War" of the 1860s. The war will draw in several of my ancestors, including my great grandfather, Nathan Oakes, from the little Mississippi town named for the Hungarian patriot, Louis Kossuth.

* Louis Kossuth even started something of a fashion revolution in America. Men began to grow Kossuth-esque beards, and "Kossuth hats" (later to be known in the military as the "slouch hat") became widely popular. Couples even learned to dance the polka in the folk hero's honor.

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