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.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Corinth prepares for war

As the Army of Mississippi (later known as the Army of Tennessee) was being organized in the small town of Corinth, in Northeast Mississippi in the spring of 1862, there was a lot to do in a town soon to be under siege. Corinth, a town of about 1,200 citizens, was a mobilization center and a key railway crossroads—a vital artery for supplying the South and a key military objective for both sides. Fortifications were being built, and daily drills for the newly formed regiments were the norm. During the months of March and early April, Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston’s army of nearly 45,000 mostly “green” troops, was preparing for the inevitable battle to come.

Photo by Mark Dolan, 2007
Corinth citizens took in the grand martial display unfolding before them. One of these observers, Mrs. F.A. Inge, later wrote in a letter to the editor of the Confederate Veteran, Vol. 17, of what she saw going on: “Daily drilling was witnessed by citizens and visitors, and much interest was taken in the proficiency of the troops.  As many as ten regiments were sometimes drilling on the field at one time. The social feature, the brighter side of life, had attention. Many entertainments were given the troops. There might have been some married men, but no tales were told.”

She provides many fascinating details about daily life, but none more compelling or uplifting than her observation of the Christian faith among the troops: “May it be said,” she wrote, “of the chaplains and of the religious element among the troops that preaching and prayer service were never omitted, dying soldiers were never neglected. In camp singing dear old familiar songs of Zion was a great joy to the men. ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul’ and ‘How Firm a Foundation’ would be sung in ringing notes at almost every service.”

How very different from service in the 21st century military, in which my son serves, where God-fearing chaplains are in short supply and practice of the Christian faith is marginalized or forbidden altogether.

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