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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The haven of Corona College, 1862

Established in 1857, Corona College was once an elegant girls school located on the outskirts of the small town of Corinth, Mississippi. But in 1862, its grounds were used as a point of assembly for many of the 45,000 soldiers who were mustered here in the defense of Northeastern Mississippi and the South. Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was posted there with his company in March through May of 1862, just up the road a few miles from his tiny village home of Kossuth. One of his comrades in Co. A, Allen Epps, recalls that while the 32nd Regiment was being organized, it camped on the college grounds, filling the area (pictured) with “white shacks or tents.”

Corinth, Mississippi, 1862, by Conrad Wise Chapman
Life in camp was far from pleasant or even safe in the spring of 1862, as the Army under Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston was being readied for the inevitable battle to come. In his book, The Third Battalion Mississippi Infantry and the 45th Mississippi Regiment, David Williamson points out: “[W]hen the rain stopped and hot weather set in, drinkable water became scarce and, in the poor sanitary conditions, disease, especially chronic diarrhea, spread through the camps as neither town nor the Confederate Army were able to handle the large number of sick and wounded.” Of the 45,000 troops assembled here, by mid-May 18,000 were hospitalized. Many perished from camp-related disease not far from their homes, including at least one from my great grandfather's Company D. No doubt numerous poor souls found aid and comfort within the haven of the Corona College hospital.

Photo by Mark Dolan, 2007
The Site of Corona Girls College
The college remained in that service until it was burned by the Union occupiers abandoning the town in January 1864. The only reminder of it and its importance to the war effort is a small marker on the Civil War Corinth Tour. But somewhere among the specter of the little white shacks and tents is that spot that billeted 16-year old Great Grandfather Oakes and his comrades of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment. It was a poignant experience for me a few years ago, to amble up and around that haunting little hill.


  1. My Great, Great Grandfather, R. C. Brown was in Company D and enlisted on the same day in Kossuth as did Nathan Richardson Oakes. Unfortunately, he died of disease 3 months later, at his home there in Tishomingo County. Never got a chance to fight. The conditions in camp must have been intolerable.

  2. Indeed they were. And unfortunately, this won't be the last time these poor guys will have to endure awful camp conditions. Glad to hear from a fellow descendant of Co. D. I read RC Brown's info on one of the rosters. I also noticed that he listed in Civil War Sailors and Soldiers System in Co. H. Any idea about the discrepancy?

    1. I got his records from and there was no mention of company H, but I will look into it further. I find it exasperating that the use of initials only in that period was so prevalent. Makes it difficult for us later generations to check our data. My research shows his name to be Rueben C. Brown, but I did not get that from his military records.

      I watched the Ken Burns documentary on the civil war on Netflix lately and it said that so many died of disease because when you take young men who had never been more than a few miles from the farm their whole lives and then lump them together with thousands of other young men who all had little immunity, add that to unsanitary conditions, then it was no mystery that disease spread like wildfire. I read an account somewhere that Colonel Lowrey lamented this fact that he lost so many good men to disease.

    2. Yes, that IS interesting. Same age, muster in date, other info. However, I am looking at a document that says; R. C. Brown, Private, Capt. F. S. Norman's Company, Lowrey's Reg't, Mississippi Vols. Joined for duty and mustered When: March 13, 1862 - Where: Kossuth Miss - By Whom: Col M P Lowery - Period 3 yrs or the war. It further says; This company subsequently became Company D, 32d Regiment Mississippi. I also have another page from that in it's content says Final account of R. C. Brown private (in) or (for) Co D 32 Miss Regt. signed by J. L. Madden 2 Lt Co D 32 Miss

      So, I am at a loss to explain. I also cannot explain how the document "Regimental Return" says he died on June 2, 1862 but the next document says he deceased on June 21, 1862. I think that is a problem where records were written and not printed.