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, April 6, 2012

Bloody Shiloh, 1st Day

Source: Civil War Trust
Today is the sesquicentennial of the start of the 2-day Battle of Shiloh.* Our public library was kind enough to order for me Winston Groom’s new book, Shiloh 1862, and I actually picked it up this morning. I really enjoyed his previous book on the Battle of Franklin (Shrouds of Glory), and I am just as excited about this new one.

In April 1862, the War Between the States had been going on for nearly a year. Many Americans still believed that it “would be over by Christmas.” But the dreadful Battle of Shiloh was about to change all that. While earlier battles in the East had been costly, nothing that had happened before could have prepared Americans—Northerners or Southerners—for the appalling loss of lives at Shiloh. More than 100,000 soldiers fought on Sunday and Monday, April 6-7, 1862, and cost in casualties was staggering.

Photo by Mark Dolan, 2007
Pittsburg Landing today
The struggle took place in the 12 square miles that comprised Pittsburg Landing, a small stretch of waterfront on the west bank of the Tennessee River. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's army of 40,000 was waiting here for Gen. Don Carlos Buell and his 35,000, reinforcements, in preparation for an attack on the Confederate position at Corinth, Mississippi. Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, with his army of 44,000, was determined to hit Grant's forces before they could be reinforced. According to the National Park Service, when the battle was over, nearly 23,746 Americans were dead, wounded, or missing. There were more casualties at Shiloh than from all previous American wars combined.

Photo by Mark Dolan, 2007
View from the "Hornet's Nest"
along the "Sunken Road"
My great grandfather, Nathan Oakes, one of the thousands of new recruits assembling in Corinth, Mississippi, 20 miles south of the battlefield, did not participate due to the fact that his regiment, the 32nd Mississippi Infantry, was not yet equipped nor armed. The regiment did, however, receive Union prisoners, about 2,200 from Gen. Prentiss's division, that were captured in the fight at the famed "Hornet's Nest."

Photo by Mark Dolan, 2007
The marker in the ravine where
Johnston died
Near the "Hornet's Nest" Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston was killed on the first day. His death would create a serious setback for the Southern army, changing the course of the present battle and perhaps the rest of the war. While leading an attack at the "Peach Orchard," Johnston was shot in the left leg. Not believing the wound to be serious, he dismissed his surgeon to care for wounded Union soldiers, and continued leading the Rebel attack. But within the hour, he bled to death.

Fighting continued until after dark. The Federals were pushed back to Pittsburg Landing, but they managed to hold on to fight again in the morning.

* To see an excellent animated map of the Battle of Shiloh, visit the Civil War Trust website.

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