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, June 28, 2012

"Old Reliable" Gen. Hardee

As one historian observed, compared to Corinth, camp life at Tupelo in 1862 was serene, even dull. The weather was hot and dry. The Confederate army’s morale improved along with the standard of hygiene and the quality of the rations. The army, including the 32nd Mississippi Regiment, also finally had time to properly drill under "Old Reliable" Gen. Hardee’s direct supervision.

Gen. William J. Hardee
Born in Georgia, William Joseph Hardee was a career U.S. Army officer by the time the war broke out. Earlier in the Mexican-American War, Hardee, like many officers in the Army of Tennessee, served under Zachary Taylor, who in 1848 would be elected President of the United States. After the Mexican-American War, Hardee returned to West Point, serving as a tactics instructor, then as commandant from 1856 to 1860. Among other accomplishments he published the best-known drill manual of the Civil War, popularly known on both sides as Hardee's Tactics.

Hardee resigned his U.S. Army commission in January 1861, after his home state of Georgia seceded. Joining the Confederate army as a colonel, by 1862, he had risen to the rank of lieutenant general. Hardee was leading a force in Arkansas when he was ordered to join Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston's army as a corps commander, the position he held in the Battle of Shiloh.

Hardee continued to serve in the Army of Tennessee through most of its famous campaigns and battlefieldsPerryville, Murfreesboro, Tullahoma, Missionary Ridge, and the Atlanta Campaignuntil September 1864. After leading forces against U.S. Gen. Sherman and his March to the Sea, Hardee rejoined the remnants of the Army of Tennessee under Joseph Johnston in its final days of fighting in the Carolinas Campaign. He participated in the Battle of Bentonville in March 1865, where his 16-year-old son was mortally wounded. Hardee surrendered under Johnston along with the surviving elements of the army at Durham Station on April 26, 1865.

The "Hardee Flag"

The famous "Hardee Flag" first flew over the corps at the Battle of Shiloh. From then on, units of Hardee's Corps each flew a version of the battle flag pattern. Flying over one such unitPatrick Cleburne's Division—was the flag Union soldiers remarked that they most dreaded to see on the battlefield. Great Grandfather Oakes's 32nd Regiment was one such unit that proudly served under that renowned flag in Cleburne's Division.

Sources: The Third Battalion Mississippi Infantry and the 45th Mississippi Regiment: A Civil War History, David Williamson; The Confederate Veteran, Vol. 17 (January 1909-December 1909)

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