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.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bloody Shiloh, 2nd Day

Source: Civil War Trust
The action of the second day of the Battle of Shiloh played out much like the first day, except in reverse order and with opposite effect.1 

After Gen. Johnston was killed on the the first day, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard took command of the Confederate forces. In the fighting on that day, the Federal army was routed and pushed back to the area around Pittsburg Landing, finding relative shelter in the uneven terrain and under the protection of the massed Union artillery. What Beauregard did not know was that Grant's troops had been reinforced overnight by Buell's men.2 

Now on the second day, Grant had 40,000 soldiers to attack Beauregard's 30,000 outnumbered and exhausted men. Despite several counterattacks, Beauregard knew his force could not prevail, so by dusk, he orchestrated a withdrawal to Corinth. Covering the retreat, Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest met the pursuing Federal forces under Gens. Thomas and Sherman. He successfully checked the Federal pursuit at Fallen Timbers, and the Battle of Shiloh came to an end.

Photo by Mark Dolan, 2007
The "Bloody Pond" at Shiloh
Although a beautiful and tranquil place when we visited the battlefield in December 2007, this shallow pool of water was once reported to be the scene of great horror. It was in the path of the retreating Union Army as it was pushed back toward the river on the first day of battle. Being the only water in the immediate area, the wounded from both sides crawled here to quench their thirst and bathe their wounds. So many bled in and around the pond that witnesses said the water was stained the color of blood.

To see an excellent animated map of the Battle of Shiloh, visit the Civil War Trust website.
Some interesting footnotes to my Civil War ancestor's history are that among Buell's troops that reinforced Grant's soldiers at Pittsburg Landing, was a young Union lieutenant, Ambrose Bierce, who in later years would become a famous American writer. He wrote about his experience in this battle in What I Saw of Shiloh. His firsthand knowledge of the war provided material for many of his shockingly realistic short stories. Also present at the Battle of Shiloh was Union Gen. Lew Wallace, who, after the war, wrote one of the most beloved novels of his century, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Both Bierce and Wallace went on to fight the Confederates on many of the same battlefields as my great grandfather, Nathan Oakes.

And a further bit of trivia, Welshman and Confederate Pvt. Henry Morton Stanley was captured on the second day at Shiloh. Surviving the war, he went on to become a renown African adventurer, Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who in 1871 famously "found" Scottish missionary, Dr. David Livingston, near Lake Tanganyika in present day Tanzania.

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