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, September 4, 2012

Lee's simultaneous invasion of Maryland, 1862

Over about the same period of time when Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee was invading Kentucky, Gen. Robert E. Lee embarked on is own campaign into Maryland. It will be his first invasion into the North and will begin on this date in1862, and last through the 20th.

Gen. Robert E. Lee
Following his victory in the Northern Virginia Campaign, Lee moved north with 55,000 men through the Shenandoah Valley toward Maryland. His objective was to resupply his army and to damage Northern morale in anticipation of the November elections. His plan was risky, splitting his army so that he could continue north into Maryland, while simultaneously capturing the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferrry. In an accident of war, Lee's orders to his subordinate commanders fell into the hands his opponent, Gen. George McClellan, enabling him to plan Lee's defeat accordingly.

While Lee's general, Stonewall Jackson, was taking Harpers Ferry from the 12th through the 15th, McClellan moved his army of 84,000 through the South Mountain passes that separated him from Lee. The Battle of South Mountain/Boonsboro Gap ensued on the 14th, which delayed McClellan's advance and allowed Lee sufficient time to concentrate most of his army at Sharpsburg. The Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg* on September 17, was the bloodiest day in American military history, with over 22,000 casualties. Lee, outnumbered 2 to 1, moved his defensive forces to ward off each offensive blow. However, McClellan never deployed all of his reserves to capitalize on successes and destroy the Confederates. On September 18, Lee ordered a withdrawal across the Potomac. On September 19–20, fights by Lee's rear guard at Shepherdstown ended his campaign.

Although from a tactical perspective Antietam was a draw, Lee's Maryland Campaign failed to achieve its objectives. As a result of McClellan's success, President Lincoln used the timing of Union victory for his announcement to free the salves in Southern states, to be effective on January 1, 1863. His public stance on slavery effectively will end any threat of European support for the Confederacy.

* To take a virtual tour of the battlefield visit the Civil War Trust webpage, Antietam 360.

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