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.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A 32nd Mississippi Infantry soldier's view of the Battle of Perryville

Confederate regiments typically were comprised of 10 companies, A-K (neither side had a Co. J for some reason). Each company had about 100 men, bringing the total in the regiment to approximately 1,000. Most men within a company were recruited from the same town or village. An entire regiment might be made up of men recruited from a single county.

Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes's 32nd Mississippi Infantry (of Wood's Brigade), commanded by Col. Mark P. Lowrey, was a typically-sized regiment of around a 1,000 troops in 10 companies. All but 2 were raised from a single county, Tishomingo. Whole companies of men who fought side-side were also neighbors back home.

My great grandfather (and a great uncle) served in Company D, comprised of men from from the tiny village of Kossuth, Mississippi. One of his neighbors from Tishomingo County, Jesse Cheeves, served in Co. A of the same regiment. At Perryville, these 2 companies fought alongside each other. What Cheeves witnessed would have closely matched my great grandfather's experience. Here are Pvt. Cheeves's own words:
Curlee was killed in the last charge at Perryville. W. H. Rees lost his left arm the same day by a cannot [sic] ball. The man in the rear rank behind Rees was struck in the chest by the same ball and knocked ten or twelve feet and instantly killed. The writer was to the right of Rees, his left arm touching Rees's right, when he fell. We were exposed to a terrible fire of solid shot and shell. The writer noticed one ball that fell just in front of the line, it was about the size and length of a Mason's fruit jar but in the shape of a minnie [sic] ball. We remained an hour under very heavy cannon fire. Sometimes the balls would come as fast as the stroke of a clock. They made all kinds of noise as they passed over. Sometimes it seemed they would dip down after us as they passed over the line. Twelve or fourteen feet behind our line was a large shell bark hickory nut tree full of nuts. Now and then a ball would pass through the top and bark and nuts would fairly rain down. At 2 o'clock p.m. our line of battle moved forward, the enemy being just across an opposite range of hill, the valley between us being from 600 to 800 yards wide. Our cannon ceased firing until the line had advanced far enough for the balls to pass over heads. Our guns behind us and the enemy's in front and the roar of musketry between made such a noise as the boys had never heard. We were in a field all the time and tore the fences down as we advanced. We drove the yanks from behind one rock fence. The writer was talking with a comrade a few months ago who was wounded just before we crossed this fence and lay upon the field until 3 o'clock at night. Our victory was complete. Our brigade captured a battery; Company A lost seven brave men killed and many wounded. We fought close to Co. D., made up at Kossuth, and a fine company it was.* 
Corinth Information Database, Milton Sandy

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