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 1, 2012

Gen. Polk moves the army

While Confederate Gen. Bragg was away on this date in 1862 in preparation for installing a Confederate governor at Frankfort, he left Gen. Leonidas Polk in command of the army at Bardstown. Polk had been the "Right Wing" corps commander during the Kentucky Campaign and was assigned by Bragg to begin moving his weary army to the capital at Frankfort.

The "Fighting Bishop"
Gen. Leonidas Polk
Born in North Carolina, Leonidas Polk later became a large land owner in Maury County, Tennessee. He was a 1827 West Point graduate who resigned without ever having served as an officer. Believing he was called to the ministry, Polk enrolled in seminary, and then the Episcopal priesthood, rising to the office bishop. When the war came, the ambitious Polk, who was serving his church in Louisiana, contacted his old friend, President Jefferson Davis, to offer his services to the Confederate army. The president appointed Polk a major general without the bishop having ever served in the military. His lack of actual military experience, resulting in poor battlefield decisions and disregard for orders, will form the foundation for many of Bragg's complaints against him, and will lead to his removal from his command after the Battle of Chickamauga. Polk will return the following year to the Army of Tennessee in the long Atlanta Campaign under Joseph Johnston. Then, tragically, on June 14, 1864, while scouting the enemy's position from Pine Mountain near Marietta, Georgia, he was killed by artillery fire ordered by Union Maj. Gen, William T. Sherman.

But on today's date in 1862, Gen. Polk learned that in addition to a Federal column moving east toward Frankfort, 3 columns of Federals were also marching on 3 separate roads southeast from Louisville toward his army's position at Bardstown. Although ordered to move the army to Frankfort, after considering the approach of McCook’s, Gilbert’s, and Crittenden’s Federal corps toward Bardstown, Polk instead marched the army toward Harrodsburg via Perryville.

In the meantime, Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell assumed command over the forces at Louisville. On today's date, he marched out of Louisville with 60,000 troops. Buell sent a small force to Frankfort to deceive Bragg as to his army's direction and location. Bragg was outsmarted. On October 4, the small Federal force attacked Frankfort just as Bragg was installing a new Confederate governor there. Bragg was forced to make a hasty retreat to rejoin his army, now on the move to Bardstown, thinking the entire Federal force was headed for Frankfort.

Source: Six Armies in Tennessee, Steven E. Woodward

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