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, October 18, 2012

Bragg's army reaches the Cumberland Gap

For 5 days Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi trudged south from Crab Orchard, ascending Wildcat Mountain, toward the Cumberland Gap and Eastern Tennessee, averaging 15-20 miles per day. This was in spite of Buell's Federal skirmishers nipping at its heels. The exhausted army also encountered insults, stone throwing, and even fire from Unionist ambushers in many Kentucky towns on their way south. And adding to the general misery, the weather turned prematurely cold.

Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell finally gave up his half-hearted pursuit of Bragg at London, Kentucky. Taken in balance with his performance at Perryville, this soon would cost him his command.

Contrary to rumors coming out of East Tennessee at the time and which persist today, the 200-mile retreat for the Confederate army was the first sustained period of hunger. Rations were scarce, and the troops survived mainly on parched corn, polluted water, and whatever they could forage en route. Many soldiers were barefoot and in ragged uniforms. But physical discomfort was only part of the suffering. According to Pvt. Sam Watkins's famous account, beneath the surface of the sorry troops lurked gloom and frustration.

On today's date in 1862, the leading end of Bragg's tattered army, having just passed through Barboursville, reached the Cumberland Gap. Soon it was in Knoxville.

Having now passed into his own department in East Tennessee, Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith resumed command of his army, glad to be out from under Bragg's command, which he had grown to hold in low regard. Smith will go on to distinguish himself during the rest of the war. He will become one of the last Confederate generals to surrender his army, which he will finally do in June 1865, almost 2 months after Lee's surrender at Appomattox, and more than 2 weeks after the Army of Tennessee surrendered in North Carolina. And Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith will have the distinction of being the last surviving full Confederate general until his death in 1893.

Sources: Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle, Kenneth W. Noe; Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee 1862-1865, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Company Aytch: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show, Sam Watkins; Corinth Information Database


  1. Hi,
    My name is Larry Murley, my g grandfather Jefferson Kasey Murley, his brother William Hamilton Murley and brother in law James Owens all enlisted in June of 1862 in Co. D of the 32nd
    William didn't make it through the war but the other 2 made till the end. 936-446-0313

  2. Hey, Larry! Thanks for your information. It's good to hear from another Co. D ancestor. Please feel free to pass on anything else you might know about your relatives, Co. D, or the 32nd Regiment. I'd be happy to provide you anything I might have (which is slim at best).