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.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Retreat from Buell

By today's date in 1862, Gen. Braxton Bragg, having successfully withdrawn his army from its bloody and victorious engagement in the Battle of Perryville on the 8th, now had the entire Confederate force concentrated at Camp Dick Robinson near Bryantsville, at the junction of the Kentucky and Dicks Rivers, a position relatively secure from Federal attack. In total, he had about 45,000 experienced troops.

Camp Headquarters at Bryantsville (from Harper's Weekly)
Bragg called a council of his generals to inform them of his plan to leave Kentucky. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, whose army had finally joined forces with Bragg, urged Bragg to renew the fight with the strengthened force. At first Bragg seemed to agree that a decisive battle for the control of Kentucky should be fought here. But then he changed his mind. The resulting consensus of the other generals seems to have been a shared loss of confidence in Bragg and therefore, there being no other course to pursue, retreat was the only option. 

Perhaps to his credit, Bragg was beginning to feel the pressure of Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell troops were reaching for the Confederate flanks. He also had learned that no help would be coming from Mississippi, as Generals Price and Van Dorn had been defeated at Corinth by Union Gen. Rosecrans a week earlier. Gen. Breckinridge’s column would remain in Tennessee. Federal reinforcements were en route from Cincinnati to nearby Lexington. Supplies here at Camp Dick Robinson would run out in 4 days, while Buell 's army was being resupplied from Louisville daily. Finally, the recruits Kentucky were not joining the army as Bragg had hoped. With Buell about to cut off the army’s last path of escape, and autumn’s drenching rains approaching, there seemed to be no choice but to fall back into Tennessee and preserve the army. He will begin moving his army south at daybreak.

Today, many historians of the Battle of Perryville believe Bragg made a strategic mistake in not attacking Buell, perhaps losing the best opportunity that he would have of knocking out Buell and changing the course of the Confederacy's war in the West.

Sources:  Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle, Kenneth W. Noe; War in Kentucky, James Lee McDonough; Stone's River: The Turning-Point of the Civil War, Wilson J. Vance

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