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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rosecrans advances against Bragg

On today's date, a Friday, in 1862, Union Gen. William Rosecrans began advancing upon Gen. Braxton Bragg with an army of 54,000. Bragg had 37,000, having been weakened some days earlier when President Davis ordered Stevenson’s division to the defense of Vicksburg. While Confederate cavalry and infantry outposts impeded the Federal advance, Bragg, well aware now that Rosecrans's entire army was moving in force against him, formed his army for battle near Stones River. This stream, for which the battle is named, flowing to the north, was about 1-1/2 miles west of Murfreesboro.

The Federal army occupies Nashville, and after 4 months of preparation, Rosecrans is ready to begin  his advance against Bragg's Army of Tennessee. He will spend 4 days advancing a distance of 20 miles, his movements being delayed by the cavalry of Generals Wheeler and Wharton, who will whittle away at his troops, killing and wounding large numbers. Rosecrans's plan is for Maj. Gen. McCook to advance with 3 divisions by Triune against Hardee's Corps, Maj. Gen George H. Thomas to advance on his right with 2 divisions, and Maj. Gen. Crittenden with 3 divisions to move directly on Murfreesboro. Rosecrans is fully informed as to the Confederate position.

The Confederate center is at Murfreesboro under Gen. Leonidas Polk. The right wing of the army is at Readyville under Maj. Gen. John McCown, and the left is at Triune and Eagleville under Gen. William Hardee.

The right of Hardee's Corps (except for the 32nd Mississippi Regiment) and left were spared attack by McCook's force due to morning fog. At noon, when the fog had lifted, McCook pushed rapidly forward, with Sheridan behind him. As they approached Triune, they discovered that the Confederates had burnt the bridge across Wilson's Creek, leaving behind a battery and cavalry support to hold the crossing. Forcing the battery unit to withdraw, the Federals repaired the bridge, crossed over, and encamped on the other side. Meanwhile, Hardee had withdrawn his force and concentrated concentrated at Murfreesboro ready to receive Rosecrans's the attack.

Today it is cold and overcast with rain threatening. Wood’s Brigade is 4 miles north at Triune, serving as a divisional advance guard. Wood will report to Gen. Cleburne that a Federal column is advancing from the north. There are other reports that Rosecrans's army was on the move. The next morning Hardee will order Cleburne to move at once to Murfreesboro.

Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was in Wood's Brigade at this time. However, his regiment, the 32nd Mississippi, was on special duty guarding the bridges in front of Rosecrans's advance.

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell and Elizabeth Purdue; Confederate Military History: Tennessee, Vol. 10, James D. Porter; The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Stone's River: The Turning-Point of the Civil War, Wilson J. Vance; Official Records, Vol. 20, Part 1

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