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, March 25, 2013

Forrest's Cavalry at the Battle of Brentwood

On February 2, the 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regimentamong which was serving my great-great grandfather, David Crockett Nealwas assigned to Brigadier General F. C. Armstrong's Brigade. As part of this brigade the 6th Tennessee moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Spring Hill, Tennessee, in February, to support Bragg's army at Tullahoma. In March, the 6th Regiment was under the command of Lieut. Col. J.H. Lewis, in Brigadier General Nathan B. Forrest's force in the action around Brentwood, Tennessee.

Union troops had occupied Nashville for more than a year. Brentwood, a strategic depot on the Nashville & Decatur Railroad, 9 miles south of Nashville, was held by a force of about 700 Union soldiers, both guarding the depot and the bridge over the Little Harpeth River. In command was Lieut. Col. Edward Bloodgood.

On the 24th, Gen. Forrest had ordered the 2nd Brigade under Col. J.W. Starnes, to Brentwood, to cut the telegraph lines, tear up railroad track, and cut off any retreat. On today's date in 1863, Forrest approached Brentwood with a column of cavalry, including Great-great Grandfather Neal's 6th Tennessee. As Forrest and the 2nd Cavalry Brigade approached the stockade in the early morning, Bloodgood tried to get out a message about Forrest’s attack. However, he discovered that the telegraph lines were cut. Forrest demanded a surrender under a flag of truce, but Bloodgood refused. Within a half-hour, Forrest had artillery in place to shell the enemy position and had surrounded the Federals with Armstrong’s brigadey. Finding himself completely surrounded and shelled by artillery, Bloodgood surrendered his troops, all within about a half-hour of the initial Confederate attack.

Gen. Nathan B. Forrest
Forrest next rode about 2 miles south of Brentwood to the Federal stockade there. Upon finding himself surrounded and shelled, Capt. Elisha Basset also surrendered, leaving the Confederates to burn the bridge over the Little Harpeth and to head westward with several captured supply wagons and as many as 800 Union prisoners.

Nearby, a Union cavalry unit under Brig. Gen. Green Clay Smith, pursued Forrest's Confederates, engaging them a few miles west of the stockade. Over an hour-long engagement the Union troops managed to push back the Confederates and retake many of the captured stores and prisoners. However, Col. Starnes's 2nd Brigade then appeared on the Union right, halting their advance, driving them back, and recapturing troops and supplies. 

In the fighting at Brentwood, the 6th Tennessee under Lieut. Col. Lewis, raided to within 3 miles of Nashville, within view of the capital building, and rode a half-circuit around Nashville. From Gen. Forrest's official after action report:
Before leaving Brentwood to attack the stockade, I ordered Col. Lewis, of the First [Sixth] Tennessee Cavalry, to dash down the pike with his command toward Nashville. He ran their pickets in at Brown's Creek, capturing some negroes and a Sutler's wagon within 3 miles of the city. He there turned to the left with his regiment, making a circuit around Nashville from the Franklin to the Charlotte pike. 
By the 27th, after leading the regiment rejoined its brigade at Spring Hill.

The victory at the Battle of Brentwood gave the Confederate forces temporary control of an important railroad depot outside Nashville.

Sources: That Devil Forrest, John Allan Wyeth; 6th Tennessee Cavalry (unpublished manuscript), John F. Walter; 6th (Wheeler's) Tennessee Cavalry Regiment; CWSAC Battle Summaries; Gen. Nathan B. Forrest's & Col. Lewis's after action reports; Official Records, Vol. 33, Pt. 1;

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