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.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tullahoma Campaign, Day 8 | Pat Cleburne's Division

Having recalled his troops from fortified positions to his headquarters at Tullahoma, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg concentrated his army behind defensive works around that town. Pressuring him was Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans, cautiously moving his army through mud and rain toward Bragg.

Indeed, the poor condition of the roads and the weather (it had been raining almost continuously for the past week) were significant hindrances to movement by both sides. While Rosecrans's also faced short supplies in his line back to Murfreesboro, Bragg was facing a quandary of his own, namely whether to continue to meet Rosecrans's advance or retreat further south. Bragg's rail line to Chattanooga was vulnerable, and he did not have sufficient cavalry to defend it. He was informed that he had only about 36 hours until the Union army would cut off any hope of retreat. Realizing that he could not hold Tullahoma, Bragg heeded his generals' advice and ordered a withdrawal. The Army of Tennessee will again retreat. Preparations were made to withdraw that night south of the Elk River. Pat Cleburne's Division, in which Great Grandfather Oakes is serving in Wood's Brigade, will cover the army's retreat, first holding the bridgehead over the river.

At this point, it is only just beginning to dawn on the troops in the brigade what is happening. Capt. Daniel Coleman of Wood's Brigade noted in his diary for this date:
Our Brig[ade] sent out to engage the enemy to hold him in check - Every indication of a battle - My company with another is sent out as skirmishers - We can hear the Cavalry videttes in front cracking away - We look every minute to engage them ourselves - we move forward short distances and halt - but no enemy appears - Night comes on - we assemble the skirmishers in groups of fours - one watches while three sleep - 9 o’clock at night - What does that constant rattling of weapons mean - Can it be that they are evacuating Tullahoma - surely not - It must be artillery moving over to the right - 12 m -

Order comes - assemble skirmishers & move towards Tullahoma - understand now the rattling of weapons - the retreat has begun - Oh God - and must we leave our homes and our loved ones to the mercy of the ruthless foe again and that too without an effort to prevent it -
Ironically, according to a member of Rosecrans's staff, at this point in the campaign, "it was the general belief that Bragg would not leave his entrenchment's at Tullahoma without a fight."

Sources: Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee, Michael R. Bradley; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Marty Cist; Huntsville Historical Review, Vol 26, No. 2. 1999: Transcription of Diary, Univ. North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Friday, June 28, 2013

Tullahoma Campaign, Days 6 & 7 | 32nd Mississippi Infantry

On today's date, a Monday in 1863, Gen. Braxton Bragg's forces were concentrating at Tullahoma, south of the Duck River. Here was Bragg's headquarters and the center of the Confederate fortification and supplies prepared over the past 6 months of waiting for Rosecrans's army.

Having now taken the strategic Hoover's Gap, Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans moved forward his headquarters from Hoover's Gap to Manchester. Maj. Gen. George Thomas earlier had sent 2 divisions towards Tullahoma, where they went into position along Crumpton's Creek. As they came into line, there were only scattered Confederates facing them across the creek on the opposing ridge. It seemed to Rosecrans that although his original plan for taking Bragg had to be scrapped, he was now faced with another opportunity to trap him.

Thomas had also sent Col. Wilder's "Lightning Brigade" ahead of the 2 divisions now marching toward Tullahoma. Wilder's was the same mounted infantry unit that earlier had taken Hoover's Gap with their repeater rifles. Wilder continued to make his way behind Bragg's army toward Decherd to tear up the railroad before Bragg could retreat toward Chattanooga. Swimming his horses across the river, while floating his artillery and ammunition on make-shift rafts, Wilder proceeded on to Decherd where he encountered a Confederate garrison of 80 troops guarding the railroad. After a sharp skirmish, Wilder pushed the Confederates back to a wooded ravine. He then tore up about 300 yards of track, cut Bragg's telegraph line to Chattanooga, and burnt the depot. The next morning, he moved on to tear up a branch rail line on Bragg's east, between Tracy City and Cowan, before moving back to Manchester. Amazingly, Wilder lost none of his men while wreaking this havoc behind Bragg's army.

The Federal action today caused Bragg to call a council of his generals to decide whether to make a stand at Tullahomha or retreat to Chattanooga. The decision was to make a stand there. Troops went to work immediately, throwing up defensive works.

Meanwhile, Thomas continued to move his XIV Corps towards Tullahoma. Behind him were Crittenden's 2 corps, now uniting Rosecrans's forces as they advanced on Bragg's army. Thomas was in a good position to pin Bragg in place while other Federal units outflanked him. There was some skirmishing between the the 2 armies, but little else was accomplished today.

Less significantly, but important to Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes, his 32nd Mississippi Regiment  is marching with the rest of Cleburne’s Division to the outskirts of Tullahoma, which they will reach on the 29th. By the time they will arrive, the troops will be completely worn out by the arduous trek through the rain and mud. The Division will have to to sleep in this condition in line of battle. Soon, Cleburne's weary men will have to cover Bragg's retreat.

Sources: Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee, Michael R. Bradley; The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaigns, Christopher L. Kolakowski; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tullahoma Campaign, Day 5 | Pat Cleburne's Division

While the fighting had been going on for 4 days in the right flank of the Army of Tennessee in what became the 1863 Tullahoma Campaign, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg was completely unaware of the main action at Hoover's and Liberty Gaps. His lack of information led him to conclude that the earlier fighting at Shelbyville was the major Union movement, so he continued to focus his attention on Lieut. Gen. Leonidas Polk's Corps in position there. Ultimately, his ignorance will lead to ordering his army's withdrawal from Tullahoma, leaving Middle Tennessee in the hands of his enemy, Gen. William S. Rosecrans.

On this date, Sunday, in 1863, Shelbyville is the center of fierce fighting.

Earlier on Wednesday, Rosecrans had deployed forces to feign an attack on Shelbyville, while massing his main force against Bragg's right at 2 key gaps in the Highland Rim: Hoover's and Liberty. Having successfully taken both of these gaps, Rosecrans now can focus on Gen. Leonidas Polk's position at Shelbyville. Faced with the loss of Hoover's Gap, Bragg ordered Polk's Corps to fall back to Tullahoma.

As Union forces were approaching Shelbyville, the Confederates were withdrawing. Outside of town Gen. Joseph Wheeler's Confederate cavalry held off the Union advance for a couple of hours, but then withdrew to a ring of defensive works around Shelbyville. There they attempted to make a stand, only to be forced back into town.

Wheeler next formed his men on the courthouse square. Using his 4 cannons to anchor his defense, his men faced the Yankee advance through the center of town. The battle was fought in the courthouse square, with Wheeler taking heavy losses in men and artillery. The Confederates made another stand outside of the village, but they were flanked by Federal units. Soldiers had it out with each other in hand-to-hand saber and clubbed rifle fighting, down to the muddy banks of the Duck River. Wheeler, himself, escaped by famously jumping his horse into the river and making for safety on the other side.

Nearby, Confederate Maj. Gen. Alexander Stewart, under orders from his corps commander, Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee, not to contest the Manchester Pike, had withdrawn his division from the Manchester front while Union forces penetrated to within 6 miles of that town. By this evening, Manchester will fall into Union hands, and Bragg's Duck River line will be essentially flanked.

At Bell Buckle Gap on this same day, near where the fighting took place at Liberty Gap, and northeast of Shelbyville, Great Grandfather Oakes in Wood's Brigade is waiting to withdraw. After 3 days of fighting to hold Bell Buckle and Liberty Gaps, Bragg orders Cleburne to withdraw his division to Tullahoma, which he did in the morning of today's date, without any loss of life. Capt. J.N. Scalley's Co. E covered the 32nd Regiment in its retreat through Liberty Gap. According to Scalley, it was a 2-day, 23-mile march to Tullahoma.

Cleburne writes in his report that his troops
. . . were much wearied by the watching and fighting in the front of the gaps, for it rained incessantly during most of that the time. The men had no changes of clothing, no tents, and could not even light fires to dry themselves. Many had no shoes, and others left their shoes buried in the deep mire of the roads.
By now Federals were aware of the fact that Bragg had abandoned his strong line of defence at Shelbyville, and the question remaining to be answered was whether he would accept battle at Tullahoma, or retire with his entire command across the Cumberland Mountains and the Tennessee River, fighting as he fell back.

Sources: Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee; Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee, 1862-1865, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaigns, Christopher L. Kolakowski; The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Muster Roll of Co. E; Official Records, Vol. 23, Pt. 1

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tullahoma Campaign, Day 4

Saturday, June 26, 1863, opened with more rain. Rivers and creeks had become torrents, and the mucky roads were nearly impassable.

Skirmishing continued near Liberty Gap, the sight of serious action on the 2 days previous, where Great Grandfather Oakes was stationed in Wood's Brigade. Twice during today's date, Union forces attempted to advance against Cleburne's Division at the gap, but neither attempt was successful. Although his ammunition had begun to run low, Cleburne's sharpshooters were able to keep up fire, picking off enemy cavalry with shots taken from the slopes 700 to 1,300 yards away. Overnight, Cleburne is ordered to withdraw his division to Tullahoma. He will continue to hold his position at Bell Buckle tomorrow only long enough to withdraw his men.

Monument to A.P. Stewart's Division
at Beech Grove Confederate Cemetery
At Hoover's Gap a few miles away, where Union forces were successful 2 days earlier, the fight became heated. At 10:00 AM, Union Gen. Rousseau's 3rd brigade advanced across a wheat field to pin down Gen. A.P. Stewart's Confederates there. Rousseau's 2 other brigades, plus Gen. John Brannon's 3rd division, swung around the Confederates's flank in order to cut them off from Fairfield. Outflanked, the Rebels retreated to their main line at Fairfield.

While the Yankees vigorously pursued, Stewart's men laid an ambush for them. About 2 miles from Hoover's Gap, Maj. Caswell's Georgia Sharpshooter Battalion charged and opened fire on the Federals. Their action slowed the Federal advance the rest of the day toward Fairfield, about 5 miles away.

Although the fighting had been going on for 4 days, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg was completely unaware of the action on his right flank at Hoover's and Liberty Gaps. In effect, he had lost command and control of the entire right wing of his army under Gen. Hardee. The lack of information led Bragg to conclude that the fighting he saw at Shelbyville was the major Union movement, so he continued to focus his attention on Polk's Corps there. His ignorance will lead to failure at Tullahoma.

The loss of Hoover's Gap will soon lead to the loss of Middle Tennessee, setting the stage for the Atlanta Campaign and Sherman's March to the Sea a year later. It was also the beginning of the end of 2 military careers–Bragg's and Rosecrans's. Although overshadowed by the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, fought during the same time period, the importance and impact of Bragg's loss of Middle Tennessee cannot be denied.


Apparently, there is little to commemorate the battle that took place at Hoover's Gap. The Beech Grove Cemetery and Park, located between Interstate 24 and U.S. 41, is dedicated to those soldiers who fell at Hoover's Gap and Beech Grove. It also holds the remains of 50 unknown Confederate soldiers who were killed at the Battle of Hoover's Gap. After the war, former Confederate soldiers returned to the area to gather the remains of their fallen comrades who had been killed and buried in various locations around the area and rebury them in one place. A monument was erected there to remember all Confederates killed in the fighting at Hoover's Gap.

Source: Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee, Michael R. Bradley

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tullahoma Campaign, Day 3 | Pat Cleburne's Division

Friday, the third day of the 1863 Tulla-homa campaign, opened on a wet but mostly quiet field of operation. It had rained almost continuously over-night. There was a little cavalry action. Union cavalry rode to the Shelbyville Pike and encountered a force of Con-federate cavalry under Gen. John A. Wharton, plus one of Gen. Polk's brigade, and a battery. The Rebels forced the Federals back to Christiana. Also, some dueling between the opposing artillery took place at Hoover's Gap, the site of yesterday's loss for the Confederates. However, the action did not substantially alter the positions of either rival force.

Most of the important action, and certainly the the severest fighting on today's date was at Liberty Gap, one of several gaps in the Highland Rim that Union Gen. Rosecrans needed to seize in order to defeat Gen. Bragg or to drive him from Middle Tennessee.

Brig. Gen. St. John Liddell’s Brigade of Arkansaians defended against the enemy's advance, elements of Brig. Gen. Alexander McCook's corps. While the Rebels put up a furious defense in pouring rain, Gen. Patrick Cleburne was compelled to order his outnumbered and outflanked Confederates to withdraw out of the pass, across the Wartrace Creek to the next line of hills about a mile in his rear. There they took up a defense on the ridges where they held their ground against the Federals.

Hills marking the entrance to Liberty Gap, now State Route 269
Source: TCWPA
Following yesterday's action at Liberty Gap, Cleburne ordered Wood's Brigadein which my great grandfather served in Lowrey's 32nd Mississippi Regimentto reinforce Liddell. However, in the narrow gap there was not enough room to deploy both units. So Liddell positioned Wood's men behind his brigade as backup.

Although McCook's corps was avail-able in force, he had orders not to attack unless there was a Confederate collapse. Liberty Gap was to be a feint supporting what yesterday had be-come the main Federal thrust at Hoover's Gap.

Between the 2 opposing forces in Liberty Gap was an open field, which varied in length from 500 to 2,000 yards. To the west of Bell Buckle Road, as Liberty Pike was called after passing the gap, was a slight hill in the middle of the open field. To the east, Wartrace Creek flowed along the foot of the hills occupied by the Confederates, creating a bluff a few feet in height and adding to the strength of the position.

The fields of Liddell's counterattack
Source: TCWPA
The Confederates made several attacks in the cornfield throughout the morning and into the afternoon. Each was repulsed. About 3:00 PM, the Confederates made another advance, which lasted for more than an hour, until the Confederates fell back to their original position.

It was now the Federals turn to attack. They advanced across the cornfield, slowed by mud to their ankles. Confederate sharpshooters picked off many of the advancing troops. Three times the Federals surged across the field and were driven back by Col. Daniel Govan's men. In a fourth attack, Liddell's men, supporting Govan, held their position against the Federal advance. However, by now, darkness was falling, along with more rain. Both sides settled into position for another uncomfortable night on the muddy fields and slopes of Liberty Gap.

Marker at Willow Mount Cemetery in Shelbyville, TN
to Commemorate the fallen from Cleburne's Division
Source: HIghwayman64

Sources:  Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee, Michael R. Bradley; Official Records, Vol. 23, Pt. 1

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tullahoma Campaign, Day 2 | Pat Cleburne's Division

Two important Middle Tennessee battles were fought between Braxton Bragg's and William Rosecrans's armies on this Thursday in 1863, the second day of fighting in the Tullahoma Campaign. These key battles were fought in a range of foothills, almost mountainous in height, through which passed roads connecting Murfreesboro to Tullahoma. The main action will take place at Hoover's and Liberty Gaps. It will be through these gaps in the Cumberland Rim that Rosecrans's will strike General William Hardee's Corps, the right wing of the Army of Tennessee.

Early in the morning, Union Gen. Rosecrans began moving his infantry, commanded by Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden, south through the community of Pocahontas1 to attack Manchester from the north. The plan called for Crittenden to swing his corps wide around Bragg's flank near the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad bridge over the Elk River. Gen. George Thomas was ordered to support Crittenden by moving his corps along the Manchester Pike and attracting all the attention he could at Hoover's Gap. Once Crittenden was behind the Confederate flank, Thomas was to shift to his left and join Crittenden.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Alexander McCook was to provide a diversion for Crittenden's movement by attacking Liberty Gap with his division. As soon as Thomas left Hoover's Gap, McCook was to follow him out of Liberty Gap. To complete the move, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger would lead the Reserve Corps down the Shelbyville Pike, toward Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk's Corps, to attract additional attention toward the area of Maj. Gen. David S. Stanley's all-day cavalry skirmish around Unionville. Granger was to build campfires to give the impression of a large infantry advance in that direction. His ruse succeeded in holding Polk at Shelbyville for 2 days.

About noon, Brig. Gen. Robert Mitchell was ordered to attack the Confederates at Middleton with his cavalry division and then to await support. Accordingly, Mitchell pulled back to Eagleville and turned east to attack Middleton. However, Mitchell came under attack by Confederates posted about a mile west of town, including 3 Confederate cavalry units, which forced him to fall back. Col. Robert Minty's cavalry brigade joined Mitchell's division, and the Federals pulled back northeast to Christiana on the main road from Murfreesboro to Shelbyville. So much for the Federal cavalry action on this date.

Earlier that morning, Gen. Crittenden's infantry corps was making the main advance, moving from Cripple Creek and Readyville, toward Bradyville. At Gilly's Hill his leading division, Brig. Gen. John Palmer's, fought a skirmish with the Confederates. At this point Crittenden's infantry advance became bogged down in the mud, and Rosecran's plan to take Manchester had to be modified.

McCook directed his corps down the the Liberty Pike towards Liberty Gap, where an important 3-day battle would be fought. Liberty Gap was one of several gaps in the Highland Rim, and it was of strategic importance to Rosecrans for either defeating Bragg or driving him from Middle Tennessee. A road through the gap, Liberty Pike, connected the railroad communities of Christiana and Bell Buckle, and extended through the Liberty Gap.

As McCook's troops neared the gap, reaching a hill known as "The Knob," Confederate soldiers opened fire. From there until they reached the village of Christiana, the Union infantry had to contend with Confederate cavalry and artillery. A portion of Crittenden's Corps, R.W. Johnson's Division, passed through Christiana and on towards Liberty Gap. Waiting for them was part of a division of Confederate infantry, some of the most tenacious fighters in the Army of Tennessee, commanded by its best combat leader, Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne. In Cleburne's division, was Great Grandfather Oakes's regiment, the 32nd Mississippi Infantry, although at this moment it was on duty at nearby Bell Buckle Gap, 3.5 miles south.

Two Arkansas regiments of Brig. Gen. St. John R. Liddell’s Brigade of Cleburne's Division defended Liberty Gap from its northern slopes. The Arkansaians briefly halted Johnson's advance. His division pressed through the gap taking positions around the Clark house and Liberty Church.

Brig. Gen. St. John R. Liddell
Source: Wikipedia
Confederate Gen. William Hardee, whose corps formed the entire right flank of the Army of Tennessee, was alarmed at the Union's capture of the gap. He ordered Cleburne to send the rest of Liddell’s Brigade to the gap to push back the Union force. While they put up a furious defense in pouring rain, the outnumbered Confederates soon faced a flanking threat by the enemy.

Cleburne, who by now was on the scene, personally ordered a withdrawal across the Wartrace Creek to the next line of hills about a mile back, where the rest of Liddell's men were waiting. Behind them, almost all the way to Bell Buckle, was a series of defensive ridges and narrow valleys. There the Confederates held their ground against the Union advance. Unfortunately, Cleburne's attempts to win back the gap throughout the next day were unsuccessful. Brig. Gen. S.A.M. Wood's Brigade, in which Great Grandfather Oakes was serving, provided protection for the Confederates as they fell back to Bell Buckle.

By the conclusion of the fighting, Liddell's troop losses were high. In his detailed after-action account he reported 120 casualties from the battle, 25 of whom died in the fighting at Liberty Gap. Others would die later as a result of wounds received here.

Marker at Willow Mount Cemetery in Shelbyville, Tenn
Source: Genealogy Junkie

Col. John T. Wilder, USA
The critical battle of the campaign fought on today's date, was fought nearby at Hoover's Gap, 11 miles south of Murfreesboro. Hoover's Gap was part of Rosecrans's strategy to take Bragg's right flank. Union Col. John Wilder's "Lightning Brigade" of mounted infantry pushed about 9 miles ahead of Thomas's main force on its way to Hoover's Gap. Wilder's men were armed with new Spencer repeating rifles, and when they attacked Col. J. Russell Butler's 1st (3rd) Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, they easily pushed it aside. As Butler's Regiment fell back the 7-mile length of Hoover's Gap, it ran into Brig. Gen. William Bate's Brigade of Maj. Gen. A. P. Stewart's Division. Wilder entrenched on the hills south of the gap and determined to hold his extremely advanced position. Bate's Brigade counterattacked throughout the day but could not dislodge the Federals. Wilder received orders from Thomas to fall back through the gap, which order he refused, claiming he could still hold his ground. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Bushrod Johnson's Brigade arrived, and the combined brigades attacked Wilder. However, with the deadly firepower of Wilder's Spenser repeating rifles2 (a 7-round magazine to the 1-round Confederate rifle), his men repelled a superior Confederate force. By 7:00 PM, additional units from Thomas's corps arrived to support Wilder at the gap. By nightfall, it was clear that Hoover's Gap was lost, although fighting there will continue until the 26th, when the Confederates will pull out.

The loss of Hoover's and Liberty Gaps will bring on the collapse of the Confederate army's right flank. It will lead to Gen. Braxton Bragg's decision to withdraw his entire army south of the Duck River.

1 Pocahontas was the birthplace of my great grandfather, Nathan R. Oakes, who was at this moment stationed near Liberty Gap. The Oakes family migrated south to Kossuth, Mississippi, where as a 16-year old, Great Grandfather Oakes enlisted in Co. D. of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, under Col. Mark. P. Lowrey. His uncle, Capt. F.S. Norman, commanded his company of volunteers. Serving alongside him was his future brother-in-law, William D. Turner.
2 Hoover's Gap was the first use in battle of the repeating rifle. It may be that this first encounter with Wilder's Spensers was the beginning of the expression within the Confederate army, that the “Yankees could load on Sunday and shoot all the rest of the week.” Col. Wilder and his "Lightning Brigade" will return to fame later in the fall in decisive actions on the Chickamauga battlefield, for which Wilder will be promoted to brigadier general.

Sources: Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee, Michael R. Bradley; The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee, 1862-1865, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Official Records, Vol. 23, Pt. 1; CWSAC Battle Summaries

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Tullahoma Campaign begins, 1863

On today's date, Wednesday, in 1863, Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans finally begins his attack on the Confederate forces under Gen. Braxton Bragg, whose headquarters is in Tullahoma, Tennessee. It was a cool and dry day for June in this part of Tennessee, one of the last in a short campaign that will be fought in nearly constant rain and mud.

Rosecrans had an elaborate plan. While Bragg's attention was focused on what he expected to be the main attack on his strongly defended poison at Shelbyville, Rosecrans would attack Bragg's right flank at Hoover's and Liberty Gaps, which were defended by Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee's Corps.

Leading the Union cavalry on a demonstration toward Shelbyville, Maj. Gen. David S. Stanley advanced a strong force from Triune down the Lewisburg Pike. His troops were first to encounter Confederate resistance. Outside of Eagleville the Federals ran up against units from Wheeler's cavalry. In the fighting, the Confederates fell back from hill to hill, making the Federal advance difficult. The fight eventually reached the village of Rover, where Union troops took the abandoned Rebel post. The Federal force then pushed on near to Unionville, where it ran up against the main line of the infantry corps of Gen. Leonidas Polk.

The Confederates mounted a flank attack, but night put an end to the first day of fighting. Overnight, Gen. Stanley pulled his force back to Rover. Although Rosecrans had made no significant gains on this first day of his Tullahoma Campaign, he had accomplished his feint of diverting Bragg's attention to the west, away from his main objective to attack Hardee's force in the east against the Confederate army's right flank.

Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jesperson

Sources: Tullahoma: The Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee, Michael R. Bradley; The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The eve of the Tullahoma Campaign, 1863

On the eve of the fighting known as the 9-day Tullahoma Campaign, Union Gen. William S. Roscrans’s army was 60,000 strong. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg had an army whose effective strength was about 43,000 troops, of whom about 14,000 were cavalry.

The 2 opposing armies were separated by a range of foothills, almost mountainous in height. Through these hills ran roads that connected Murfreesboro (where Rosecrans's army was headquartered) and Tullamoma (where Bragg's army was centered). The roads crossed these hills in 3 steep gorges:  Hoover's, Guy's, and Liberty Gaps. These gaps in the mountains soon will become strategic points in the imminent conflict. It will be through Hoover's and Liberty Gaps that Rosecrans's main force will strike the right and rear of Hardee's Corps in which Great Grandfather Oakes was serving.

To the east of Bell Buckle (Railroad Gap), the range of hills terminates a little beyond Hoover’s Gap. The narrow road through Hoover’s Gap continued narrow and winding to Manchester, 20 miles southeast. West of Bell Buckle, that chain of hills begins to level off north of Shelbyville and terminates a short distance northwest of town. 

In view of the favorable terrain and wide turnpikes between Murfreesboro and Shelbyville, Bragg expected Rosecrans to advance toward Shelbyville, or at least he hoped to draw him there. Bragg arranged his troops accordingly. The larger part of his army, 3 of Gen. Leonidas Polk’s corps, remained at Shelbyville. Gen. Wheeler moved his cavalry division to Shelbyville where he heard heavy Federal strength had been reported, leaving the right wing almost without cavalry cover. Cleburne’s Division of Hardee’s Corps, in which my great grandfather's 32nd Mississippi Regiment served, held Wartrace on the railroad, as well as Bell Buckle and Liberty Gaps. Gen. Stewart’s troops were placed along a stretch of several miles from the south end of Hoover’s Gap past the village of Fairfield (5 miles northeast of Wartrace). Bragg hoped to attack Rosecrans’s flank as he passed through Hoover’s Gap.

Rosecrans's strategy was to advance simultaneously toward Shelbyville, Liberty Gap, and Hoover’s Gap. The advance against Shelbyville was to be a feint, and Liberty Gap was merely to be seized and held. The main body of the Federal army would move through Hoover’s Gap, with one corps going around the eastern end of the range of hills. From Hoover’s Gap they would push on to Manchester, where all of Rosecrans’s forces would be consolidated.

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell ad Elizabeth Purdue; The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee, 1862-1865, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaigns, Christopher L. Kolakowski

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Morgan's Raid, 1863

Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan
On today's date in 1863, Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan and 2,400 mounted Confederates and 2 pieces of artillery, set off on a raid that would take them into Indiana and Ohio. For 46 days they rode over 1,000 miles and covered a region from Tennessee to Northern Ohio.

Ostensibly, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's plan was for the "Great Raid" to draw the Federal army's attention away from his Army of Tennessee, which was fortified in Tullahoma. However, Morgan had bigger plans. He wanted to strike terror in Northern states by rampaging through the enemy homeland.*

Source: Touring Ohio
The raid did bring terror on the Northern civilian population. However, it actually had little military importance. Before the end of July, Morgan and almost all his men were captured in northeastern Ohio and placed in various state penitentiaries. Morgan managed to escape in late November. Then, taking a train to Cincinnati, he crossed the Ohio River, and made his way back to the Confederacy. In less than a year, Gen. Morgan will be killed in Tennessee by Union cavalry.

Ironically, at the very time Union Gen. Rosecrans was moving his force to attack Gen. Braxton Bragg's positionwhen Bragg could have most used the additional cavalry supportMorgan was crossing the Cumberland River and making his way for Ohio.

"Morgan's Ohio Raid" by Mort Kunstler pictures Morgan and his Raiders
entering the town of Montgomery, Ohio. I've driven past  the Universalist
Church (pictured) on Montgomery and Remington Roads many times. The
building, with its unique brick columns, looks today much as it did when
Gen. John Hunt Morgan raided through the town on July 14, 1863.

* Raiding through Clermont County on July 14, 1863, Morgan's Raiders stormed down the Branch Hill-Guinea Pike, which fronted the subdivision where we once owned a home. In fact, we lived on a road named (apparently) for Lieut. Thomas Paxton, who with his Loveland militiamen, tried to stop the Raiders from burning a derailed train and tearing up the track. One of the Rebels was shot and died at the village of Ward's Corner, now a tiny shopping center, just down the street from where we lived. One of my sons' summer jobs was working at the UDF convenience store on the corner there. He scooped some really great ice cream that summer!

Source: The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Jacob Dolson Cox; The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Clermont County Historical Society

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Rosecrans makes up his mind

On today's date in 1863, Union General William S. Rosecrans polls his senior commanders about whether to move on the Confederate force under Gen. Braxton Bragg, headquartered at Tullahoma, Tennessee. While the consensus was to take a wait-and-see approach, depending on the outcome of Union General Grant's siege of Vicksburg, Rosecrans's chief of staff (and future US president), James A. Garfield, urged immediate action. Feeling the pressure of the Union's War Department, Rosecrans makes up his mind and concurs with Garfield. By the time he makes his move on June 23, Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland had been static for 169 days. He will make a massive feint towards Bragg's left, while striking with his own left toward Manchester, and beyond, at the road and rail bridges over the Elk River. Some of the first Confederate troops to receive Rosecrans's attack in a few days will be Great Grandfather Oakes's comrades in Cleburne's Division, stationed between Liberty Gap and Bell Buckle.

Rosecrans's delay has frustrated more than just his own high command. On the other side of the battle lines, common Confederate soldiers were also left guessing. One of Great Grandfather Oakes's comrades in Co. D of the 32nd Regiment, Thomas Settle, wrote home (dated 4/4/63): 
We have very little that is worth sharing here to send in a letter to you as camps here are just like ever other place filled with rumors & very few that are correct. I am completely at a loss to know when how or which way we will move from here. I made a guess when we were here only a few days that we would stay here until the last of May. I am now a little inclined to think the same thing. Rosen Crans [sic] may advance on us but I don't think he will. We are fortified here but not very strongly...

Sources: Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee, Michael R. Bradley; "Settle Letters," a transcription of which was generously shared with me by descendant Raymond Settle. Many of these letters are now available on the Fanin County TxGen Website. The original letters are part of the Settle Family Collection, 1860-1864, in the University of Mississippi Department of Archives and Special Collections.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cleburne's force on reconnaissance

In early June, Confederate General Braxton Bragg became concerned that his Union counterpart, Gen. Rosecrans, might be preparing to advance south in Tennessee or sending a portion of his army to Grant in Mississippi to add pressure to the beleaguered Confederate forces at Vicksburg.

On today's date in 1863, Bragg ordered a reconnaissance toward Murfreesboro by Hardee’s Corps to determine the enemy’s intention. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, in whose division my great grandfather, Nathan Oakes served, moved 2 columns over a narrow muddy road in hard rain, through the 4-mile length of Hoover’s Gap, to within 4 miles of Murfreesboro. The gap was guarded by a regiment from Gen. John A. Wharton's Calvary Division, in which Great-Great Grandfather David C. Neal was serving. Cleburne's men drove in Federal pickets, had light skirmishes with the enemy, then returned to Wartrace the next day.

Source: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell and Elizabeth Purdue; Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee, 1862-1865, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Huntsville Historical Review, Vol 26, No. 2. 1999: Transcription of Capt. Daniel Coleman Diary, Univ. North Carolina at Chapel Hill