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.

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.

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