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

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