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.

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

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