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, August 2, 2013

32nd Mississippi Infantry's march to Blythe's Ferry

On today's date in 1863, division commander Gen. Cleburne learned that Federal troops from Col. R.H.G. Minty's First Brigade, Second Calvary Division, had been spotted on the right bank of the Tennessee at Bridgeport, 24 miles southwest of Chattanooga, near the mouth of the Hiwasse River. He at once dispatched Great Grandfather Oakes's 32nd Mississippi Regiment, which began its march on August 1 from Tyner's Station to guard the crossing at Blythe’s Ferry. The new position was 31 miles northeast of Chattanooga, where the Hiwassee enters the Tennessee River. The regiment arrived there about noon on the 4th, where it will remain on station here throughout the month.

In his account, Minty reported Lowrey's defensive position there: 
The river between here [Smith’s Cross-Roads] and Kingston is strongly guarded. At Blythe’s and Doughty’s Ferries intrenchments have been thrown up, but I think the guns have been removed within the last couple of days; the force at Blythe’s Ferry is the [32nd & 45th] Mississippi, under Colonel Lowrey.
Col. Minty notes again, that the 32nd & 45th Regiments are still in position at Blythe’s Ferry on the August 4th when the 5th Confederate arrives.

Probably unknown to most soldiers at time, Blythe (or Blythe's) Ferry, 25 years earlier, was the location where Cherokee Indians assembled and then moved across the river on a forced relocation march to Oklahoma. It was the infamous "Indian Removal Act of 1830" that rounded up the Cherokees and removed them from their ancestral lands in southeastern states. Their "Trail of Tears" crossed the river at this point. The ferry no longer exists, but the site is now part of the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, dedicated in 2005. It is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. Blythe Ferry was established by William Blythe and, ironically, his Cherokee wife, Nancy Fields, around 1809. Blythe sold the ferry in 1825.

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; 32nd Mississippi Regiment, Company D Return, July-August 1863; Official Records, Vol. 30, Pt. 3

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