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, September 22, 2013

Bragg's triumph

Confederate General Braxton Bragg was slow to admit his army's victory at the Battle of Chickamauga. But finally, on today's date in 1863, he issued the following victory message to his troops:

Field of Chickamauga, September 22, 1864. 
It has pleased Almighty God to reward the valor and endurance of our troops by giving to our arms a complete victory over the enemy's superior numbers. Homage is due and is rendered unto Him who giveth not the battle to the strong. 
Soldiers, after two days of severe battle, preceded by heavy and important outpost affairs, you have stormed the barricades and breastworks of the enemy, and driven before you in confusion and disorder an army largely superior in numbers, and whose constant theme was your demoralization and whose constant boast was your defeat. Your patient endurance under privations, your fortitude and your valor, displayed at all times and under all trials, have been meetly rewarded. Your commander acknowledges his obligations, and promises to you in advance the country's gratitude. But your task is not ended. We must drop a soldier's tear upon the graves of the noble men who have fallen by our sides and move forward. Much has been accomplished. More remains to be done before we can enjoy the blessings of peace and freedom.
By 7 AM on today's date, Cleburne's Division, my great grandfather's, completed a 2-day march, arriving in the afternoon on the crest and eastern slope of Missionary Ridge, overlooking Chattanooga. Cleburne then sent units in front of Chattanooga at the foot of the ridge, to establish a line of battle.

By the time Cleburne's men arrived, the Federals were fortifying the city, and not, as Bragg had expected, evacuating it. Rather than pushing his men forward in an attack on Rosecrans, Bragg soon will determine that he has no alternative now but to settle down to a siege and starve the Federals into surrender.

Bragg will establish an extensive 6-mile line of rifle pits along the western side of Missionary Ridge, then west across the valley south of Chickamauga, and on to the western slope of Lookout Mountain. Most of the army will be stationed at Missionary Ridge.

There won't be much fighting over the next 2 months. During this period, Cleburne’s Division will remain in its position 3 miles from the north end of the Confederate line. In the course of the ensuing weeks, the troops will undergo severe hardships, including exposure to rain and cold, because of the shortage of tents, blankets, and shoes.

On the other side of the battle line, by today's date in 1863, Rosecrans had withdrawn his temporary outer defensive lines to a 3/4-mile semicircle around the perimeter of Chattanooga. At its deepest point the defenses extended more than 2 miles inland from the Tennessee River. Rosecrans is preparing to defend against a frontal attack.

Sources: Official Records, Vol 30, Pts. 2 & 4; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Mountains Touched With Fire, Wiley Sword; Huntsville Historical Review, Vol 26, No. 2. 1999: Transcription of Capt. Daniel Coleman Diary, Univ. North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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