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 29, 2013

Camp conditions in the 32nd Mississippi Infantry near Chattanooga

There was one enemy which both Northern and Southern soldiers fought in common: lice. It was simply one of the consequences of serving in the army. Most men would have enlisted without lice. However, it would not have taken long for them to acquire the insects. Unsanitary camp conditions and living in close contact with other soldiers practically ensured that everyone suffered with infestation at some time or another.

Sgt. Thomas Settle of Great Grandfather Oakes's Company D, 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, actually wrote home about it. Imagine a mother's reaction at receiving this note, an excerpt from a longer letter:*
Camp Near Chattanooga
Sept 29th 1863 
Dear mother as I have written to some of the rest and have time to write yet I feel it my duty to write you a few lines. I am still in good health and able to eat all the rations I can get. I have no news of much importance to write as I have written all the news I had in other letters.
Here Settle discusses news about family and friends, some interesting and some tragic. He then turns to his own personal condition.
Well mother I am in fine health. I weigh one hundred and forty pounds and am as gray headed as Pa was when I left Home liking a little. I am as Lousy as a hog, that is Body lice, and have got the itch the worst you ever saw. Now I know you are ready to say you Lazy Boy, I know you could do better than that. Well I will tell you the truth. Their is not a man in our Regt from the Colonel down but what is Lousy. I dont make no more of sitting down in a crowd and pulling of my shirt and picking the lice off of me than I would to sit down to a good meals victuals at Home. I have caught as many as 4 or & 6 at one time and the others more but we never write such things Home. I thought I would let you know something about it. 
Now I will have to close. Give my Love to all the family and except the same. And Believe me as ever your devoted son until death,
 Thos B. Settle

* I took some minor editing liberties with punctuation and formatting.

Source: "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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