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.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Longstreet is ordered to reinforce Bragg

While Confederate General Braxton Bragg is moving his army south of Chattanooga to find the enemy, he is unaware that Richmond has finally decided to send reinforcements from Robert E. Lee's army in Virginia. On today's date in 1863, Lee and President Davis agree to send 2 divisions under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet to Tennessee/North Georgia where Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes is serving in the 32nd Mississippi Infantry.

The direct rail line through Knoxville had just been broken with the fall of that city to Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside on September 3. Longstreet's rail movement would now have to take a much longer and indirect route through the Carolinas and Georgia, then north to Bragg's army. Longstreet's force of John Bell Hood's and Lafayette McLaws's divisions, along with Col. Edward Porter Alexander's 26-gun artillery battery, will begin their trip on September 9. Lead elements will begin arriving on September 17th, just in time for the Battle of Chickamauga.

Born in South Carolina in 1821, James Longstreet became one of the most successful generals in the Confederate army. After  "Stonewall" Jackson, he is considered the most effective corps commander in Lee's army. Longstreet was certainly one of Lee's most trusted subordinates, and Lee affectionately referred to him as his "Old War Horse."

Longstreet grew up in Georgia and graduated from West Point in 1842. He was a close friend of Ulysses S. Grant, and in 1848, he attended Grant's wedding. Longstreet served in the U.S. army in the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec. At the outbreak of the War Between the States, he resigned his commission as major and soon was named brigadier general in the Confederate army.

Longstreet fought at the First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, in July 1861, and within a year was commanding his own corps in Robert E. Lee's army. In 1862, he led his corps in the Peninsula Campaign in June-July, Second Bull Run in August, and at Fredericksburg in December. In July 1863, he led  his corps at the Battle of Gettysburg. In September, he fought at Chickamauga, and then was moved to the Knoxville Campaign later that year. Back with Lee in May 1864, he helped save the army in Battle of the Wilderness. However, he was severely wounded and missed much of the rest of the year while he recuperated. Rejoining the army in October at Petersburg, Longstreet fought with Lee until the surrender at Appomattox Court House, in April 1865.

After the war, Longstreet worked in a number of businesses, and he held several governmental posts, including U.S. Marshall and U.S. Ambassador to Turkey. However, he also became the center of some Southern controversy. Several Southern leaders thought Longstreet had stained his reputation by joining the despised Republican Party and endorsing Grant for president in 1868. It didn't help matters that Longstreet had also openly questioned Lee's strategy at the Battle of Gettysburg. His fellow officers, particularly Jubal Early, John Gordon, and William Nelson Pendleton, considered Longstreet's assertions indefensible and even traitorous. Turning the tables, they alleged that it was actually Longstreet who was responsible for the errors that lost Gettysburg. In spite of his tarnished reputation, Longstreet did maintain warm relationships with many veterans' groups, including many who had fought with him and against him.

Longstreet outlived most of his comrades and critics before dying on January 2, 1904, at age 82. He is buried in the Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville, Georgia.

Sources: This Terrible Sound, Peter Cozzens; Civil War Trust

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