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.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cleburne's Division moves into position at Chickamauga

Having failed in earlier attempts to destroy Rosecrans's army piece by piece, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg abandons that strategy for another one to force his opponent into a fight. He will take the offensive and try to draw Rosecrans into battle by moving back toward Chattanooga. Bragg will throw out his divisions along the east side of the Chickamauga, with his right at Reed's Bridge, 4 1/4 miles northeast of his left at Lee & Gordon's Mills.

Rosecrans, meanwhile, has come to the realization that rather than retreating, Bragg has turned on him while his Federal forces are still divided. Bragg's movements, including his attempt to trap the Federal force at Davis's Crossroads on September 10-11, has convinced the Union general that he had better unite his forces or risk defeat. He, therefore, hastened to concentrate his 3 corps. By the 16th, leading elements of McCook's corps joined Thomas's in McLemore's Cove.

On today's date in 1863, the corps of Union Generals Thomas and McCook west of Pigeon Mountain are both marching northward toward Lee & Gordon’s Mills. Confederate Gen. Cleburne's Division of Hill's Corps, east of the same mountain, is also ordered to march northward toward Lee & Gordon’s. Many historians believe that if Bragg had been ready for a general attack today, it would undoubtedly been successful as the Federal army was not then in a position to prevent the Confederate army from taking possession of the Lafayette road, the route to Chattanooga. So Bragg will order an attack for tomorrow. However, delays will prevent him from carrying it out as scheduled.

At daylight tomorrow, Cleburne’s Division, including Great Grandfather's brigade, will march to Dr. Anderson house, 4 miles southeast of Lee & Gordon’s Mills and form its line of battle as the left flank of the Confederate army. At this point they are now opposite the left wing of Rosecrans's army.* Bragg plans to make a strong demonstration at Lee & Gordon's to draw Rosecrans's attention away from the Confederate force crossing at bridges to the north in order to cut off the Federals from Chattanooga. Contrary to both commanding generals' information, the 2 forces are not opposite each other. Rather, most of Rosecrans's line is far north of Bragg's.

* Cleburne's Division will remain there until it is shifted north to meet the enemy on the late afternoon of the 19th.

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; This Terrible Sound, Peter Cozzens; Civil War Times, 1861-1865, Daniel Wait Howe; Official Records, Vol. 30, Part 2;  Huntsville Historical Review, Vol 26, No. 2. 1999: Transcription of Capt. Daniel Coleman Diary, Univ. North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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