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.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The first national military park

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
Silent Cannon at Chickamauga

After a hundred years
Nobody knows the place,—
Agony, that enacted there,
Motionless as peace. 
Weeds triumphant ranged,
Strangers strolled and spelled
At the lone orthography
Of the elder dead. 
Winds of summer fields
Recollect the way,—
Instinct picking up the key
Dropped by memory. 
Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)
In 1890, Congress authorized the establishment of the Chickamauga battlefield as a national military park, the first and largest in the nation. Officially dedicated in 1895 as the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, it owes its existence mainly to the efforts of 3 veteran Union generals of that famous battle in 1863: Henry Boynton, Ferdinand Van Deveer, and Henry Martyn Cist. President Benjamin Harrison, himself a Union vet who fought in Georgia, signed the bill establishing the park. On the 32nd anniversary of the battle of Chickamauga, September 19 & 20, 1895, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was formally dedicated. 

Established to commemorate the battle and preserve the area for study by military historians, the site includes more than 1,400 historical markers and monuments, many of which were placed by veterans of the campaign. Hundreds of these surviving soldiers on both sides of the conflict returned to the battlefield to locate their positions when a specific event occurred. Most of the monuments and historical markers were planned and placed there by participants of the battle. These were usually located where the soldiers did their most notable fighting. Today, the combined Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park encompasses 8,500 acres. It is the most extensive and sprawling of the many national military parks in the country.

Sadly, the words of Emily Dickinson's poignant verse are true of countless battlefields and cemeteries that have been lost to neglect and the march of time. However, thankfully the vast acreage that today comprises the Chickamauga Battlefield,* as well as Chattanooga, are well-preserved. And the agony enacted on those grounds is still recalled 150 years later.

Thanks to the Civil War Trust and countless financial donations, new acreage is being purchased and added to Civil War battlefields throughout the nation where the war was fought. Right now, the Trust is in the process of obtaining 109 additional acres of the Chickamauga Battlefield, the site around Reed's Bridge, where the opening movements of tis famous battle began. Donations may be made at the Civil War Trust website.

Sources: The Chickamauga Campaign, Patrick Abbazia; Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park website

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