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

Victory and vacillation

Initially, Bragg was unable to believe that the Confederates had won the Battle of Chickamauga on yesterday's date in 1863. It caused him to delay following up on his victory, which could have meant the complete destruction of Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland. The opportunity for overwhelming victory was allowed to pass. His enemy is defeated, but it is not yet vanquished.

On the morning after his victory, Bragg’s generals awaited orders to pursue Rosecrans while his army was defeated and demoralized, and before it could fortify its position in Chattanooga. Even later in the day when he realized that a complete victory had been achieved, Bragg failed to press forward rapidly. By vacillation and indecision he wasted a great opportunity purchased at a tremendous price in killed and wounded.

Instead, Bragg moved up his battered army to the heights overlooking Chattanooga and the Tennessee River. From this position he hoped to dominate Rosecrans's supply lines. His hoped his siege of the city would either force the Union into retreat or, weakening it, would thereby more easily defeat it in another battle. From the high ground on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, Bragg hoped to take Chattanooga without much of a fight.

On today's date, a Monday in 1863, Cleburne’s Division got a welcome day’s rest, cooking newly issued rations in the morning. Then in the afternoon, the men conducted the task of gathering up abandoned arms and ordnance as well as adding up the casualties. Of the 5,115 men in the division, a total of 1,743 were officially listed as killed or wounded, and 6 were missing. In Lowrey's Regiment, in which my great grandfather served, 25 were killed and 141 were wounded. Maj. F.C. Karr, one of the regiments's founding officers, was also killed.

Late in the afternoon, Cleburne received orders to march his division toward Chattanooga. They covered half the distance before nightfall, bivouacking at Red House Ford, which crossed the Chickamauga 5 miles east of Rossville. By 7 AM on the 22nd, the division will be marching again, arriving at the base of Missionary Ridge in the afternoon.

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds

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