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, October 31, 2013

Reorganization of Bragg's army

In the reorganization of Bragg’s Army on this date in 1863, the 32nd/45th Mississippi Consolidated, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was serving, was temporarily commanded by Lieut. Col. R. Charlton. The regiment was in Brig. Gen. Mark P. Lowrey’s Brigade, in Cleburne’s Division, now in Cheatham’s Corps. Also in the Brigade were the 16th Alabama (Maj. Frederick A. Ashford), 33rd Alabama (Col. Samuel Adams), 45th Alabama (Lieut. Col. H. D. Lampley), and 15th Mississippi Battalion Sharpshooters (Capt. Daniel Coleman).

When William J. Hardee was recalled to the Army of Tennessee from his 3-month posting in Alabama, he was given command of Cheatham’s Corps, and Cheatham returned to command a division. Cleburne’s Division was then transferred to Hardee’s Corps. Hardee now has under his command the divisions of Cleburne, Cheatham, Stevenson, and Walker.

With Hardee’s return Bragg now believed he had a rationale for getting rid of his antagonist, James Longstreet.* At President Davis’s suggestion, Bragg, in early November, will send Longstreet to East Tennessee to confront a Federal army under Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside near Knoxville. Bragg even promises to send additional forces to Longstreet later. When Longstreet leaves on November 4th, he will take nearly a third of Bragg's force, leaving the army at Missionary Ridge with only 2 corps under Hardee and Breckinridge, and no more than 37,000 men.

By this same date, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, overall commander of the Federal army in the West, arrived in Chattanooga. A few days earlier, Gen. George "Rock of Chickamauga" Thomas had succeeded Rosecrans as commander of the besieged Army of the Cumberland. Gen. Joseph Hooker's men are arriving to reinforce Thomas, as soon will be 4 divisions commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman from Mississippi.

The timing for sending Longstreet away couldn't have been worse for Bragg's Army of Tennessee.

* Not surprisingly, Longstreet had his own opinion about what to do with Bragg. Following a meeting with some of Bragg's other lieutenants (Polk and Hill, both of whom Bragg fired), Longstreet wrote to Secretary of War Seddon, summing up his (and probably the other generals') concerns about the leadership of the Army of Tennessee: "... I am convinced that nothing but the hand of God can save us or help us as long as we have our present commander." Longstreet's remedy for the leadership crisis was to replace Bragg with Robert E. Lee. Of course, that idea went nowhere with the high command in Richmond.

Sources: Official Records, Vol. 31, Pt. 3; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; The Army of Tennessee, Stanly, F. Horn; General William H. Hardee: Old Reliable, Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr.

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