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.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Battles of Brown's Ferry and Wauhatchie Station, 1863

The Battles of Brown Ferry and Wauhatchie Station* were fought between October 27-29, 1863, between forces of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, whose army is on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, and Union Gen. George Thomas in Chattanooga.

In an effort to relieve Union forces besieged in Chattanooga, Generals Thomas and Grant ordered the “Cracker Line Operation” on October 26, a plan first devised by Rosecrans to open a supply line to Chattanooga from Brown’s Ferry on the Tennessee River. Brown's Ferry was an ideal position from which to control a road through Lookout Valley after a pontoon bridge could be built to replace the ferry. The plan called for a simultaneous advance up Lookout Valley, securing the Kelley’s Ferry Road. 

At 3 AM on today's date in 1863, a Federal brigade under William B. Hazen floated in the fog on pontoons around Tennessee River's Moccasin Bend to Brown’s Ferry. Another brigade took a position on Moccasin Bend across from Brown’s Ferry. There the Federals secured the bridgehead, then assembled the pontoon bridge across the river, crossed, and took position on the other side. Within 20 minutes they succeeded in taking Brown's Ferry in spite of fire from Rebel troops, as well as cannon fire from the Confederates on Lookout Mountain.

Then on the 28th, another Federal force under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker marched through Lookout Valley and took up a position at Wauhatchie Station, a stop on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, to protect the line of communications to the south, as well as the road west to Kelley’s Ferry.

Observing the Federal movements on the 27th & 28th, Confederate Generals James Longstreet and Braxton Bragg decided on a rare nighttime attack on the Federals at Wauhatchie Station. Although the attack was scheduled for 10 PM on the night of October 28, confusion delayed it till midnight. While surprised by the attack, the Federals at Wauhatchie nevertheless held their position. Hearing the battle from Brown’s Ferry, Hooker sent 2 divisions to Wauhatchie Station as reinforcements. As Union troops arrived, the Confederates were forced to fall back to Lookout Mountain. The Union suffered 78 killed, 327 wounded, and 15 missing, while the Confederates lost 34 killed, 305 wounded, and 69 missing.

The results from these 2 actions meant that the Federals now had their connection outside Chattanooga. Next, they pushed rapidly forward with constructing the road from Brown's to Kelley's Ferry, which they finished by the 1st of November, thus controlling Lookout Valley. Supplies could now be hauled from Kelly's Ferry and Wauhatchie to Chattanooga. The siege being lifted, the Union army now could receive supplies, weapons, ammunition, and reinforcements via the Cracker Line.

While Bragg's hope of starving the Federals out of Chattanooga has ended, he yet had to contend with extreme shortages in his own starving army. Bragg still had not repaired his rail line to bring supplies from Atlanta. And now, he has lost control of a vital segment of the Tennessee River and valley. The initiative has definitely shifted in favor of Thomas's army.

* To see a 360-degree presentation of the Wauhatchie Station and the Chattanooga battlefield, visit the Civil War Trust Website, Chattanooga 360.

Sources: The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Jacob Dolson Cox; The Shipwreck of Their Hopes, Peter Cozzens; Mountains Touched With Fire,Wiley Sword; CWSAC Batlte Summaries

No comments:

Post a Comment