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, October 1, 2013

Wheeler's October Raid, 1863

Lt. Gen. Joseph Wheeler
With the Federal army encircled within Chattanooga, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg next strategic concern was to keep his enemy from being resupplied. On this date in 1863, Bragg's cavalry commander, Gen. Joseph Wheeler, led an expedition of 4,000 to hit the Federal supply lines to the besieged army. While my great grandfather, Nathan Oakes, was posted with Cleburne's infantry on Missionary Ridge, another ancestor, Great-Great Grandfather David Crockett Neal, was serving in the James H. Lewis's 6th Cavalry Regiment, which departed with Wheeler on his raid today.*

Wheeler's cavalry started out on October 1, on what turned out to be a long and destructive operation in the rear of the Federal army. Wheeler forded the river below Chattanooga and rode up the Sequatchie Valley. His first action was an encounter with a long train of 800 wagons and 4,000 mules. Burning the wagons and killing the mules, he pushed on to McMinnville, capturing it and destroying its supplies. Then his men fought a running, day-by-day battle with various Federal cavalry units on a wide raid that took them on to Murfreesboro and nearly to Nashville. Wheeler pushed his men down through Middle Tennessee as far as Pulaski. Finally, on October 8, they crossed the Tennessee River near Decatur.

The raid caused untold damage, but by now Wheeler's force was so disorganized and exhausted by the hard riding and fighting that it was some time before it could be reorganized and refitted for further service.

* In the Battle of Chickamauga, the 6th Tennessee was commanded by Lt. Col. James H. Lewis. It fought in Nathan B. Forrest's Cavalry Corps in Frank C. Armstrong's Division, in Armstrong's Brigade, which was commanded by Col. James T. Wheeler. On September 28, Forrest was ordered to turn over his forces to Gen. Wheeler, and the regiment was reassigned to the 2nd Brigade of John A. Wharton's First Division in Wheeler's Corps.

Sources: The 6th Tennessee Cavalry (unpublished manuscript), John F. Walter; The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn

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