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, November 23, 2013

Hurry up and wait: Cleburne's Division in transit

Early on today's date in 1863, Patrick Cleburne's Division, in which Great Grandfather Oakes served in Lowrey's Brigade, had been ordered away from Missionary Ridge to march to the Chickamauga rail station. There they were to be taken by train, along with Buckner's Division, to Loudon, Tennessee, to join up with Gen. James Longstreet in his Knoxville Campaign. However, while supervising the transfer of troops at the station, Cleburne received an urgent telegram from Bragg: "We are heavily engaged. Move up rapidly to these headquarters."* Federal Maj. Gen. George Thomas had begun his attack on Orchard Knob in front of Bragg's headquarters above on Missionary Ridge, and Sherman was not far behind.

Arriving at Bragg's headquarters ahead of his division, Cleburne could plainly see that the Federals in Chattanooga had advanced across the open plain and chased the Rebel skirmishers from Orchard Knob. Bragg assumed that despite the daunting heights of Missionary Ridge, the Federals were about to assault his lines (He'll have reason for concern soon enough). He ordered Cleburne to place his force, now returning late that night, in reserve on the reverse slope of Missionary Ridge for the rest of the night.

By tomorrow, Cleburne's Division will be shifted, to the north end of the Confederate line on the ridge. There they will become heavily engaged with Sherman's troops, while to the south the Confederate position on Lookout Mountain is assailed.

* Capt F.S. Norman, who commanded my Great Grandfather's Co. D of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, wrote a simple entry in his report for these dates: "Did picket duty on Missionary Ridge the 22nd of Nov., the[n] marched to Chickamauga 7 miles and back to Missionary Ridge.

Sources: The Shipwreck of Their Hopes, Peter Cozzens; Muster Roll of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry, Tommy Lockhart; Official Records, Vol 31, Pt. 2; Huntsville Historical Review, Vol 26, No. 2. 1999: Transcription of Capt. Daniel Coleman Diary, Univ. North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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