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, November 17, 2013

Longstreet's Siege of Knoxville

James Longstreet
On this date in 1863, Confederate Gen. James Longstreet began a siege of the city of Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Knoxville Campaign began on November 4th, when Longstreet left Braxton Bragg's army at Chattanooga with 17,000 troops to take Eastern Tennessee for the Confederates. Just prior to the September Battle of Chickamauga, Longstreet had been loaned from Robert E. Lee's Army of Virginia to reinforce Bragg's army out West. He and 2 of his divisions arrived on the battlefield just in time to participate in the victory at Chickamauga on September 20. His breakthrough resulted in the Yankees fleeing in a panic to fortifications at Chattanooga.

In the weeks following the victory at Chickamauga, Longstreet, along with other general officers in Bragg's army, quarreled with their commander-in-chief. They were not happy with Bragg's ability to command the army and were disgusted with his failure to follow up the success at Chickamauga and destroy of Rosecrans's army. The result of the dispute was the reassignment of several of Bragg's generals. Somehow Longstreet avoided the firings and reassignments that ensued. Instead, he was allowed to stay in command through October at Lookout Mountain until he was given independent command of the Department of East Tennessee.

On November 5th, Longstreet and his troops departed the Army of Tennessee and moved toward Knoxville, a key military objective for the Confederate high command as well as President Lincoln. Longstreet's opponent was Gen. Ambrose Burnside and 5,000 Federal troops.

Ambrose Burnside
The previous December, Burnside had been soundly defeated at the Battle of Fredericksburg. In March 1863, he was sent to the Western Theater and given command of the Army of the Ohio. His orders were to move against Knoxville as quickly as possible to coordinate with Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland opposing Bragg's army in Middle Tennessee. Bragg was driven from Tullahoma in in early July, but stood his ground in the Chickamauga Campaign, resulting in a Confederate victory and Rosecrans's reassignment. Burnside wasn't about to repeat Rosecrans's mistake. By September 9th, he had taken control of Knoxville, due in large part to the departure of a significant Confederate force, Simon B. Buckner's, to reinforce Bragg at Chickamauga.

On November 16th, Burnside fought Longstreet in a delaying action at Campbell Station, before retreating behind the defensive perimeter of Knoxville. On today's date, Longstreet moved his men into position around the north side of the city, supported by Joseph Wheeler's cavalry, but could not cut off supplies to the Union troops. Longstreet laid siege to Knoxville while he waited for reinforcements to arrive, which they finally did on November 28.* He attacked, but was repulsed with heavy loses. Longstreet continued the siege in order to draw troops away from Chattanooga. The ruse worked, and 25,000 Union troops were dispatched from Chattanooga to chase Longstreet out of Eastern Tennessee.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ultimately, Longstreet withdrew to Virginia. His Knoxville Campaign was a failure for him and disappointment for the Confederates who had hoped to take control of Eastern Tennessee and the railroad that linked the Confederacy from east to west. By Spring 1864, Longstreet will rejoin Lee's army in Virginia.

For the Federals, Longstreet's campaign deprived Bragg of troops he desperately needed to take the Federal army at Chattanooga.

* In fact, on November 23rd, Patrick Cleburne's Division, in which Great Grandfather Oakes was serving in the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, was ordered off Missionary Ridge to to the Chickamauga station to depart by rail to reinforce Longstreet. Many of the troops had already embarked when Bragg, under attack on Missionary Ridge, ordered Cleburne to return at once with his men. The Battle of Missionary Ridge will take place on the 25th.

Sources: The Army of the Cumberland, Jacob D. Cox; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Official Records, Vol. 31, Pt. 2

No comments:

Post a Comment