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, January 12, 2014

Camp Life at Dalton, 1864

During its encampment in and around Dalton, Georgia, over the winter of 1863-64, the Army of Tennessee under Joseph E. Johnston, experienced much needed improvement in condition and morale. Johnston saw to his troops' needs of clothing, equipment, and supplies. In time, the depleted army was restored and a sense of pride also returned. Pvt. Sam Watkins, who was stationed at Tunnel Hill near where Great Grandfather Oakes was camped, wrote in his famous memoir, 
A new era had dawned; a new epoch had been dated... [Johnston] restored the soldier's pride; he brought manhood back to the private's bosom... We soon got proud; the blood of the old Cavaliers tingled in our veins. We did not feel that were serfs and vagabonds. We felt we had a home and country worth fighting for, and, if need be, worth dying for.
Discipline had returned to the army, especially as commanders saw to reestablishing routine and structure in daily camp life.

Craig L. Symonds, in his book, Stonewall of the West, about Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes's division general, Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, provides some insight into camp life at Tunnel Hill.
[C]amp life resumed its orderly routine. Reveille was at daylight, followed by roll call and breakfast. Cleburne supervised drill from 10 to 11:30, when the troops had their lunch, or what was then called dinner. Then it was more drill from 2:30 to 4:00, often followed by a dress parade at sunset. Tattoo was at 8:00, and taps at 9:00. Meals were dominated by corn bread, often seasoned with red peppers and supplemented by beef when it was available, and potatoes. Occasionally the men were issued bacon, which was especially welcome. At night, the companies often engaged in singing while gathered about the fires. They preferred maudlin and sentimental tunes like “Annie Laurie” and “Do They Miss Me at Home.” Another favorite was “Silence, Silence, Make No More Noise nor Stir.”
Provision was made in the daily schedule for the soldiers' spiritual needs, too. Pvt. Watkins also writes that chaplains now had freedom to return to their work of ministering to the troops. "[They] held divine services every Sabbath, prayer was offered every evening at retreat, and the morale of the army was better in every respect." Lt. Thomas Stokes, also in Cleburne's Division, also noted that some companies established evening prayer meetings. "Religion is the theme," he wrote home to his sister, Mary Gay. Everywhere, you hear around the camp-fires at night the sweet songs of Zion. This spirit pervades the whole army."

Sources: Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War, Craig L. Symonds; Co. Aytch, Sam R. Watkins; Life in Dixie During the War 1861-1862-1863-1864-1865, Mary A.H. Gay

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