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, March 1, 2014

U.S. Grant to head the U.S. army

On Leap Year Day, 1864, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and his congress officially promoted Ulysses S. Grant to the position of Lieutenant General in order to appoint him to head the entire Union army. For the first time, the North's military will be directed by a single man, and he will use his position to bring far reaching changes to the army and directly influence the outcome of the war.

Gen. Ulysses S.Grant
Source: National Archives
Born Hiram Ulysses Grant on April 27, 1822, and raised in Ohio, Grant went on to attend West Point. Apparently through a clerical error at the academy, his name was misprinted "Ulysses S. Grant." He liked the change well enough that he adopted it. Soon, his classmates nicknamed him "Uncle Sam," and then just "Sam," the name by which he was known to his army colleagues in the years ahead.

By his own confession Grant was not an exceptional student. Nor was he particularly drawn to military life. But he did graduate in 1843, ranking 21st in a class of 39. He then was assigned a position as a regimental quartermaster. Personally opposing the war with Mexico, nevertheless Grant made his way to the front lines and fought in the battle of Resaca de la Palma. Soon, serving under Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott, Grant distinguished himself in the decisive battles outside of Mexico City that resulted in Mexico's surrender.

Over the next several years, Grant served at various posts throughout the states and American territories out west. During this period, he married and started a family. With his military salary inadequate to support his family, Grant attempted, but failed at, several business ventures. He grew unhappy at his financial troubles and the separation from his family, and eventually rumors began to circulate that he had become a heavy drinker.

In 1853, he was finally promoted to captain, serving at a post on the northwest California coast. However, in a few months he resigned from the army, likely forced to do so because of his drinking. Now 32 and with no means of supporting his family, Grant tried his hand again for several years at business and even farming. In 1860, he took on a family tannery business in Illinois, "Grant & Perkins," and was able to reunite his family that year.

When the Civil War came in 1861, Grant helped to recruit a company of volunteers and accompanied it to the state's capital at Springfield. He accepted an appointment to recruit and train volunteer units while he waited for a command opportunity with the regular army. Later that year, he was transferred to northern Missouri and promoted by Lincoln to brigadier general. By August 1861, he was assigned duty in southern Illinois.

His first war action was a successful attack in November 1861 against Fort Belmont in Missouri. Next, he captured Fort Henry on February 6, then Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862. His military successes earned him celebrity in the North, and the nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

President Ulysses S. Grant,
18th President of the United States
It was at this point in his career that he began to directly impact the Army of Mississippi (later named the Army of Tennessee), which by now included my Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes in the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Corinth, Mississippi. The Battle of Shiloh came next, when the Confederates under Albert Sydney Johnston attacked on April 6, 1862. The next day, Grant and William T. Sherman rallied their troops and counterattacked the Confederates. Together with Union reinforcements that had just arrived, they sent the Rebels back to Corinth.

Grant continued to experience success on other fields of battle, in particular at Vicksburg and Chattanooga. Following the earlier Confederate victory at Chickamauga in October 1863, he was put in charge of the newly formed Division of the Mississippi, giving him command of almost the entire western theater.

After driving the Confederates from Missionary Ridge in November 1863, Grant's fame increased. On today's date in 1864, when he was promoted to Lieutenant General, he took on a position that had only been held by George Washington and Winfield Scott before him. Now, as the commander of all Union armies, Lincoln finally found a general who will win the war for him, although it will be drawn out for more than another year.

Sources:  Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant;

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