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, May 17, 2014

The Battle of Adairsville, 1864

Following the Battle of Resaca, May 13-15, 1864, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston hoped to fight Gen. William T. Sherman's pursuing army near Adairsville in the valley of the Oothcalooga Creek.

Shortly after midnight on today's date in 1864, Gen. Patrick Cleburne, in whose division was serving Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes in Lowrey's Brigade, withdrew his troops along with other divisions from Gen. William J. Hardee's Corps, from Calhoun, south to a new position north of Adairsville, arriving there about daylight. Hardee's men, together with Gen. Joseph Wheeler's cavalry, held the Federals in check all along the way.

Throughout the day and into the evening of the 17th, the opposing forces skirmished with each other. About 2 miles north of Adairsville Gen. Oliver O. Howard’s Corps ran into Hardee’s entrenched divisions. Gen. Benjamin Cheatham's Division was first to meet the attack near the Saxon House, which came at 3 PM. Cleburne's Division was entrenched behind rifle pits about 800 yards in Cheatham's rear. Polk's and Granbury's Brigades formed his first line, and Govan's and Lowrey's were in the second. Cheatham's men received the brunt of the attack, which resulted in heavy losses for the Federals. Cleburne's Division was spared any serious action in this conflict.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010    
The Robert Saxon ("Octagon") House was one of the landmarks in Hardee's
sector. Pvt. Sam Watkins recalled it in his famous book where his regiment
held off a Federal attack here, receiving 30 casualties, before abandoning it
to the enemy. The Federals burned the house the next day.
The Oothcalooga Valley, which Johnston chose for the engagement, proved too wide to adequately defend. Therefore, he decided at midnight to pull his army further back towards Cassville. The fighting at Adairsville by Hardee's Corp and Wheeler's cavalry provided the delaying action Johnston needed to pull his army further back. Johnston had a new strategy for Cassville, one he hoped would lead to the destruction of a part of Sherman's forces.

Sherman by now had concentrated his men in the Adairsville area to attack Johnston on the 18th, but Johnston had already withdrawn.


At Adairsville on the 18th, Gen. Johnston found some time to be the object of a simple religious ceremony. In deference to a request by his wife, the general asked to be baptized. In a small ceremony in Johnston's tent, Gen. Leonidas Polk, who was also an Episcopal Bishop, baptized the general in the presence of Gens. Hood (whom he had baptized at Dalton a week before), Hardee, and the senior staff. The great Christian revival, which swelled at Dalton, has now reached to the supreme Confederate commander in the West.

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864, Albert Castel; Company Aytch, Sam R. Watkins; Leonidas Polk: Bishop and General, W.M. Polk; Official Records, Vol. 38, Pt. 3

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