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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Marietta Confederate Cemetery

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
The Confederate Cemetery in Marietta,1 Georgia was established in 1863 when Mrs. Jane Porter Glover donated a corner of her Bushy Park Plantation for the burial of 20 Confederate soldiers who died in a train wreck just north of Marietta near the Allatoona Pass. It is now the final resting place for more than 3,000 soldiers from every Confederate state, plus Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. It is the largest Confederate cemetery south of Richmond.2

As Sherman's Atlanta Campaign drew close, a large number of fallen soldiers who fought nearby were buried here. The cemetery experienced even greater expansion after the war as the remains of Confederate soldiers who fell elsewhere in Georgia were brought to Marietta for reburial. In 1866, the Georgia Legislature appropriated $3,500 to collect the remains of soldiers who were killed on Georgia battlefields.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
The white marble "Arch of Tribute," erected in 1911
The recovery effort was led by women of the Ladies' Aid Society and the Georgia Memorial Association. Groups were sent in search of soldiers who were killed on the battlefields at ChickamaugaRinggoldKolb's FarmKennesaw Mountain, and other points north of the Chattahoochee River. These dedicated women helped bring the remains of hundreds of Con-federate soldiers to rest with their comrades in Marietta.

In 1902, the original wooden markers were replaced with plain marble markers that are seen today. 

In 1907, the cemetery was deeded to the Ladies' Memorial Association. The Association, in turn, transferred the property to the state of Georgia in 1908. After the Spanish-American War, this cemetery became the first place in the South where the Confederate flag was allowed to fly. The hillside also became the focal point of the city's Confederate Memorial Day observance in April.

Three men from Great Grandfather Oakes's 32nd Mississippi Infantry are known to be buried here. One was from Company D, company musician Pvt. Miles A. Thomas, who died in the field hospital at Cherokee Springs, near Ringgold, July 21, 1863.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
Mississippi section: Heroes 129
Each Confederate state has a marble monument noting
the section in which its soldiers are buried.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
Wall of Honor in the "Garden of Heroes"

They sleep the sleep of our noble slain,
Defeated, yet without a stain,
Proudly and peacefully.

1Across Powder Springs Street is the Marietta National Cemetery. Originally known as the "Marietta and Atlanta National Cemetery," it was established in 1866 to provide a suitable resting place for the nearly 10,000 Union dead from Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. In a gesture of peaceful reconciliation, a local Unionist, Henry Cole, offered land for a burial ground for both Union and Confederate dead. Not surprisingly, neither side accepted the offer, each preferring to bury its dead with fellow comrades. When his effort failed, 24 acres were offered for use as a national cemetery. By 1870, the cemetery was enlarged to its present size of a little over 23 acres.

Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
2One of the stirring features of this cemetery is its largest single plot, The Old Slave Lot. Reflecting the realities of a different era, the lot's presence in this cemetery was a rarity in the Old South. No other major cemetery in Georgia had a section devoted to the burial of slaves or free people of African descent. Most other antebellum cemeteries were entirely segregated. Nineteen Christian slaves and freed persons are buried here in unmarked graves. Standing on that spot, I couldn't help but bring to mind the Apostle's words from Galatians 3:26-28—For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. The Christian gospel is the true source of hope for reconciliation.

3Georgia is 1 of 11 states to officially observe a Confederate Memorial Day. Georgia, along with other Southern states, adopted April 26th as the official date, the anniversary of Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's surrender in 1865 to Union Gen. William T. Sherman at Bennett Place, North Carolina (although it is now the last Monday in April). Here in my adopted state, Texans observe "Confederate Heroes Day" on January 19th. In 1973, the Texas legislature combined the previously official state holidays of Robert E. Lee's and Jefferson Davis' birthdays into a single "Confederate Heroes Day" to honor all who had served the Southern Cause.

Gen. John A. Logan was a Union commander who had fought the Army of Tennessee in Georgia. After the war, as the commander-in-chief of the Union Civil War Veterans Fraternity called the Grand Army of the Republic, he launched the Memorial Day holiday, which is now observed throughout the entire United States. He established May 30 as the annual date “for the purpose of strewing flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of Comrades who died in the defense of their country.” First called Decoration Day, then later Memorial Day, the idea actually came from his wife's suggestion. According the John A. Logan Museum website, in March 1868, Mary Logan visited the battlefields around Petersburg, Virginia. While there she visited Blandford Cemetery where she saw wilted flowers and small tattered flags decorating the graves of fallen Confederate veterans. When Mary returned to Washington she told her husband about what she had seen and suggested the North should also honor its fallen soldiers in a similar manner.

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