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.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Abandoning the River Line

Days after his victory at Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864, Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston withdrew his Army of Tennessee, first to a defensive line at Smyrna, and then on July 5th, to his heavily fortified River Line along the Chattahoochee River. He hoped the Federal army would attack him at this last natural barrier ahead of Atlanta.

However, Union Gen. William T. Sherman had other plans. Johnston's River Line position wasn't the only possible ford over the river. In another of his flanking maneuvers, by July 9th, Sherman crossed portions of his army several miles northeast of Johnston's fortifications in the vicinity of Roswell. By the 17th, his entire 100,000-man army was across and headed towards Atlanta. Sadly, Johnston had failed to take necessary precautions to prevent the Federal crossing, and shortly this will lead to his removal as commandant of the army.

Now outflanked on today's date in 1864, and with Atlanta threatened, the Confederate army crossed the Chattahoochee on pontoon bridges to a new line near the mouth of the Peachtree Creek, about 3 miles north of Atlanta. After Patrick Cleburne's Division, my Great Grandfather's, crossed over one of these bridges, his men were ordered to destroy it.

Behind new fortifications in front of Atlanta, the army had a short respite from the previous 70 days of near constant fighting. Its next major fight will be the Battle of Peach Tree Creek on July 20th, followed by 3 more major engagements before Summer's end.

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Stonewall of the West; Craig L. Symonds; The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Autumn of Glory, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Official Records, Vol. 38, Pt. 5

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