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, July 28, 2014

The Battle of Ezra Church, 1864

Moving on the Confederates' fortifications around the northern portion of Atlanta, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union army forced the Battle of Peachtree Creek on July 20, 1864, and the Battle of Atlanta a couple of days later.

While Lt. Gen. John B. Hood failed to defeat the Federal army, so far he had kept Sherman at bay. Now Sherman decided to attack from the west. He ordered McPherson's army, now under the command of Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard, to move from the left to the right and cut Hood’s last railroad supply line between East Point and Atlanta. Hood anticipated the movement and sent 2 corps under Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee (Hood's old corps) and Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart to intercept and destroy Howard's force.

On the afternoon of today's date in 1864, the Confederates attacked Howard in the Battle of Ezra Church. Howard, who had already entrenched his men in the Confederates’ path, managed to repulse the determined attack, inflicting severe casualties. For their effort, the Confederates suffered a loss of more 3,000, including the wounding of 4 general officers: Stewart, Loring, Brown, and Johnson. While Hood's objective was not reached,* the Confederates did manage to hold onto the railroad, and thereby thwart Howard's goal.

Hood has tried again to to make his struggling army do more than they are capable of, and he has sacrificed men that he could ill afford to lose.

Sherman decides to hold Hood's forces in a month-long siege of Atlanta.

As he was prone to do when his goals were not achieved, Hood blamed the repulse on a lack of courage displayed by his men in charging the Federal line. In reality any lack of fighting spirit was due to weakened physical strength combined with low morale throughout the army during this difficult period. The latter condition reflects on its commander as much as anyone. Historian Stanley F. Horn comments on Hood's attitude, which was to possess him throughout his tenure as commander of the army:
All through his book [i.e., Hood's Advance And Retreat: Personal Experiences in The United States and Confederate States Armies] is a manifest inclination to evade the responsibility and place the blame elsewhere—on his officers or in his soldiers. This is not only bad sportsmanship; it is grossly unfair to their reputation for bravery under fire and tenacious determination; it is basest ingratitude to an army that loyally fought his battles for him long after it had lost all faith in his competence. It is preposterous for him to allege that the men were unwilling to charge breastworks. The belying fact is that they did charge breastworks wherever and whenever he called on them. They charged the breastworks at Peachtree Creek. They had charged them at the battle on the twenty-second. They charged them at Ezra Church. And at all these places, not once but time after time. A few weeks later, on the suicidal field of Franklin, they gave perhaps the greatest exhibition of cold-blooded, mass courage ever seen on a battlefield when, without preparation or support, they hurled themselves against the Federal works after a long charge across an open field and clung there in a death grapple which was almost their destruction.

Sources: CWSAC Battle Summaries; The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Decision in the West, Albert Castel; Official Records, Vol. 38, Pt. 3

No comments:

Post a Comment