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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Call upon me in the day of trouble"

Following the Battle of Lovejoy's Station, the Army of Tennessee encamped in Jonesboro for 10 days. Observing a day of prayer and fasting on this date in 1864,* Patrick Cleburne's Division, in which my Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was serving, held an outdoor worship service. Brig. Gen. Mark P. Lowrey, Great Grandfather's brigade commander and Baptist minister, preached to the assembled troops. He wrote about that service in his autobiography:
While our division was in camp at Jonesboro, Ga., the 16th of September 1864, having been set apart by the President as a day of fasting and prayer, on that day I preached to a large congregation of soldiers from this text: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me" (Psalm 50:15).
Lowrey's exhortation was timely. The Army of Tennessee certainly had been experiencing days of trouble. Gen. John B. Hood's men were demoralized and defeated when Atlanta fell. With Hood in command, the troops had an inexperienced and ungrateful leader, eager for success, even if it called for unrealistic sacrifice. To improve morale, or so he thought, Hood offered an offensive strategy to keep up the spirit and vitality of his men. He believed that to heal his discouraged and despondent troops, aggressive and continuous fighting was required. And when his soldiers could not be made to repeat the assaults he ordered, he unjustly blamed them and their commanders.

Two days later, Gen. Hood led his beleaguered army to its new camp at Palmetto, 20 miles west of Jonesboro. From there, they soon will set out on a forlorn campaign to take back Tennessee.

* A few days before on September 3rd, Union President Abraham Lincoln, exuberant over victories in the Eastern and Western theaters of the war, issued a special Thanksgiving Proclamation. It stands in sharp contrast to the contrition evident in the South's observance of a day of prayer and fasting.
The signal success that divine Providence has recently vouchsafed to the operations of the United States fleet and army in the harbor of Mobile, and the reduction of Fort Powell, Fort Gaines, and Fort Morgan, and the glorious achievements of the army under Major-General Sherman, in the State of Georgia, resulting in the capture of the city of Atlanta, call for devout acknowledgement to the Supreme Being in whose hands are the destines of nations. It is therefore requested that on next Sunday, in all places of worship in the United States, thanksgiving be offered to him for his mercy in preserving our national existence against the insurgent rebels who have been waging a cruel war against the Government of the United States for its overthrow; and also that prayer be made for divine protection to our brave soldiers and their leaders in the field, who have so often and so gallantly periled their lives in battling with the enemy; and for blessings and comfort from the Father of mercies to the sick, wounded, and prisoners, and to the orphans and widows of those who have fallen in the service of their country, and that he will continue to uphold the Government of the United States against all the efforts of public enemies and secret foes.
Earlier in 1863, Lincoln had proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. His September 3rd, proclamation was one of several additional days of thanksgiving declared during his presidency. Part of the reason for his exultation on this particular date, was, no doubt, a renewed confidence in what the capture of Atlanta would mean for his 1864 reelection campaign.

Sources: Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Brig. Gen. Mark P. Lowrey's AutobiographyA Light on a Hill: A History of Blue Mountain College, Robbie Neal Sumrall; Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Volume 2, November 1863-June 1865, Jacob D. Cox; Life and Works of Abraham Lincoln: State Papers, 1861-1865

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