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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Expelled from Atlanta

Having made up his mind to expel the civilian population of Atlanta now under his control, on this date in 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman began a forced removal of the citizens of that city. His report to Washington reveals his attitude:
I propose to remove all the Inhabitants of Atlanta, sending those committed to our cause to the rear and the Rebel families to the front. I will allow no trade, manufactories or any citizens there at all, so that we will have the entire use of railroad back, as also such corn & forage as my be reached by our troops...
If the people raise a howl against my barbarity & cruelty, I will answer that war is war and not popularity seeking. If they want peace, they and their relations must stop war.
Confederate Gen. John B. Hood protested, writing, "it transcends, in studied and ingenious cruelty, all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war." But his plea was soundly rejected. Mayor James M. Calhoun's pleas also were rebuffed by Sherman: "You might as well appeal against the thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war."

By the 21st, all but a handful of Atlanta's residents and most of the liberated slaves, were forced to flee. Those with nowhere else to go, traveled by rail cars and wagons to Rough and Ready where they were transferred to wagons bound for Lovejoy's Station. From there, they were sent by train to Macon or a refugee camp at Dawson named Fosterville.

Over the next several weeks, Sherman will assemble a massive amount of supplies in Atlanta. He will also order a systematic destruction of the city to prevent the Confederates from recovering anything once the Yankees had abandoned it. Before departing on November 15 on his March to the Sea, Sherman's forces will leave little behind but a smoking ruin. It is a dress rehearsal for the destruction he will bring to Georgia as he marches to Savannah.

Sources: Decision in the West, Albert Castel; Official Records, Vol 45

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