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, October 22, 2014

On to Tuscumbia

By October 15, 1864, rather than enticing Union Gen. William T. Sherman into battle while he held a strategic position at Dalton, Confederate Gen. John B. Hood pulled his army back about 9 miles south of LaFayette. From LaFayette, Hood changed his plans again, withdrawing on the 20th to Gadsden in northeastern Alabama. There Hood met for 2 days with Gen. 
P.G.T. Beauregard his commander, to discuss Hood's plans for a campaign into Tennessee. Apparently, it was with some reluctance that Beauregard agreed as he doubted Hood's ability to wage such a campaign.

On today's date in 1864, Hood moved his army from Gadsden to Alpine on the Georgia-Alabama border, then crossed the Sand Mountain into Alabama. It rained most of the way. The roads were muddy and full of water, in some places knee deep. From there the army moved toward Guntersville, Alabama, the nearest point of crossing the Tennessee River. From Guntersville he planned to capture the large Federal base at Nashville before the Federals could be reinforced. Beyond accomplishing that, Hood's grand hope was to march into Kentucky to threaten Louisville and Cincinnati. From that point he would march east to join Robert E. Lee's army in fighting Ulysses S. Grant.

Along the way to Guntersville, Hood changed his direction to the west, aiming for Tuscumbia, Alabama, about 90 miles northwest of Guntersville.1 About midway in his march, he decided for a crossing at Decatur. On the 28th, men from Patrick Cleburne's (Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes's Division) and William Bate's Divisions skirmished against the Federal fortification there. The fighting confirmed for Hood that the force there was too strong, so he continued on to Tuscumbia, which he reached on October 31st. His army will remain there until November 13th.2

Source: Wikipedia

In the meantime, when Sherman, who had followed Hood as far as Gaylesville, Alabama, learned of Hood's movement, he sent 2 corps to reinforce Gen. George Thomas at Nashville.3 Apparently he personally had given up plans for pursuing Hood further, writing, "I cannot guess his movements as I could those of Johnston, who was a sensible man and only did sensible things." However, Sherman did correctly sense Hood's ultimate plan:
Divining the object of his movement against our communications, which had been thus far rapid and skillful, I detached by rail General Schofield and two of my six corps to Nashville, all the reinforcements that Thomas deemed necessary to enable him to defend Tennessee, and began my systematic preparations for resuming the offensive against Georgia.
The 2 armies then went their separate ways: Hood into Tennessee and Sherman back to Atlanta,  planning his infamous March to the Sea.

1 At this point President Davis reminded Hood of his orders not to abandon operations in Georgia and that he expected Hood to defeat Sherman before entering Tennessee. Gen. P.T.G. Beauregard later reported that Hood's failure to cross the river at Guntersville as he had agreed resulted in the failure of his Tennessee Campaign. 
2 While at Tuscumbia, Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was the closest to home that he had been in over 3 years of war. From Tuscumbia to Kosouth, Mississippi, it is only 50 miles or so. There is no record that he ever was able to visit, at least not until after the army retreated from Nashville to Tupelo in December.
3 Schofield arrived at Pulaski, Tennessee, about 50 miles northeast of Hood's position, taking command of the Federal troops assembling there. Soon, in total, about 26,000 troops were present. Schofield was under Thomas's orders to delay Hood advance to gain time for Thomas to concentrate his troops in Nashville.

Sources: Patrick Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Advance and Retreat, John B. Hood; The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Hood's Campaign for Tennessee, William R. Scaife; Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. 4

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