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, October 13, 2014

The Third Battle of Dalton

In late September 1864, Confederate Gen. John B. Hood crossed his army over the Chattahoochee River to strike the Western & Atlantic Railroad at several places north of the river. The army also captured Federal garrisons at Big Shanty (Kennesaw) and Acworth. By October 5th, Union Gen. William T. Sherman's force of about 40,000 men were on the move from Atlanta towards Hood's army.

Rather than offer battle as he had originally planned, Hood abandoned the idea and decided, instead, to strike the railroad north of the Etowah River. If Sherman didn't follow, but instead returned to Atlanta, Hood would pursue. Hood marched his army toward the Alabama border at Cedartown, Georgia. By now it was apparent to President Davis that Hood's offensive was in trouble. He sent his representative, Gen. 
P.G.T. Beauregard, to meet with Hood and discuss his strategy for striking the railroad between Dalton and Resaca while looking for an opportunity to fight Sherman. However, Hood's real intention was to push beyond Gadsden into Tennessee.

After taking the railroad as agreed, Hood attacked the Federal garrison at Dalton* which surrendered on this date in 1864. His army then inflicted heavy damage to the railroad between Tunnel Hill and Resaca, taking 1,000 prisoners. Although to Hood his plan must have seemed successful, so far, the general of the Army of Tennessee had been acting more like the leader of a raiding party than a commander of an army with a mission to defeat Sherman.

Apparently, the presence of Patrick Cleburne's Division, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was serving, in front of the Dalton garrison had a direct influence on its commander's decision to surrender. In his report, the Federal commander stated, "the division of Cleburne, which was in the rear of the rebel general... was over anxious to fight."

Source: Wikipedia

By October 13th, Hood learned that Sherman had reached Resaca and was moving on Dalton. Hood knew the terrain well having fought here in May. It was a good strategic position from which to battle Sherman. However, on October 14th, Hood pulled back southwest to Villanow. On the 15th-16th, he pulled his army further back, about 9 miles south of LaFayette, below Pigeon Mountain. His men traipsed over the ground on which they had been victorious in the Battle of Chickamauga almost a year before. Great Grandfather Oakes bivouacked with Cleburne’s Division on the same campground it had occupied the night before that famous battle.

At LaFayette, Hood will alter his plans yet again. He will withdraw to northeastern Alabama, effectively giving up any pretense of defending Georgia. After tearing up Sherman's rail line as far as Tunnel Hill, he will move his army through Snake Creek and other gaps, over the earlier battleground at Rocky Face Ridge, then southwest to Gadsden, arriving there on on the 20th.

*The First Battle of Dalton (not to be confused with the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge near Dalton) was fought between February 22 and 27, 1864. The Second Battle of Dalton was a Confederate cavalry action led by Joseph Wheeler against the Federal garrison here on August 14 & 15, 1864, ending in Wheeler's defeat.

Sources: Autumn of Glory, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Patrick Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Hood's Campaign for Tennessee, William R. Scaife; Official Records, Vol. 39, Pt. 1

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