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.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A fast march to Columbia

On November 19, 1864, Gen. John B. Hood began his Tennessee Campaign from Florence, Alabama, to take the Federal stronghold at Nashville. He sent Gen. Nathan B. Forrest's cavalry to clear the way to Columbia, Tennessee. Hood planned to quickly advance his army and defeat Gen. John Schofield outside Columbia, then move on to take Nashville.

Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jesperson
Hood sent his 32,000-man army northward in the snow and freezing rain from the Tennessee River by 3 different roads. Cheatham’s Corps, with Patrick Cleburne's Division (in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was serving in Lowrey's Brigade) in the lead, was assigned the western road through Waynesboro. One brigade, Mercer’s, was left behind to guard the river crossings. On today's date in 1864, Cleburne set out with his 3 other brigades—Govan’s, Lowrey’s, and Granbury’s—northward in the middle of a sleet storm. The rain soon stopped, but the sun melted the snow and left the roads in a terrible condition. By evening, the head of the column crossed the Tennessee state line.

On the 20th, Federal Gen. George Thomas in Nashville ordered Schofield to prepare to fall back to Columbia. The next day, Schofield began moving his 26,000-man force from Pulaski to Columbia along the Duck River, 41 miles south of Nashville. He reached it on the 24th, just in time to keep Forrest's cavalry from seizing the river crossings. Schofield ordered his men to build entrenchments on the north side of the river while he awaited reinforcements from Nashville.

By the 26th, Cleburne's Division was approaching Columbia along with Cheatham's Corps via the Mt. Pleasant Road. By the 27th, the rest of Hood's army closed in on Columbia, forcing Schofield to abandon the town and withdraw a mile and a half to the north. Across the river 2 Federal corps blocked further advance. It was rainy and cold, turning to snow, when the Confederates went into bivouac to await the arrival of the supply wagons.

Sources: Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Five Tragic Hours, James Lee McDonough & Thomas L. ConnellyHood's Campaign for Tennessee, William R. Scaife; Official Records, Vol. 45, Pt. 1

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