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.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sherman's March to the Sea

On today's date in 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman began his infamous march across Georgia to Savannah. He has finally been granted his wish to "make Georgia howl!" Sherman marched his 62,000 troops on the Decatur road, with 20-days' provisions. Behind him, Atlanta lay in ruins, while his gleeful troops sang the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Sherman faced little opposition in his campaign except for skirmishing with Joseph Wheeler's cavalry. He left a 60-mile wide path of destruction on his way to Savannah, which he reached by December 21st. At the conclusion of his march the conquering general wrote, "we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies."*

Sherman's "hard hand of war" terrorized the countryside, destroying all sources of food and leaving behind a hungry and demoralized people. It was psychological warfare in the most destructive campaign against a civilian population during the war, earning Sherman the epithet, "Nero of the Nineteenth Century." His March to the Sea was the first instance of a country bringing the might of its industrial and military prowess to destroy a population's ability to support war. And it was the harbinger of the policy of total war, which will be adopted in the 20th century.

Source: North Georgia Encyclopedia

As Sherman departed Atlanta on his campaign of havoc and destruction, Confederate Gen. John B. Hood was more than 200 miles northwest, crossing the Tennessee River to Florence. Hood's plan was to march on to Nashville, and after taking the Federal garrison there, to invade Kentucky. His long range goal was to unite with Robert E. Lee's army in Virginia. Or so he hoped.

* Much earlier in the war, Sherman had adopted a practice of bringing his "hard hand of war" to Georgia citizens. One infamous incident was his forced exile of the Rosewell Mill Women during his earlier Spring campaign.

Sources: Decision in the West, Albert Castel; North Georgia Encyclopedia; Life in Dixie During the War, 1861-1865, Mary A.H. Gay

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