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, June 1, 2015

Home again

Sometime during the month of May 1865, my Great Grandfather Nathan Richardson Oakes, who served throughout the War Between the States in Lowrey's Regiment, the renouned 32nd Mississippi, made his way home to Kossuth, Mississippi following the army's surrender in North Carolina. He was in a hurry to get home, because only a month after leaving North Carolina, he married his hometown sweetheart.

150 years ago on today's date, my great grandparents tied the knot. Great Grandfather Oakes, 3 months shy of his 21st birthday, married 18 year-old Martha Ellen Turner. She was the sister of Great Grandfather's comrade in arms, "Billy" Turner, who also served in Co. D of the 32nd Mississippi Regiment.

The marriage on this date brings Pvt. Nathan R. Oakes full circle, from his 60-day enlistment in his state's militia in 1861, and his subsequent enlistment into the Confederate Army at Corinth, Mississippi on March 1862, to his return home following the surrender and disbanding of the army at Greensboro, North Carolina on May 1, 1865. The long and destructive war now over, the young couple, like thousands of other Southern farmers, focused on restoring their land and making it productive again.

In the years that followed, Great Grandfather Oakes remained active in various Confederate reunions. Even after he moved his family to Texas in the 1894, he continued to reflect on his war experiences and even wrote a couple of letters to the editor of the Confederate Veteran magazine, which were published in 1899-1900.

My great grandparents, Nathan and Martha Oakes, and their family in
front of their home in 1897, after moving to Texas from Mississippi

Great Grandfather Oakes was 62 when he died in 1908. His wife lived until 1925. The two are buried side by side in the Santa Ana Cemetery. Great Grandfather never applied for a veteran's pension. However, after his death, my great grandmother's situation gradually declined. So in 1925, she applied for a war widow's pension, from which document I was able to confirm a few key details about Great Grandfather's war service and their life in Texas. Her pension was approved. However, she died 5 months later.

Nathan and Martha Oakes had 10 children, although 3 died in early childhood. The youngest, my grandfather, Johnnie McPeters Oakes, was born 23 years into their 42-year marriage, on June 30, 1888.

My great grandparents Nathan and Martha Ellen Oakes
with their children, cir. 1889. Baby (lower right) is my
grandfather John Oakes.

Grandfather John Oakes was born in Kossuth, but when he was 6, the family moved to Texas, finally settling in Coleman County. There, years later, he married Mary Kate Neal, my grandmother. She was the granddaughter of Confederate veteran David Crockett Neal from Tennessee, who served in 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. Grandmother Mary Kate Oakes died in 1937 when my mom, her youngest child, was only 10.

My grandparents John and Mary Kate Oakes,
Santa Ana, Texas

After Grandmother's death, Grandfather Oakes moved to San Diego, California, where he worked in the aircraft industry supporting the Allied victory in WWII. He died on September 9, 1945, only a week after Japan's official surrender. My mom, also employed in the war effort, accompanied his body to Texas for burial in the family plot in the Santa Ana Cemetery. There he rests next to my grandmother, near both of their parents and other family members.

Nathan Oakes's granddaughter Marjorie, with her husband Frank Dolan, son of
Klondike gold miner, logger, and adventurer (but those are topics for another story)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Johnston's farewell | The noble army disbands

On April 26, 1865, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston formally surrendered the Army of Tennessee, along with the rest of his forces, at the Bennett farm near Durham Station, North Carolina. Present among the thousands of troops encamped in the area was my great grandfather, Pvt. Nathan Richardson Oakes of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry.

Then on today's date in 1865, Gen. Johnston issued his General Order No. 22, a farewell which he delivered to his men:
General Order No. 22 
Comrades: In terminating our official relations, I most earnestly exhort you to observe faithfully the terms of pacification agreed upon; and discharge the obligations of good and peaceful citizens, as well you have performed duties of thorough soldiers in the field. By such a course you will best secure the comfort of your families and kindred and restore tranquility to our country. 
You will return to your homes with the admiration of our people, won by the courage and noble devotion you have displayed in this long war. I shall always remember with pride the loyal support and generous confidence you have given me. 
I now part with you with deep regret—and bid you farewell with feelings of cordial friendship; and with earnest wishes that you may have hereafter all the prosperity and happiness to be found in the world. 
J.E. Johnston, General
Receiving their paroles on May 1-2, the Confederate troops performed their final mustering out duties. Many of the 39, 000 parolees mustered out at Greensboro, where they stacked their arms and surrendered their flags at the Guilford County Court House.* Then beginning March 3rd, thousands of soldiers marched south to the rail junction at Salisbury, where they received 10 day's rations.

For most in the Army of Tennessee, Salisbury was the last great parting of the ways. After saying their farewells, men from the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast states continued south on the road to Charlotte, while those from Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Georgia headed west on the Morganton Road. At Morganton, Great Grandfather and his comrade Billy Turner probably continued along the railroad east across the southern part of Tennessee, through northern Alabama, to Kossuth, their hometown in northeastern Mississippi.

Thus, from North Carolina, far from where the war began for them in Tennessee and Mississippi, the war-weary men of the former noble Army of Tennessee made their final march home.

Veterans who were present in the army when it surrendered, recalled laying down their arms at various places, including their own camps. In her pension application, my great grandmother, Ellen Turner Oakes, wrote that my great grandfather surrendered at Durham Station, the place of Johnston's formal surrender.

Source: The Confederate Surrender at Greensboro, Robert M. Dunkerly; This Astounding Close, Mark L. Bradley; Narrative of Military Operations During the Civil War, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 1; Mary Ellen Oakes’s Confederate Veteran Pension Application

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The surrender of the Army of Tennessee, 1865

On today's date in 1865, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston officially surrendered1 his armies to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman at Bennett Place, on the road from Hillsborough to Durham Station in North Carolina. It was the the largest surrender of the War Between the States.2 Among his forces encamped all around Confederate headquarters at Greensboro3 was the Army of Tennessee, in which my Great Grandfather Nathan Richardson Oakes served throughout the war.

By May 2nd, and with no formal ceremony to conclude the surrender, the Confederate soldiers will be issued their paroles from Greensboro and sent home.

Instead of using the term "surrender," Johnston asserted that the peace agreement was a "military convention... to terminate hostilities." Rather than being received as prisoners of war as in a formal surrender, Johnston felt his men should be permitted to stack their arms, receive their paroles, and march home, which, in fact, they did.
Johnston surrendered the Division of the West under himself, the forces under Gen. Braxton Bragg, the Department of North Carolina under Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, and the Department of Tennessee and Georgia under Lt. Gen. William Hardee, all of which generals had at one time or another commanded the Army of Tennessee. Other Confederate units will surrender in the weeks ahead. The last battle of the war, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, east of Brownsville, Texas, will be fought May 12-13, 1865. On June 23, in Doakesville, Oklahoma, Brig. Gen. Stand Watie, a Cherokee, will be the last Confederate field general to surrender.
The camps of the Confederate army were spread over a wide area, with troops at High Point, New Salem, Jamestown, Salisbury, Trinity College, Bush Hill, and Greensboro.

Sources: Last Stand in the Carolinas, Mark L. Bradley; Narrative of Military Operations During the Civil War, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston; The Chattanoogan.comMilitary Reminiscences of the Civil War, Vol. 2, Jacob Cox; The Confederate Surrender at Greensboro, Robert M. Dunkerly; Mary Ellen Oakes’s Confederate Veteran Pension Application

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Agreement between Johnston and Sherman

Gen. Joseph E. Wheeler
On Monday, April 17, 1865, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Union Gen. William T. Sherman met at the Bennett farmhouse, on the road from Hillsborough to Durham Station, to discuss a path toward peace.

A second meeting was held on today's date.* In the course of the discussion, Sherman sat down and wrote out a "Memorandum, or Basis of Agreement" based on his understanding of what he understood President Lincoln would have wanted. This agreement provided for an armistice that could be cancelled at 48-hours notice; disbanding Johnston's armies and surrendering weapons in state arsenals; U.S. recognition of state governments; reestablishment of federal courts; restoration of political and civil rights; and a general amnesty for Southern combatants. Both generals signed the agreement and Sherman sent it off to Washington for approval.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis also approved the terms, but U.S. President Andrew Johnston's cabinet, led by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, rejected them. Stanton had argued forcibly that Sherman did not have the proper authority to reach an agreement with Johnston. Further, he unfairly stated that Johnston was not being sincere in his negotiation with Sherman, but was, in fact, conducting a ruse to gain time for President Davis to escape with the imagined Confederate treasury.

Gen. William T. Sherman
On April 23rd, Grant personally visited Sherman in Raleigh, bringing with him Washington’s decision. He informed Sherman that his terms were disapproved, and ordered him to give Johnston the 48-hour notice required in the terms of the truce, and then proceed to attack the Confederate army. Sherman sent a message to Johnston with a demand for his surrender under the same terms offered to Robert E. Lee .

On the same day, Cheatham's Corps, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was serving, was ordered to move its camp 9 miles closer to Greensboro. The next day,  the Confederate army was put on alert to move when ordered. Cheatham's Corps was then ordered to hold itself ready to move promptly at 11:00 AM, when the truce expired. At that hour, Cheatham's Corps marched 10 miles on the Center and Thomasville road to the Salem and Fayetteville road.

Thankfully, in spite of the threat of renewed conflict and the bitter feelings in Washington, there was no new outbreak of fighting. Johnston replied to Sherman the same day, agreeing to meet again at the Bennett house. On the 26th, the generals met, and Sherman offered the more stringent terms of a military surrender. Johnston agreed. The negotiations finally resulted in a Confederate surrender.

That afternoon, the news came to Cheatham's Corps that a peace agreement had been reached.

Concerning Johnston's leadership in the closing 2 months of the war Mark L. Bradley writes, "No other Confederate general—not even Robert E. Lee—could have accomplished more with so few resources in such a brief span." Indeed, when Johnston took command on February 23rd, he believed that the best he could hope for by continuing the war was to obtain "fair terms of peace" for his men and for the Southern people. In spite of that, Johnston managed to consolidate his scattered forces and finally fight his opponent at Bentonville with uncharacteristic boldness. At Smithfield, he reorganized his army into a formidable 30,000-man force. Had he and Lee been successful in uniting their armies, the combined Confederate force would have presented Sherman with a daunting challenge. After Lee's surrender, Johnston also could have chosen to withdraw his army south to continue the war. Rather, he clearly understood the necessity for negotiating a peace with Sherman, ultimately even in defiance of President Davis. Bradley notes finally, "During the final weeks of the war in the Old North State, Johnston's qualities as commander shone forth in their most favorable aspect."

* Confederate Secretary of War, Maj. Gen. John C. Breckenridge, was also present at this meeting. One thing that made this remarkable was that Breckenridge had been Vice President of the United States under James Buchanan. Due to his former status, Sherman advised Breckenridge to flee the country rather than surrender.

Sources: This Astounding close, Mark L. Bradley; Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Vol 2, Jacob Cox; Civil War TrustMemoirs of W.T. Sherman, William Tecumseh Sherman; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 1

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Offer of peace

On today's date in 1865, Good Friday, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston sent a letter under a flag of truce to Union Gen. William T. Sherman seeking an end to the war. In a return letter to Johnston on the same day, Sherman agreed to suspend hostilities and meet with his Confederate counterpart. The generals agreed to meet on April 17th at a point midway between the Federal line at Durham Station and Johnston's headquarters. While Sherman had been urged not to trust Johnston as this could be an attempt to escape, thankfully Sherman chose to believe in Johnston's sincerity and agreed to meet to negotiate a peace.

Incredibility, on this same day, actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Lincoln died the next day. The attack came only 5 days after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Neither Sherman or Johnston was aware of the tragedy while they were arranging their meeting.

On the 17th, just as Sherman was getting ready to leave for Durham Station for his first meeting with Johnston, he received a message informing him of Lincoln’s assassination. Sherman swore the telegraph operator to secrecy so as to not jeopardize the morale of the soldiers nor interfere with the peace talks.

The 2 generals then met alone in the farmhouse of James and Nancy Bennett's (originally "Bennitt") outside Durham Station. After showing Johnston the telegraph, their meeting proceeded under a cloud of uncertainty about the impact Lincoln's death might have on a peaceful surrender. It would take many more days of negotiations before a formal surrender was reached.

There must have been great uncertainty among the soldiers encamped around the Confederate headquarters at Greensboro. Even high ranking officers were in the dark about the war's possible outcome at this point. Maj. Henry Hampton of Gen. Cheatham's staff wrote concerning the days of April 17-19:
Monday, April 17—Ordered to remain where we are until further orders. As the enemy are all around us, both above, below, and behind, the inevitable inference is that the army is to be surrendered. The army remained in a state of suspense and uncertainty until Wednesday, April 19, when it was known that peace had been agreed upon between North and South, or rather, that terms of a peace had been agreed upon between Generals Sherman and Johnston and sent to their respective Governments for ratification.

Sources: This Astounding Close, Mark L. Bradley; Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Vol 2, Jacob Cox; Memoirs of W.T. Sherman, William Tecumseh Sherman; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 1

Friday, April 10, 2015

Marching to Greensboro

Having learned that Union Gen. William T. Sherman's army was marching toward Raleigh, on today's date in 1865, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston ordered his 3 corps to fall back from their encampment at Smithfield and march toward Greensboro.

Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart's Corps headed out first, followed by Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee's Corps, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was now serving in the newly established 8th Mississippi Battalion. They were assigned the Louisburg Road, and they followed it east of the Neuse River until crossing the river at Battle's Bridge, about 10 miles southeast of Raleigh. Gen. Joseph Wheeler's cavalry guarded the rear. William Hardee marched with one of his divisions through Smithfield, crossed the Neuse River, then marched northwest on the Raleigh Road along the North Carolina Railroad. His other 2 divisions followed Stewart's and Lee's Corps, ahead of the advancing Federal army.

In camp that night near Battle's Bridge, Johnston learned of Robert E. Lee's surrender the day before at Appomattox Courthouse. He clearly understood that the end was at hand.

The next morning, army continued its westward march, camping outside of Raleigh. On the morning of the 12th, they marched through Raleigh and continued on the Hillsborough and Chapel Hill roads. Stewart's and Lee's men bivouacked that night in the woods near the railroad tracks, about 9 miles beyond the city. Hardee's Corps bivouacked 3 miles east of Raleigh.

Overnight at Raleigh, Johnston received a telegram from President Jefferson Davis with instructions to meet him at Greensboro. Having evacuated Richmond with his cabinet on April 2nd, Davis was making his way south by rail. Leaving Gen. Hardee in command, Johnston left to meet with the president and there to learn from him that, incredibly, Davis intended to continue the war.

In the meantime on the 13th, Lee's Corps continued its march, camping that night at Hillsborough. On the 14th, Good Friday, the men marched to Haw River and camped near the bridge east of Graham, their crossing delayed by rains and the swollen river. Taking the Greensboro Road the next day through Graham and Company Shops, the troops marched another 15 miles before finally reaching their campsite. Marching another 12 miles along the New Salem road on Easter Sunday, April 16th, they reached their final destination about 15 miles outside of Greensboro.

Two days day before Great Grandfather's arrival near Greensboro, Gen. Johnston sent an offer of peace to Gen. Sherman. It was also the same day Union President Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot.

Sources: This Astounding Close, Mark L. Bradley; General Joseph E. Johnston, Gilbert Govan & James Livingwood; Narrative of Military Operations During the Civil War, Joseph E. Johnston; The Confederate Surrender at Greensboro, Robert M. Dunkerly; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 1

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Consolidated within the 8th Mississippi Battalion

On March 31stGen. Joseph E. Johnston reorganized the Army of Tennessee near Smithfield, North Carolina. The remnants of Mark P. Lowrey’s Brigade, which then was commanded by Lt. Col. J.F. Smith, was consolidated with the 8th Mississippi Regiment and placed under the command of Capt. H.W. Crook. Capt. Joshua Y. Carmack, former captain of Co. H of the 32nd, was given command of Co. D of the consolidated regiment, in which Great Grandfather Nathan R. Oakes and Great Uncle William D. Turner still served.

On today's date in 1865, the entire Confederate army under Johnston underwent a major reorganization. The new consolidation of regiments effectively marked the end of Great Grandfather's 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, in existence since since its formation at the start of the war. There were too many understrength regiments and too many general officers to command them. These facts were already apparent to brigadiers like the valiant Gen. Lowrey, who earlier felt comipelled to resigned his commission.

In the reorganization, 3 regimentsthe 5th, 8th, and 32nd Mississippialong with the 3rd Mississippi Battalion, were consolidated into a single and much reduced unit, renamed the 8th Mississippi Battalion. Capt. Carmack was placed in command. The new 8th Mississippi Battalion was far smaller than any of its combined regiments had been separately. Together with other consolidated regiments, the newly formed 8th Mississippi Battalion was placed in Brig. Gen. Jacob H. Sharp's Brigade, in Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill’s Division, of Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee’s Corps. The 32nd Regiment remained consolidated in the 8th Mississippi Battalion through the army's surrender on April 26th.

The few surviving volunteers from the once proud 32nd Mississippi Regiment now served in a single battalion. No doubt it affected the morale of the troops. Where once the regiment had been comprised of men who were neighbors back home and who had fought together for years, now they were assigned with soldiers they did not know personally.

As it turned out however, the reorganization hardly mattered. On this same date in 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. By the end of the month, the war finally will be over for the dedicated and long-suffering survivors of the old 32nd Mississippi Regiment, too.

Sources: Military History of Mississippi, 1833-1898, Dunbar Rowland; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pts. 1 & 3; Capt. Joshua Y. Carmack's Service Records

Lee surrenders, 1864

Robert E. Lee at home in Richmond, April 1865
Source: Brady Civil War Collection
On the morning of today's date in 1865, Palm Sunday, the Battle of Appomattox Court House in Virginia was fought. It proved to be Gen. Robert E. Lee's last engagement with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

Relentlessly pressed by Grant's army and cut off from turning south to possibly join Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's force in North Carolina, Lee arrived in Appomattox County on April 8th. On his way for the South Side Railroad at Appomattox Station where supplies awaited his army, Lee's Confederates were cut off and nearly surrounded by Federal troops near the village of Appomattox Court House. Tapped, Gen. Lee surrendered his remaining troops to Gen. Grant at the McLean House on the afternoon of today's date.

While the war was over for Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, it took 2 more weeks for the end to finally come for Great Grandfather Nathan R. Oakes and his dedicated and forebearing comrades serving under Gen. Johnston in Greensboro.

To make matters worse for Johnston's army, many of Lee's men who were paroled at Appomattox began making their way home through Greensboro, passing through the camps of Johnston's disheartened men. Not knowing what their own fate may be, demoralization in Johnston's army gave way to desertion in increasing numbers. One more reason in a few days for Johnston to extend an offer of peace to his opponent, William T. Sherman.

Sources: Civil War Trust; The Confederate Surrender at Greensboro, Robert M. Dunkerly

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The last grand review of the army

To keep Gen. Joseph Johnston's Confederate army busy and disciplined while encamped around Smithfield, North Carolina, the commanding officers drilled their units regularly. To show off their marching skills, at least 2 public Grand Reviews of the assembled armies were held. One of these, on April 4th, was for the benefit of displaying the newly reassembled Army of Tennessee in which my great grandfather Nathan Oakes served.

Then 3 days later on this date in 1865, a final review of Gen. William J. Hardee's army was held on the plantation property of Everitt P. Stevens in Selma, near Smithfield. In attendance were Gens. Joseph E. Johnston, William J. Hardee, Governor Zebulon Baird Vance, and other army officers. Also attending were a few dozen of Raleigh's young ladies who traveled by rail to witness the military parade. Gen. Hardee hosted a reception that followed where a military band provided music and Gov. Vance delivered a speech.

At the time, few of the soldiers probably imagined that this was their army's final review or that the war for them would be over before the end of the month.

Within days of the grand procession, the troops will be on the move again. On the 10th, Johnston learned that Gen. William T. Sherman's army had begun a march toward Raleigh. The Confederate general ordered his army to move west towards Greensboro.

Source: This Astounding Close, Mark L. Bradley; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 1

Monday, April 6, 2015

The death of Brig. Gen. John A. Wharton

John Austin Wharton (July 23, 1828 – April 6, 1865) was a lawyer, plantation owner, delegate to the Texas Secession Convention, and a Confederate cavalry major general during the War Between the States. In that conflict, he was considered one of the Confederacy's best tactical cavalry commanders.

Photo by Mark Dolan, March 2015
Maj. Gen. John A. Wharton Monument
Texas State Cemetery, Austin, Texas
When the war began, Wharton was elected captain of Company B of 8th Texas Cavalry, better known as Terry's Texas Rangers. He rose to command the regiment after the deaths of Col. Benjamin F. Terry and Lieut. Col. Thomas S. Lubbock. Wharton led his troops with distinction at the Battle of Shiloh where he was wounded. His leadership during Bragg's 1862 Kentucky invasion earned him a promotion to the rank of brigadier general in November 1862. His actions at the Battle of Chickamauga in the fall of 1863, earned him another promotion, to the rank of major general. In February 1864, Gen. Wharton was transferred to Richard Taylor's Trans-Mississippi Depart-ment in Louisiana. Upon his arrival he was assigned to lead the cavalry and took part in the closing scenes of the 1864 Red River Campaign in Louisiana.

But on April 6, 1865—three days before Robert E. Lee surrendered his army—while visiting Gen. John B. Magruder's headquarters at the Fannin Hotel in Houston, Wharton was killed by fellow officer George W. Baylor in a personal quarrel. Even though Wharton was found to have been unarmed, Baylor was acquitted of murder charges in 1868.

Wharton was originally buried at Hempstead, but was later moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Maj. Gen. John A. Wharton is one of the 2 major generals—both cavalry officers that one time or another commanded Great-Great Grandfather David C. Neal’s 6th Tennessee Regiment—who died violently, but not from enemy action. The other was Major General Van Dorn, shot by a jealous husband on May 7, 1863.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Consolidated 8th & 32nd Mississippi Infantry

At its new base at Smithfield, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's army numbered about 28,000. Johnston's opponent Gen. William T. Sherman, on the other hand, had 90,000 troops at his disposal. However, if Johnston were to unite with Gen. Robert E. Lee in Virginia, their combined forces would total a formidable 80,000. While Johnston awaited a decision from Lee on this date in 1865, he reorganized his army to accommodate troop losses and the resignations of officers who were now in surplus.

Still serving in the remnants of Lowrey's Brigade,1 now commanded by Lt. Col. J.F. Smith,2 were Great Grandfather Nathan R. Oakes and Great Uncle William D. Turner. Due to its decreased size and strength, the 32nd Mississippi Regiment was forced to undergo a consolidation with the 8th Mississippi. The new 8th and 32nd Regiment was placed under the command of Capt. H.W. Crook. Capt. Joshua Y. Carmack was given command of my great grandfather's Co. D of the consolidated regiment. The brigade was still in Cleburne's Division (commanded by Brig. Gen. James A. Smith) in Cheatham's Corps.

By this point, the once renowned 32nd Mississippi Infantry already had lost most of its identity as combat unit. And in the major reorganization to come on April 9th, it will lose its name, officially ceasing to exist as a unique entity.

The distinctive divisional battle flag, a version of which flew
over Lowrey's Brigade and his formidable and distinguished
32nd Mississippi Infantry from Corinth to Bentonville.

The Official Records, Vol 47, Pt. 3, incorrectly spells the name as "Lowry's" (apparently mistakenly attributed to Robert Lowry) rather than Lowrey's Brigade, so named for their commander, Brig. Gen. Mark P. Lowrey.
Brig. Gen. Mark P. Lowrey had been commanding another division since the Battle of Nashville. In North Carolina, separated from the men of his old brigade and seeing the Cause as all but lost, Lowrey chose to resign his commission.

Sources: Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898, Dunbar Rowland; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 3; Capt. Joshua Y. Carmack's Service Records

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The army at Smithfield

Having withdrawn his forces from the Bentonville battlefield overnight March 21-22, 1865, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston led them toward Smithfield, North Carolina, about 15 miles to the north. There he planned to rest and refit his men and also ready them for further action against Union Gen. William T. Sherman.

Not looking for another full engagement with Johnston, Sherman chose not to follow up on the retreating Confederate army. So, after moving his Confederates throughout the 22nd, Johnston delayed his march a day to give his exhausted men a brief but welcome rest.

On the march again on today's date, Johnston's men crossed the Neuse River at Turner's Bridge and passed through Smithfield, halting 3 miles north of town, near Mitchener's Station on the North Carolina Railroad. For the next 3 weeks, Smithfield will be the new Confederate base. Its location is strategic for stopping Sherman if, as expected, he advances toward Richmond.

Sources: This Astounding Close, Mark L. Bradley; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 1

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Battle of Bentonville, 1865

The last battle to be fought between the Union army under Gen. William T. Sherman and the Confederate army under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston began on this date in 1865. It lasted through the 21st. Known as the the Battle of Bentonville, it was fought in that North Carolina community.

For almost 7 weeks, Sherman's army had moved from Savannah through the Carolinas, its 2 columns, ravaging the population and the countryside as they passed. While Sherman met some opposition along the way, the scattered Confederate forces had been able only to delay his march.

While Union Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum's advancing left wing was stalled briefly at Averasboro on March 16th by Lt. Gen. William Hardee’s attack, by the next day it had resumed its march toward Goldsboro. The right wing of Sherman’s army under Maj. Gen. O.O. Howard was headed in the same direction on a parallel route.
On March 18th, Johnston received a report from his cavalry commander Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton informing him that Sherman's 2 wings were advancing on Goldsboro and were widely separated. One of the columns, Slocum's, was marching up the road from Averasboro to Bentonville. Hampton suggested the Willis Cole plantation as an ideal place for a surprise attack. Johnston agreed and directed his generals Stewart, Bragg, and Hardee to march for Bentonville.

Johnston was convinced that he must attack Sherman before he could combine forces with Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield's army, at this moment moving west from Kingston to Goldsboro. Furthermore, Johnston believed that delivering a knockout blow to Sherman would give the South greater leverage for bargaining at war's end. And an attack now would also help Robert E. Lee's army in Petersburg, Virginia, by preventing Sherman from joining Gen. U.S. Grant's army.

On today's date, a Sunday in 1865, the  the Confederates launched their offensive near the village Bentonville.1 The struggle took place between men and units of opposing armies which had been fighting each other for the entire war. My great grandfather Nathan Oakes also saw his last fight here on the 21st, when his brigade (Lowrey's) arrived on the battlefield, the last of Cheatham's troops, and Johnston's last infantry reinforcements to join the battle.

Confederate commanders placed their troops in position to block the path of the Union left wing. By the time Slocum's men realized they were marching into a trap, it was too late. Caught by surprise, they were beaten back down the Goldsboro Road. So far, Johnston's relatively small but concentrated force had been successful. 
Unfortunately for Johnston, however, his force was simply too small to follow up on his initial success. To add to his difficulty, units from other Union corps were rushed to join the battle. On the 20th, Sherman's ranks had swollen to 60,000 men, 3 times the size of Johnston's force.
Nevertheless, the outmatched Confederates launched 5 separate assaults. Each failed to dislodge Slocum's column, however. On the 21st, many of the troops from Cheatham's Corps, plus Gen. Johnston himself, were almost captured when Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Mower's Division of the Union right wing overran Johnston's headquarters. At stake was the Confederates' only line of retreat across Mill Creek. Hardee counterattacked with a hastily assembled force, including Cheatham's Corps (Lowrey's Brigade was probably held in reserve behind Cheatham's attacking troops). His bold action repulsed the Federals and held the Mill Creek bridge. His counterattack also brought the battle to a close.
Faced with overwhelming numbers, and with nothing further to gain by holding his position, overnight on March 21-22, Johnston began withdrawing his troops across Mill Creek toward Smithfield, about 15 miles north. There he planned to rest and refit his men and also ready them to stop Sherman's anticipated march to join Grant against Robert E. Lee in Virginia. His army had just suffered 2,600 casualties to Sherman's loss of 1,500. With the smaller and more depleted force, Johnston's loss had the greater impact, and it will contribute to his decision to surrender a month later.

The Battle of Bentonville succeeded in delaying Sherman, however, it did not seriously cripple his army. Had Sherman determined to crush Johnston at Bentonville, the war in North Carolina would have come to an end here and now. Bentonville served as a reminder to Sherman that the Confederates were still a force to be reckoned with.

With Johnston's withdrawal, the way was now clear for Sherman to move on to Goldsboro, there to unite his forces.

An excellent series of maps of the Battle of Bentonville is available at the Civil War Trust website. Another website provided by North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources website offers an outstanding series of maps detailing the action from March 19-22, 1865.
Lowrey's Brigade, which included 8th/32nd Mississippi RegimentGreat Grandfather Oakes's unitarrived on the battlefield on the 21st along with with Brown's Division. Having experienced serious delays on the rail line, Lowrey's Brigade and Brown's Division arrived at the station at Selma about 5:00 PM on the 20th. According to historian Mark L. Bradley, "Frank Cheatham set a grueling pace on the march to Bentonville the next morning. The men struggled to keep up and many of them dropped out from exhaustion, doubtless the result of two weeks' inactivity caused by the haphazard nature of travel on the North Carolina Railroad." In view of its exhausted condition, the brigade may not have seen serious action on its arrival at Bentonville, but instead held in reserve.

Sources: Last Stand in the Carolinas, Mark L. Bradley; Moore's Historical Guide to the Battle of Bentonville, Mark A. Moore; The Confederate Surrender at Greensboro, Robert M. Dunkerly; Narrative of Military Operations During the Civil War, Joseph E. Johnston; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 1

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Battles of Monroe's Crossroads & Averasboro, 1865

On March 8, 1865, Gen. William T. Sherman's Union army moved into North Carolina. One of his columns, Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum's, aimed for Fayetteville, held by Confederate Lt. Gen. William Hardee.

Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton
On March 10th, Slocum forced Hardee Corps to evacuate the town. The confederate cavalry, commanded by Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton, covered Hardee's march. The next day, one of the last cavalry battles of the war was fought at a spot on the map called Monroe's Crossroads.1 

After several days of skirmishing with each other in North Carolina, the opposing cavalry forces finally met. Despite orders from Sherman not to force the Confederates into a fight, the notorious Maj. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick tried to block roads to stop the advancing Confederates, then went to bed ignoring any Confederate threat. At dawn on March 10th, Hampton's attack took the Federals by complete surprise. After 3 hours of fierce fighting, he withdrew his triumphant Confederates.

The fight at Monroe's Crossroads gained the additional time needed for Hardee's infantry to cross the Cape Fear River. With their troops and equipment safely across, the Confederates burned the bridges. Hardee then moved to join Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's command, which helped to set the stage for the climactic Battle of Bentonville a few days later.

But first, Hardee's men would have an opportunity to stand and fight before they joined Johnston.

By March 11th, Sherman's army occupied Fayetteville and rested there 4 days while the commanding general made his plans for taking Goldsboro. While Sherman was at Fayetteville, Hardee's Corps arrived at the Smithville Plantation along the Cape Fear River, north of Fayetteville and about 5 miles south of Averasboro. Here Hardee decided to make a stand and possibly buy additional time for Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to concentrate his forces at Smithfield.

Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee
On this date in 1865, Sherman's army was on the march to Goldsboro. Kilpatrick’s cavalry was out ahead of Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum's advancing left column when it came up against Hardee’s Corps, consisting of Maj. Gens. William B. Taliaferro’s and Lafayette McLaw’s infantry divisions and Joseph Wheeler’s dismounted cavalry. The Confederates were deployed across the Raleigh Road near Averasboro. After a brief skirmish, Kilpatrick withdrew and called for infantry support.

The 2-day Battle of Averasboro had begun.2 

At dawn on the second day, the Federals advanced on the first line but were stopped by the main Confederate defense. Later in the morning, a surprise flanking attack routed some of the Confederates on the line. Soon the attackers drove back the second line of defense. Just as the Federals were attempting to outflank Hardee's 3rd line, Wheeler's cavalry arrived to cover the gap. Sherman made the decision to postpone another assault until the next morning. However, by then Hardee had successfully evacuated his position in the darkness and moved toward Smithfield to join Johnston.3 

Hardee's losses were about 500 men, many of whom were captured. Union causalities were 682. Gen. Hardee's action at Averasboro managed to delay Sherman's advance for a day, buying Johnston more time to unify and relocate his forces for his final offensive, the Battle of Bentonville. However, Sherman now had an open road to Goldsboro, his main objective.

1 The Monroe's Crossroads battlefield is now on the grounds of the present day Fort Bragg Military Reservation.
2 For excellent map of the Battle of Averasboro see The Civil War Trust website.
At this moment, my Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes, in Lowrey's Brigade, also was making his way to join Johnston's forces that were concentrating at Smithfield.

Sources: This Astounding Close, Mark L. Bradley; General William J. Hardee, Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Gen. Lowrey resigns

Brig. Gen. Mark P. Lowrey
The end of the war came earlier for Brig. Gen. Mark Lowrey than for the troops he led since the beginning days of that long conflict. One of the privileges of being an officer was the right to resign a commission. By this point, the war was all but lost for the Confederate armies. In the reorganization of the fragments of the Army of Tennessee, there was a surplus of officers, and Gen. Lowrey accepted the opportunity to officially take his leave. His reasons, in his own words, were as follows:
At Chesterfield, S. C., I got leave of absence and went to Richmond to tender my resignation, which was accepted on the 14th of March, 1865. My reasons for resigning were as follows:
  1. I saw that the cause was lost.
  2. I had been separated from the men and officers with whom I had borne the "burden and heat of the day," and to whom I was endeared by a thousand sacred ties, and although I was ailing to stand with our broken forces until the end of the struggle, I was unwilling to mourne [sic] with strangers at the funeral of 'The Lost Cause.'
  3. Our armies were by an act of Congress, to be reorganized, and there was a surplus of officers of all grades, and I preferred to leave the offices to those who were more ambitious for military honor and position than myself. My highest ambition as a soldier was to do my whole duty, and advance the interest of that cause which was as dear to my heart as life.
In the disaster that swept the Army of Tennessee from Nashville in December, Lowrey had been placed in command of another division. The promotion separated him from the troops he had enlisted and led through almost the entire war. Many of these men, like Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes, had been recruited by Lowrey into "Lowrey's Regiment" at the beginning of the war in Northern Mississippi.

Through the long war, Gen. Lowrey proved himself a valiant leader and heroic fighter on battlefields like Perryville, Chickamauga, Ringgold Gap, Pickett's Mill, Peachtree CreekAtlantaFranklin and Nashville. But his men also loved him for his Christian faith and character. In addition to being a commissioned officer, Lowrey also was an ordained minister who never shied from shepherding his flock of soldiers, a fact recalled years later in 1900 by Great Grandfather Oakes in a letter he wrote to the editor of the Confederate Veteran. Lowery was a leader in the well-documented spiritual revival that swept the Confederate armies during the war, most notably at Dalton, Georgia. He frequently preached to the men under his command as well as to crowds of soldiers from other regiments. Many of these were baptized personally by the general.

After the war, Lowrey returned to Mississippi and took up the task of reorganizing and rebuilding churches that had been destroyed during the fighting. He eventually founded a Christian women’s college, which still exists as the Blue Mountain CollegeHe also was elected president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, serving that organization from 1868-1877. Following years of teaching at the college, Lowrey developed a serious heart condition. He died suddenly in 1885.
Sources: Mark P. Lowrey AutobiographyA Light on a Hill: A History of Blue Mountain College, Robbie Neal Sumrall; The Confederate Veteran, Vol. 8 (January 1900 -December 1900)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Battle of Wyse Fork / Kinston, 1865

From his headquarters in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the new commander of the Confederate force, Gen. Joseph Johnston, was supervising the concentration of his troops. Among the forces he was attempting to unite were the 3 corps of the Army of Tennessee, which included my great grandfather Nathan Oakes, and Lt. Gen. William Hardee's troops, which recently had withdrawn from Charleston. Johnston hoped to strike Union Gen. William T. Sherman's army, which was headed his way, while it crossed Cape Fear River.

Gen. Braxton Bragg
As Sherman was advancing toward the North Carolina border, Maj. Gen. Jacob D. Cox1 was marching his division with Gen. John M. Schofield's Corps inland from New Bern in order to control the rail line and link up with Sherman at Goldsboro. However, as Cox approached Kinston, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg saw an opportunity to defeat him.

On the 6th, Bragg asked Johnston to divert additional troops to him for an attack on Cox. Johnston rushed  the requested troops, under Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill, and instructed him to send them on to Smithfield as soon as possible. Johnston also informed Bragg that Cheatham's Corps, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was serving, and more than half of Stewart's were in transit by rail from Chesterville to Smithfield under the same orders as Hill's.

On March 7th, Bragg's Confederates blocked Cox's march at Wyse Fork2 along the Southwest Creek, 4 miles east of Kinston. That evening, advanced Union guards skirmished with the Confederates entrenched there, opening a 4-day clash in the fields and woods south and east of Southwest Creek.

Maj. Gen. Jacob D. Cox
On today's date in 1865, Bragg's troops attacked the Union flank. After initial success in routing a portion of the enemy, the Confederate attacks stalled because of faulty communications. Fighting renewed on the 10th, but not before Union reinforcements arrived to repulse Bragg’s attacks. After heavy fighting, and learning that Cox had been reinforced, Bragg withdrew to Goldsboro.

The Battle of Wyse Fork was the second largest battle in North Carolina. In the fighting the Confederates suffered around 1,500 in dead, wounded, or missing. Union casualties were around 1,100.

Bragg's attack had bought only a little more time for Johnston's army. On March 14th, the city of Kinston fell into Union hands. In the days after the battle, the Union forces pushed towards Goldsboro and ultimately to the last major battle at Bentonville on March 19-21.

1 Gen. Cox is credited with saving the center of the Union line in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864
2 For an excellent map of the Battle of Wyse Fork, please visit The Civil War Trust website.

Sources: This Astounding Close, Mark L. Bradley; Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Vol. 2, Jacob D. Cox; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pts. 1 & 2

Monday, February 23, 2015

Joseph Johnston returns to lead the army

On today's date in 1863, retired Gen. Joseph E. Johnston received a telegraph from Richmond ordering him to report to Gen. Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy's new general-in-chief. On the same day, Lee also telegraphed Johnston directing him to "assume command of the Army of Tennessee and all troops in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida." The purpose of the order was simple: "Concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman."

Johnston immediately made his way to Charlotte to assume command from Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, whose health prevented him from continuing as commander-in-chief. In turn, Beauregard accepted Johnston's offer to be second in command and to assist with the concentration of available Confederate forces.

Upon assuming his new role, Johnston reported to Lee that his force totaled less than 25,000, nearly 10,000 fewer troops than Beauregard had estimated his strength to be earlier in the month. And with these he would attempt to hold back Sherman's 60,000-man army. To complicate matters, the men and units that Johnston could bring against Sherman were scattered and had yet to fight together as a united army. Before he could adequately oppose Sherman, Johnston needed to concentrate his force.

Lt. Gen. William Hardee with his command of about 11,000 was on his way from Charleston to Cheraw. Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham and Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart were moving the remnants of the Army of Tennessee to concentrate their forces at Fayetteville and would soon be joined there by Hardee's army. Facing Sherman was Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee with about 3,000 other veterans from the remainder of the army of Tennessee along with 6,000 cavalry under Wade Hampton. Braxton Bragg led 5,500 troops which had been forced to retreat from Wilmington.

Johnston moved his headquarters to Fayetteville, North Carolina, on March 4, to better supervise the movements of his troops now gathering in his direction. Moving again to Smithfield on March 10, he was greeted enthusiastically by troops of the Army of Tennessee, which had finally competed their long and arduous trek from Mississippi. Now with a united army, Johnston will oversee the fighting leading up to Bentonville before being compeled to surrender to Sherman at Bennett Place in April.

Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jespersen

Sources: Narrative of Military Operations During the Civil War, Joseph E. Johnston; General Joseph E. Johnston: A Different Valor, Gilbert Govan & James Livingwood; This Astounding Close, Mark L. Bradley

Thursday, February 19, 2015

From Augusta to Bentonville, 1865

On February 9, 1865, my great grandfather Nathan Oakes finally arrived at Augusta, Georgia, completing an arduous 2-week, 500-mile trip from Tupelo, Mississippi. His regiment, the 32nd Mississippi Infantry, had been ordered with Benjamin Cheatham's Corps to confront Union Gen. William T. Sherman and his army that was heading out on a path of destruction through the Carolinas.

After a few days respite, the corps was ordered north from Augusta to defend Columbia. However, on the march, the Confederates learned that Sherman had gotten ahead of Cheatham and had attacked Columbia. So Cheatham was ordered to Newberry instead, about 40 miles northwest of the capital city. Crossing the Saluda River on the 17th, the tired men completed their march to Newberry on today's date. There Cheatham awaited further orders from Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard as to where he planned to concentrate the scattered forces making their way north.

Cheatham's men were ordered to march to Charlotte on February 21st. However, when they reached the Enoroee River that night, 21 miles north, a change of orders came from Beauregard. The next morning, the troops marched back to Newberry. From Newberry on the 23rd, they loaded onto rail cars and rode 17 miles south to Pomaria. Due to a break in the rail line, the corps stayed in Pomaria through the 25th.

During their short stay there, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was appointed to take command of Beauregard's army. The new commander's orders were to concentrate his forces and drive back Sherman. Johnston chose Smithfield, North Carolina as the new cncentration point for his scattered army.

From February 26th through March 6th, Cheatham's Corps made a difficult march to Chester, South Carolina. From there on March 11th, the weary troops took railroad cars toward Smithfield. The train ride was anything but uneventful, however.

Leaving Chester on the 11th, the men traveled 45 miles to Charlotte, North Carolina, arriving there very late that night. The next morning, a Sunday, they continued by rail 45 miles north to Salisbury, arriving in the late afternoon. Here the rail gauge changed, so the corps had to wait for the arrival of a new train. They waited a whole week.

Finally on Monday, March 20, they reached the Smithfield Depot. After unloading the train, the men camped along the tracks. Unfortunately for them, the fighting that would become the Battle of Bentonville had just started. So, the morning of the 21st, Gen. Cheatham set a grueling pace, marching his men from the Smithfield station to join the second day of the final battle of the Carolinas Campaign.

Source: Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 1; Last Stand in the Carolinas, Mark L. Bradley

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Battle of Columbia, South Carolina

In a meeting with his generals on February 2, 1865, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard decided to defend South Carolina against Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's 60,000-man army by dividing his force. He had only half Sherman's strength to hold the key cities of Augusta and Charleston. On today's date in 1865, his strategy proved to be the wrong one for keeping Sherman out of the state.

Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jespersen

While threatening both cities, Sherman managed to move the 2 columns of his army between the Confederate's western and eastern commands and head for the state capital. When he reached the outskirts of Columbia on today's date, he found the city to be defended by an inferior Confederate force, mostly cavalry under Gen. Joseph Wheeler and Maj. Gen. Matthew C. Butler, along with a portion of Stephen D. Lee's infantry corps of the Army of Tennessee.

By the next day, Columbia had fallen to Sherman's army. Upon their retreat, Confederate cavalrymen set cotton bales on fire. Drunken Federal soldiers added to the conflagration by setting the town ablaze.

Sherman had now cut off the port city of Charleston from the interior of the state, which in turn forced the evacuation of the garrison there under Gen. William J. Hardee. Hardee’s troops withdrew to Cheraw, near the North Carolina border, and then to Fayetteville where Beauregard hoped to unite his forces and make a stand against Sherman. The Confederates essentially were giving up South Carolina, the first state to secede and where the first shots of the war had been fired.

During the Battle of Columbia, Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was marching with his 32nd Regiment in Benjamin Cheatham's Corps toward that city. Having only recently arrived in Augusta, Georgia, completing a torturous 500-mile trip from Northern Mississippi, Gen. Beauregard ordered Cheatham's Corps on to Columbia on the 13th.

Learning along the way on the 17th that Sherman's army had gotten between it and Columbia, Cheatham's Corps was ordered to Newberry, about 40 miles northwest of the capital city. That night, the troops were across the Saluda River, and the next day they arrived at Frog Level Station (Prosperity) on the Greenville Railroad. On the morning of the 19th, they marched 8 miles to Newberry, there to await further orders from Beauregard as to where he planned to concentrate his scattered army.

Sources: Last Stand in the Carolinas, Mark L. Bradley; Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 8; Official Records, Vol. 47, Pt. 1

Monday, February 2, 2015

Beauregard's war council | Sherman's Carolinas Campaign, 1865

Maj. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard
On today's date in 1865, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard called his generals together at Green's Cut Station, near Augusta, for a war council to determine how to stop Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's 60,000-man army moving out of Savannah, about 125 miles to the south. In addition to Beauregard, Lt. Gen. William Hardee, Lt. Gen. Daniel H. Hill, and Maj. Gen. Gustavus W. Smith were in attendance, each commanding one of the separate Confederate forces in the region.

Beauregard estimated his combined strength at 33,450 troops. However, his estimate included 10,000 reinforcements he expected to receive from Mississippi with the arrival of the survivors of the Army of Tennessee. These western troops would reach the state at various times over the next 10 days, and included: Maj. Gen. S.D. Lee's Corps of around 4,000, which had mostly arrived in Augusta by this date; Maj. Gen. Benjamin Cheatham's Corps, among which was my Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes, not anticipated until the 5th; and Maj. Gen. A.P. Stewart's men who would not arrive until the 11th.

Beauregard decided against concentrating his forces. Instead he settled on a strategy of dividing his command to hold both Charleston and Augusta as long as possible while peace talks were taking place in Hampton Roads, Virginia.* He planned to eventually reunite his forces at Columbia.

Beauregard's decision proved a fateful one for his armies.

Sherman launched his Carolinas Campaign on February 1st from Savannah, dividing his army into 2 columns in a feint towards both Charleston and Augusta. Cutting a swath more than 40 miles wide, he successfully pushed his force between the divided Confederate armies and captured Columbia by the 17th.

Failing to halt Sherman, the Confederates were forced to give up the state and withdraw toward North Carolina.

* The Hampton Roads Conference was held between the United States and the Confederate States on February 3, 1865. The conference took place aboard the steamboat River Queen in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The goal was to discuss terms to end the war. USA President Abraham Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William H. Seward, met with CSA commissioners, Vice President Alexander H. Stevens, Senator Robert M.T. Hunter, and Assistant Secretary of War John A. Campbell. Sadly, a peace agreement was not reached, and the war continued well into April.

Sources: Last Stand in the Carolinas, Mark L. Bradley; This Astounding Close, Mark L. Bradley