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, January 25, 2015

Reassignment to South Carolina

Having survived Confederate Gen. John B. Hood's disastrous Tennessee Campaign and his army's collapse at Nashville, Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes spent the first few weeks of January 1865 in Tupelo, Mississippi, 50 miles south of his hometown of Kossuth. The army's temporary commander, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor, used the time to resupply and equip the shattered troops in order to join Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard's forces in South Carolina. Once again they will be opposing Gen. William T. Sherman's victorious army. By January 19th, Taylor had begun the process of transferring the troops under his command to Beauregard.

The Confederate cavalry was sent out overland. A wagon train of the army's supplies followed at a much slower pace. Infantry troops were sent via railroad to speed their arrival ahead of the Yankee invaders moving north from Savannah.

On today's date in 1865, Great Grandfather Oakes departed with around 1,900 others in Benjamin Cheatham's Corps, the second of 3 corps to be shipped off in January to South Carolina. It was a lengthy and grueling 2-week, 500-mile trip to Augusta, Georgia.

After saying farewell to his family in Kossuth, Great Grandfather rejoined his regiment, the 32nd Mississippi, in Cheatham's Corps as it began its journey from Tupelo, Mississippi, marching 50 miles over ruined roads to West Point, arriving on the 27th. In his diary, Maj. Henry Hampton of Cheatham's staff left us a few details of their tortuous itinerary from there.

At West Point, the soldiers boarded railroad cars for the ride to Meridian, arriving there the morning of the 28th. On the same day, they again took the cars for Demopolis, but the train derailed only 14 miles outside of Meridian. That night, the men camped beside the tracks.

On the 29th, a Sunday, they started again for Demopolis, reaching that town late in the afternoon. From that point, they continued on to Selma. However, once again the engine ran off the tracks and they did not reach Selma until the next day. Loading onto the steamboat, Southern Republic, they started for Montgomery that same night.

Arriving in Montgomery in the afternoon on February 1st, the weary men got a day off from traveling. Then the morning of the 3rd, they again boarded railroad cars for Columbus, reaching their destination by the evening. They remained there through the 4th.

Leaving Columbus early on Sunday the 5th, the troops arrived at Macon that afternoon. On the 6th, they marched all day from Macon to Midway, then camped a mile and a half beyond Milledgeville, Georgia's capital until 1868.

Due to a break in the rail line, from Milledgeville on the 7th, they marched in a rainstorm 25 miles toward Sparta. The next morning,  they continued the march another 12 miles along the broken track to Mayfield, where that afternoon, they climbed aboard the railcars, reaching Camak Station at nightfall. Again aboard the train on the 9th, the men finally arrived in Augusta that afternoon, camping that night round the depot.

By February 1, Gen. Sherman's army totaled 60,000 veteran soldiers who had recently completed their march of terror and destruction across Georgia. They were now poised to invade South Carolina. The opposing force of Confederate troops numbered half that, and many of them in the Army of Tennessee were still in transit from Mississippi. To defend Augusta and Charleston against Sherman, Beauregard commanded scattered forces consisting of Georgia militia under Maj. Gen. Gustavus W. Smith as well as veteran fighting units whose ranks had been greatly depleted through the war. At Beauregard's disposal was the Department of South Carolina and Georgia, commanded by Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, which was falling back from Savannah towards Charleston. He also had Lt. Gen. Joseph Wheeler's Cavalry Corps, which was in near-daily contact with Sherman's army trying to delay its progress as much as possible. In Augusta, Maj. Gen. Daniel Harvey Hill was placed in command of forces in the District of Georgia. And, still on its difficult journey toward Columbia were the trailing corps of the Army of Tennessee.

On the move again on February 10, Cheatham's Corps crossed the river into South Carolina, camping near the bridge. On the 15th, the men will be on the move again, this time under orders north to Columbia, and eventually will reunite with other units from the Army of Tennessee and various Confederate forces as the war drew to a close.

Sources: The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Last Stand in the Carolinas, Mark L. Bradley; Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898, Dunbar Rowland; Official Records, Vol. 45, Pts. 1 & 2

Friday, January 23, 2015

Richard Taylor briefly commands the Army of Tennessee

On today's date in 1865, Hood officially was relieved of command, and he departed the Army of Tennessee for Richmond, having commanded it for a disastorous 6 months. He addressed his troops in a farewell message:

Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood
Soldiers: At my request I have this day been relieved from the command of this army. In taking leave of you accept my thanks for the patience with which you have endured your many hardships during the recent campaign. I am alone responsible for its conception, and strived hard to do my duty in its execution. I urge upon you the importance of giving your entire support to the distinguished soldier who now assumes command, and I shall look with deepest interest upon all your future operations and rejoice at your successes.
 J. B. Hood, General

Few of his men were sorry to see him go.

Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor
Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor, son of former U.S. President Zachary Taylor and brother-in-law of C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis, was named successor to Hood as commander of the remnants of the Army of Tennessee. After looking to the immediate care and reequipping of the shattered troops assigned to him, his primary role was organizing the transfer of the unitsincluding Great Grandfather's 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regimentto North Carolina, once again to oppose Sherman. This operation was under way by January 19th.

After the war, Taylor was active in Democratic party politics in Louisiana, opposing the policy of Northern Reconstruction. He also interceded for Jefferson Davis after the demise of the Confederate States. In 1879, a week before his death, Taylor's memoir of the war, Destruction and Reconstruction, was published. His book continues to retain its status among the acclaimed accounts of the American Civil War.

Sources: Advance and Retreat, John B. Hood; Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898, Dunbar Rowland; Official Records, Vol. 45, Pt. 2

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hood resigns

Following his army's retreat from the disaster at the Battle of Nashville, Gen. John Bell Hood led his defeated troops to Tupelo, Mississippi, returning it at last from an odyssey begun 2 1/2 years earlier. On today's date 1865, Hood's superior, Gen. 
P.G.T. Beauregard, visited the Army of Tennessee at Tupelo. On the same day, Gen. Hood sent a dispatch to Richmond requesting to be relieved of command. His request will be granted on January 23rd.

The following day, after consulting with Gen. Beauregard, Hood instituted a system of 10-day furloughs for his war weary troops. For my Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes, this probably was the first time since leaving Mississippi in June of 1862, that he was given official leave to visit his family in Kossuth, 50 miles north of Tupelo.

Sources: The Confederates' Last Hurrah, Wiley Sword; Hood's Campaign for Tennessee, William R. Scaife; Official Records, Vol. 45, Pt. 1