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, 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

No comments:

Post a Comment