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.

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

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