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, December 31, 2012

The Battle of Murfreesboro, Day 1

The Southern attack came at dawn today's date, Wednesday, 1862. The fighting of the first day of the battle, took place west and northwest of the town of Murfreesboro. The south end of the battlefield was about a mile below the Franklin Road, which ran west. 1-1/2 miles north of and parallel to this road, was the Wilkinson Turnpike. A mile further north and also parallel, was a small dirt road. Overall’s Creek bound the battlefield, about 3 miles wide, on the east by Stones River1 and on the west. A short distance apart and directly northwest from Murfreesboro, ran the turnpike and railroad to Nashville.

On the 30th, the Confederate divisions of Generals McCown, Withers, and Cheatham lay in line of battle near the eastern edge of the area, which would soon become the battlefield. McCown’s division formed a line south of the Franklin Road. Beginning at the road Whithers's division extended to a point immediately north of the Nashville Turnpike and railroad, with Cheatham in a line behind Withers. Breckinridge’s and Cleburne’s divisions, north of Murfreesboro, were separated from Withers and Cheatham by Stones River.

Union Gen. Rosecrans concentrated his army facing the Confederate divisions, both on the west and north. At some points the 2 armies were only 500 yards apart.

Both Bragg and Rosecrans essentially had formed the same plan, to be executed the same morning—to attack with the left and drive back the enemy’s right wing. The Confederates, however, advanced earlier on this cold morning.

Battle of Murfreesboro, opening of first day, December 31, 1863
Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jesperson

Following are the events associated with my Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes's division, Gen. Cleburne's of Hardee's Corps, posted on the right of the Wilkinson Pike, extending toward Salem Pike.2 

Gen. Cleburne ordered his men to be awakened and ready for battle at 5:00 AM. The morning was cold and frosty and a thick morning haze covered the ground. No fires were allowed, and the men were assembled quickly and readied to move before sunrise. Cleburne placed S.A.M. Wood’s Brigade behind Polk in a second line as a reserve.

Cleburne and his division, composed of L.E. Polk’s, Bushrod Johnson’s, St. John Liddell’s, and Wood’s brigades, began the advance, and his division moved forward on a front nearly a mile wide. The terrain was not ideal for an attack. The ground was broken and filled with limestone boulders and cedar bushes, allowing for gapping and bunching of the men during the advance.

The division encountered the enemy’s line behind a fence and natural breastworks of limestone. Cleburne threw his brigades into the charge against the Federals. The fight was short, fierce, and bloody, lasting about 25 minutes, when the enemy gave way, and Cleburne’s men pursued. The Rebel charge broke the second Federal line. This line soon yielded and both lines pressed into one. The Federals retreated, leaving behind their two rifled cannon, which were immediately turned upon them by the Confederate attackers. By now the alignment of units became haphazard and disorderly. When Cleburne’s brigades ran up against a new Federal line near the Wilkinson Turnpike about 9:00 AM, their progress was checked by the disciplined volleys of the Federals.

Cleburne's and McCown's Divisions renewed their advance at about 9:30 AM, in a sweep of a line that was 10 brigades long, against the startled Federals of Alexander McCook’s XX Corps. Every soldier assigned to the Confederate attack was now in the front line, and if it faltered before it reached the Nashville Pike, there would be no reserves to throw into the fight.

After the fight along the Wilkinson Pike, Cleburne sent Wood’s Brigade back to allow the men to replenish their depleted cartridge pouches, while his 3 other brigades, plus Preston Smith’s Brigade of Frank Cheatham’s Division, moved a half mile beyond the Wilkerson Pike. There, Cleburne ran into another Federal line, where fierce fighting took place at close range for nearly an hour before the Yankees were driven from the field. 

Cleburne pursued into the early afternoon. By now his men were tired, having carried the burden of the attack for over 8 hours. Now, less than a half mile from the Nashville Pike, with little sleep and no breakfast or lunch or even water, they encountered their fifth line of Federals of the day. Nevertheless, they charged the enemy line and drove the defenders from their position through a cedar break and onto the Nashville Pike, which was the Federals' main line of supply and communication. Cleburne's force had reached the original center of Rosecrans’ army, but it was now after 3:00 PM, and the men had reached the end of their strength. 

By now Rosecrans realized his peril and sent reserves to hold the turnpike. Cleburne’s line broke, and the men fled to the protection of the cedar break about a quarter mile to the rear. Hardee detached Wood’s Brigade to guard their ammunition train, which was threatened by a Federal cavalry probe. Judging that another attack by Cleburne “would have been folly, not valor,” Hardee ordered Cleburne to hold the ground he had gained (about a half mile west of the Nashville Turnpike), rest the division, and await further orders.

For the second night in a row, Cleburne’s men went to sleep without the benefit of campfires or hot food. Having discarded their packs in the attack, they were also without tents or blankets. Even so, they slept knowing they had whipped the Yankees badly, and anticipated that they would withdraw. 

The Southern attack, which came at dawn on this first day had the Union on the defensive by day's end. On the enemy's side of the battlefield, the offensive movement planned by Rosecrans was now out of the question. His supreme object now was to save his army from annihilation by holding his line. He will have Gen. George Henry Thomas largely to thank for preventing a Confederate victory.3  By nighttime, Rosecrans's troops may be battered, but they are not defeated. To Bragg's disappointment, over night the enemy prepared to resume fighting tomorrow.

Battle of Murfreesboro, end of first day, December 31, 1863
Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jespersen

1 The Battle of Murfreesboro is also known as the Battle of Stones River.

2 My great grandfather's 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment (Lowrey's), which was a part of Wood's Brigade, was a few miles away from the battle on the Stones River. The brigade's assignment for the past few weeks had been to guard bridges south of Nashville to prevent Rosecrans from resupplying his troops stationed in that city. Most recently the brigade had been assisting Gen. Wharton’s cavalry in retarding the advance of Gen. McCook's right wing of the Federal army. The 32nd Regiment did not rejoin its division at Stones River until after the worst of the fighting was over.

3 This won't be the only time that Thomas, a former slave owner from Virginia, will come to the Union army's rescue. He will later be known by the well-deserved nickname, "Rock of Chickamauga," for reasons that will become apparent in the next year. Thomas will remain a thorn in the side of the Army of Tennessee for the duration of the war in the West.

Sources: Confederate Military History: Tennessee, James D. Porter; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Pat Cleburne:  Confederate General, Howell and Elizabeth Purdue; Stones RiverBloody Winter in Tennessee, James Lee McDonough; Civil War Times, Daniel Wait Howe; The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Official Records, Vol. 20, Part 2

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The eve of battle

On this date, Tuesday, in 1862, Union Gen. McCook, leaving one brigade (Baldwin's) at Triune to cover his extreme right, moved forward with the remainder of his command on a country road known as the Bole Jack road toward Murfreesboro, reaching camp west of the Stones River late in the evening. From the Confederate army's movements he concluded that Gen. Braxton Bragg intended to give battle at Murfreesboro, and so arranged his troops accordingly.

Late that tonight while McCook was preparing his troops, Bragg called his generals, Hardee and Polk, to his headquarters to receive new orders. He had decided to seize the initiative and attack Rosecrans. Hardee was given overall tactical command during the attack, which was to begin at dawn on the 31st. Gen. Cleburne received his orders late in the afternoon of the 30th. Cleburne broke camp and began to march southward through a cold, pelting rain. He deployed his men in line of battle as best he could in the dark, after receiving guidance to his assigned position from Hardee’s staff officers. In the wet and pitch-darkness his men began removing their shoes, and many their trousers, in order to wade through the bone-chilling water of Stones River.

Like Bragg, Rosecrans's plan called for the battle to begin early on the morning of the 31st, by an advance of the army's left, wheeling to the right. Rosecrans expected to advance on Murfreesboro and get into the rear of Bragg's army, while Bragg intended to double back the Federal right across the Nashville Turnpike and cut off Rosecrans's retreat to Nashville.

Both armies await what will become the Battle of Murfreesboro, or the Battle of Stones River, which will begin tomorrow, December 31, 1862, and last through January 2, 1863.

Eve of the Battle of Murfreesboro, Dec. 30, 1863
Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jespersen

Sources: The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Stonewall of the West, Craig L. Symonds; Civil War Times, 1861-1865, Daniel Wait Howe

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Objective: Murfreesboro & Nashville

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 1863, from Harper's Weekly
The town of Murfreesboro was situated on the railroad to Chattanooga, 30 miles southeast of Nashville, in the midst of the great plain stretching from the base of the Cumberland Mountains toward the Cumberland River. It was surrounded by a gently undulating and highly cultivated country.

Leading in every direction from the town were numerous turnpikes. Stones River—named after an early settler—was formed there where the middle and south branches of the stream united, and flowed north between low steep banks of limestone, difficult to cross, and emptied into the Cumberland River. At the time of the battle the stream was so low that it could be crossed by infantry everywhere. The Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad crossed the river about 200 yards above the turnpike bridge. 500 yards beyond, the railroad intersected the Nashville Turnpike at a sharp angle, then ran 800 yards between the pike and the river, at which point the stream turns abruptly to the east and passes to the north.

At the time, open fields surrounded the town, fringed with dense cedar-brakes. These brakes provided excellent cover for approaching infantry, but were almost impervious to artillery due to their density. They would prove to be a significant obstacle in the coming conflict.

The center of Bragg's army was at Murfreesboro, under Gen. Leonidas Polk. The right was at Readyville, under Gen. John McCown. The left at Triune and Eaglesville, was under Gen. William Hardee. Three brigades of Hardee's Corps from John C. Breckenridge's Division were at Murfreesboro. Gen. Patrick Cleburne's Division (in which Great Grandfather Oakes served, although presently stationed at Triune) and Adams's Brigade of Breckinridge's Division were under the immediate command of Hardee, near Eaglesville, about 20 miles west of Murfreesboro. Joseph Wheeler's cavalry brigade was also attached to Hardee's Corps at this time.

Battle of Murfreesboro, Dec. 30, 1863
Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jespersen

Bragg placed Breckinridge's Division on his extreme right, across Stones River, to protect that flank and cover the town. Adams's brigade rested on the Lebanon road, about a mile and a half from town. Breckinridge's Division formed the first line, facing north, and was posted in the edge of the forest. To the left of Adams the line was broken by a field about 300 yards in width, which apparently was left unoccupied; but it and the fields in front were covered by the 20th Tennessee and Wright's Battery. Preston's Brigade rested with its right in the woods, and extended along the edge with its left toward the river. On the left of Preston, Palmer's Brigade was formed, and on his left Hanson's completed that portion of the line, including a hill about 600 yards in front of his center. Jackson's Brigade was placed on the east side of the Lebanon road, in front and the right of Adams's men. On the other side of the river the right of Withers's Division rested at the bank, near the intersection of the turnpike with the railroad, in front and to the right of Hanson's. It extended south across the Wilkinson Pike to the Triune-Franklin road. In the rear of Withers's Division, Cheatham's was posted as a supporting force. McCown's Division, also under Hardee's commanded, was placed on Wither's left. Cleburne's Division was placed on the left, 500 yards to rear as support for that division.

Bragg's main line of battle was in the edge of the woods, with open ground to the front. There he formed his troops in two lines, the first line protected by entrenchments, and his second line formed some six hundred yards to the rear. He awaited Rosecrans's attack on Tuesday the 30th, and not receiving it, made his arrangements for an advance and attack in force on the next morning. His troops remained in line of battle, ready to move with the early Wednesday dawn.

Bragg's plan of battle was, as Providence would have it, a mirror image of  Rosecrans's plan. Hardee on the left, with McCown's and Cleburne's Divisions, was to advance against the Federal right, which being forced back, Polk and Withers's and Cheatham's Divisions were then to push the center. The movement would be made by a steady wheel to the right, with Polk's command as a pivot. Bragg planned to drive the enemy's right and center back against its left on Stones River and across the Nashville Turnpike, seizing this line of communication with Nashville, thereby cutting the Federal army from its base of operations and supplies. In so doing, hoped Bragg, he would secure the objective of his campaign, Nashville.

Bragg's plan was equally as bold as that of his opponent, whose command was slightly smaller in strength to the Rebel force. The success of either army depended largely on the degree of success in the opening moves of the battle. Rosecrans's orders were for his troops to breakfast before daylight and attack at 7:00 AM. Bragg issued orders to attack at daylight.

The 2 armies are now arrayed only some 500 yards apart, facing each other and eager for the fight to finally begin.

Sources: The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Civil War Times, Daniel Wait Howe; Stone's River: The Turning-Point of the Civil War, Wilson J. Vance

Friday, December 28, 2012

Battle line on the Stones River

On Sunday, the 28th, there was no general movement of troops. Union Gen. McCook sent a brigade on reconnaissance to learn that Hardee's Corps had retired to Murfreesboro.

Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne reported:
On the morning of the 28th, General Hardee ordered me to form a line of battle north of Murfreesboro and east of Stone’s River, my line to face north, its left resting on the river, its right near the Lebanon turnpike, 800 or 1,000 yards in rear of a line already occupied by Breckenridge’s division. 
Wood’s brigade, falling back slowly before General McCook’s army corps, impeding his advance wherever opportunities offered, finally reached Stone’s River and rejoined the division on the morning of the 29th.
Although a part of Wood's Brigade, my great grandfather's regiment, Lowrey's 32nd Mississippi Infantry, apparently was not brought back from advanced guard duty at Triune with the rest of the brigade on the 29th. Therefore, this unit will miss the first day of battle.

Sources: The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Official Records, Vol. 20, Part 1

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Getting into position

As a great battle neared, the 4th Brigade, under command of Brig. Gen. S.A.M. Wood, was stationed at Triune, 4 miles north of College Grove, on the Nashville and Shelbyville turnpike. My great grandfather's 32nd Mississippi (Lowrey's Regiment), which was a part of Wood's force, was a few miles away at Wartrace, guarding bridges and supporting Gen. Wharton's cavalry force, as Rosecrans's troops advanced toward it on its way to Murfreesboro. According to a regimental soldier's recollection, Lowrey's 32nd Regiment was ordered to Murfreesboro on this Saturday in 1862, although according to Lowrey, the regiment did not participate in the first day of the battle.

Here are the events as they unfolded for Wood's force in the battle.

General Cleburne reports:
Early on the morning of the 27th, I received orders from [Gen. Hardee] to take up position on the turnpike about 1 mile north of my encampment. While making this disposition, I received orders from General Hardee to move the three brigades with me to Murfreesborough by the routes previously decided upon; also that Wood’s brigade would remain at Triune and assist General Wharton’s cavalry to retard the farther advance of the enemy.

For proceedings of Wood’s brigade under this order, I respectfully refer you to the report of Brig. Gen. S.A.M. Wood, herewith transmitted.
Gen. Wood's report continues the narrative of events prior to the battle: 
On the morning of the 28th, General Hardee ordered me to form line of battle north of Murfreesborough and east of Stone’s River, my line to face north, its left resting on the river, its right near the Lebanon turnpike, 800 or 1,000 yards in rear of a line already occupied by Breckinridge’s division.
Wood’s brigade, falling back slowly before General McCook’s army corps, impending his advance wherever the opportunity offered, finally reached Stone’s River and rejoined the division on the morning of the 29th.
I lay, inactive, in line of battle until the evening of the 30th, when I received orders to move from the right to the left of the army. Arriving in the fording place on Stone’s River, I received orders to remain there until General Hardee had examined the ground and determined my position. It was dark when staff officers were sent to order me forward and show me my position. The passage of the river in the night was attended with many difficulties, and my whole division was not in position before midnight. As well as I could judge from the camp-fires, my line was a prolongation to the left of Cheatham’s line, and was 400 or 500 yards in rear of McCown’s division.”
Gen. Hardee then ordered that the brigades should be ready to attack the enemy at 4:30 AM. The narrative continues with his report:
Before daylight I formed line, placing Polk’s brigade, with Calvert’s battery, on the right; Johnson’s brigade, with Darden’s battery, in the center, and Liddell’s brigade, with the Warren Light Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant Shannon, on the left. Wood’s brigade I placed a short distance in rear of Polk’s. This brigade had no battery in the fight, its battery (Semple’s, of six Napoleon guns) having been detached the day before to support Hanson’s brigade, of Breckinridge’s division, and having remained with that brigade on the right of the army.
Sources: Corinth Information DatabaseOfficial Records, Vol. 20, Part 1; Autumn of Glory, Thomas Lawrence Connelly

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rosecrans advances against Bragg

On today's date, a Friday, in 1862, Union Gen. William Rosecrans began advancing upon Gen. Braxton Bragg with an army of 54,000. Bragg had 37,000, having been weakened some days earlier when President Davis ordered Stevenson’s division to the defense of Vicksburg. While Confederate cavalry and infantry outposts impeded the Federal advance, Bragg, well aware now that Rosecrans's entire army was moving in force against him, formed his army for battle near Stones River. This stream, for which the battle is named, flowing to the north, was about 1-1/2 miles west of Murfreesboro.

The Federal army occupies Nashville, and after 4 months of preparation, Rosecrans is ready to begin  his advance against Bragg's Army of Tennessee. He will spend 4 days advancing a distance of 20 miles, his movements being delayed by the cavalry of Generals Wheeler and Wharton, who will whittle away at his troops, killing and wounding large numbers. Rosecrans's plan is for Maj. Gen. McCook to advance with 3 divisions by Triune against Hardee's Corps, Maj. Gen George H. Thomas to advance on his right with 2 divisions, and Maj. Gen. Crittenden with 3 divisions to move directly on Murfreesboro. Rosecrans is fully informed as to the Confederate position.

The Confederate center is at Murfreesboro under Gen. Leonidas Polk. The right wing of the army is at Readyville under Maj. Gen. John McCown, and the left is at Triune and Eagleville under Gen. William Hardee.

The right of Hardee's Corps (except for the 32nd Mississippi Regiment) and left were spared attack by McCook's force due to morning fog. At noon, when the fog had lifted, McCook pushed rapidly forward, with Sheridan behind him. As they approached Triune, they discovered that the Confederates had burnt the bridge across Wilson's Creek, leaving behind a battery and cavalry support to hold the crossing. Forcing the battery unit to withdraw, the Federals repaired the bridge, crossed over, and encamped on the other side. Meanwhile, Hardee had withdrawn his force and concentrated concentrated at Murfreesboro ready to receive Rosecrans's the attack.

Today it is cold and overcast with rain threatening. Wood’s Brigade is 4 miles north at Triune, serving as a divisional advance guard. Wood will report to Gen. Cleburne that a Federal column is advancing from the north. There are other reports that Rosecrans's army was on the move. The next morning Hardee will order Cleburne to move at once to Murfreesboro.

Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes was in Wood's Brigade at this time. However, his regiment, the 32nd Mississippi, was on special duty guarding the bridges in front of Rosecrans's advance.

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell and Elizabeth Purdue; Confederate Military History: Tennessee, Vol. 10, James D. Porter; The Army of the Cumberland, Henry Martyn Cist; Stone's River: The Turning-Point of the Civil War, Wilson J. Vance; Official Records, Vol. 20, Part 1

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The battle draws nearer for the 32nd Miss. Regiment

According to historian Dunbar Rowland, on this date in 1862,
Colonel Lowrey, with his regiment and the Third Confederate, was guarding the line of railroad between Normandy Station and Fosterville, and General Breckenridge was ordered to send a regiment, not less than 250 strong, to relieve him. But it does not appear that the Thirty-second had an opportunity to take part in the battle.
Apparently, at this time the 32nd Mississippi Infantry, in which Great Grandfather Oakes was serving, was operating as a unit separate from the rest of Wood's Brigade, which did have an active part in the battle. According the the Official Records,* Gen. Hardee ordered Lowrey and the 32nd Regiment to be relieved on today's date, of guarding the railroad between Normandy Station and Fosterville, south of Murfreesboro, and to rejoin the brigade near Hardee’s headquarters near Eagleville. In his post-war autobiography, Gen. Lowrey explains that his regiment was detached from Wood's Brigade for this special duty, and was not relieved in time to engage in the first day's fight on the 31st. However, according to Lowrey, the regiment did take an active part in the skirmishing that followed, and Lowrey was put in charge of leading Wood's brigade in the army's retreat from Murfreesboro.

* The organization of the army, which is undated in the Official Records, Vol. 20, Part 1, but is placed in the Stones River Campaign section (note at bottom of page indicates that it was “compiled from the reports”), Wood’s Brigade (Fourth) is listed without Lowrey's 32nd Mississippi Regiment. This is likely because the regiment was counted as being on detached duty at the time, guarding bridges and supporting Gen. Wharton's cavalry.

Sources: Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898, Dunbar Rowland; Official Records, Vol. 20, Part 2; Lowrey's Autobiography; Autumn of Glory, Thomas Lawrence Connelly

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Maj. Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne

Maj. Gen. Patrick Ronayne Cleburne
President Davis visited the Army of Tennessee stationed at Murfreesboro on this date in 1862. Among other urgent business, he commissioned the rising star, Patrick R. Cleburne, as Major General (recommended by Gens. Bragg, Buckner, and Hardee) and appointed him to fill the vacancy left by Simon B. Buckner’s transfer to another department. In so doing, Davis promoted Cleburne over 2 other senior brigadier generals, S.A.M. Wood and Bushrod Johnson.  

Maj. Gen. Cleburne’s division now consisted of his old brigade (now commanded by the newly appointed Brig. Gen. Lucius E. Polk), Liddell’s Arkansas brigade, Bushrod Johnson’s Tennessee brigade, and S.A.M. Wood’s Alabama and Mississippi Brigade (including my great grandfather's 32nd Mississippi Regiment). Attached to this division are Calvert’s Arkansas Battery, Swett’s Mississippi battery, Darden’s Mississippi Battery, and Henry Semple’s Alabama Battery.

Born in County Cork, Ireland, Patrick Cleburne was an orphan by the age of 15. He served in a Welsh regiment in the British Army, rising to the rank of corporal. After 3 years of army life, he emigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Helena, Arkansas, where he became a pharmacist. By 1860, he was a naturalized citizen, a practicing lawyer, and a well respected citizen of his adopted town.

At the beginning of the War for Southern Independence, Cleburne sided with the Southern nation that had adopted him as one of its own. Enlisting as a 33-year old private in the local militia, he quickly rose in rank. In January 1861, he led his company in the seizure of the U.S. Arsenal in Little Rock. When Arkansas left the Union, his militia unit became part of the 1st Arkansas Infantry, later designated the 15th Arkansas, of which he was elected Colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general in March 1862.

Wiley Sword, agreeing with fellow Civil War historian Thomas Connelly's assessment, wrote that while Cleburne had a mild-mannered personalty, he was also "a ferocious fighter, perhaps the best infantry general of the Confederacy's Western armies." Sword also observes that "Cleburne was an overachiever with a driving zeal for success." He also was possessed with "uncompromising integrity... Unwilling to compromise principle or personal dignity for political expediency."

Cleburne monument at Ringgold Gap
Cleburne's first serious engagement in the Army of Mississippi, was at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. Later that August, in the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, he was wounded in the face. After receiving his current promotion to Major General at Murfreesboro, Cleburne will lead his division, among which was my great grandfathers 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, in the upcoming Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River). He will go on to achieve military success, even while the army looses some of its engagements. His strategic ability and the admiration of his men earned him the nickname "Stonewall of the West." Sadly, Gen. Cleburne will not survive the war. He will fall at the Battle of Franklin in 1864.

Interestingly, in early 1864, Cleburne wrote a proposal to emancipate slaves and enlist them in the Confederate Army. This proposal was not well received by the rest of the army's leadership and was largely ignored. Toward the end of the war, though, even the Confederate Congress came around to the idea. However, by then it was too late to make any difference in the war's outcome.

Sources: Official Records, Vol 20, Part 2; Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell and Elizabeth Purdue; Autumn of Glory, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Mountains Touched With Fire, Wile Sword

Monday, November 26, 2012

Special duty: Guarding the railroad

By November 24th, Hardee's and Polk's corps reached Bragg's headquarters at Tullahoma, Tennessee, prior to moving into position at Murfreesboro.

From November 26 to December 27, the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment was assigned to guard the bridges south of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to prevent Union Gen. Rosecrans from resupplying his army in Nashville. Col. W.H.H. Tison has been left in command of the regiment while Col. Mark P. Lowrey is recuperating at home in Mississippi from a wound received in the Battle of Perryville.*

From the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 20, Part 2:
Special Orders, No. 1
Headquarters Hardee’s Corps

Shelbyville, November 26, 1862.

The Thirty-second Regiment Mississippi Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Tison commanding, is detailed on special duty, to guard the stations and bridges on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, between Normandy and Fosterville stations. Colonel Tison will establish his headquarters at Wartrace.

* * * * * *

By command of Lieutenant-General Hardee:
T.B. Roy
Chief of Staff.

* In contrast to the hardships of the previous months in Kentucky, the regiment must have been faring much better. In a letter home (dated 12/4/12), one of Great Grandfather Oakes's comrades in Co. D, Thomas Settle, wrote: "I am quite well and have enjoyed better health since I wrote to you than I have ever done in all my life. The Boys all very often remarked that I am more fleshier than they ever saw me." Settle also comments on Col. Lowrey's absence and hopes that his commander will return from his recuperation with news from home.

Sources: Autumn of Glory, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Official Records, Vol. 20, Part 2; "Settle Letters," a transcription of which was generously shared with me by descendant Raymond Settle

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Renamed the Army of Tennessee

On this date in 1862, Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Mississippi was renamed the Army of Tennessee. Currently, Gen. Braxton Bragg's army is facing Nashville to the northwest, arranged in a wide arc with Murfreesboro at the center. My great grandfather's Company D, in the 32 Mississippi Regiment in Buckner's Division, is stationed a little south at Tullahoma. The army is preparing to battle Gen. William S. Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland.

While the Confederate army was positioned to oppose Rosecrans's force at Nashville, there were several skirmishes with the enemy, fought mainly by Brig. Gen. Joseph Wheeler's cavalry. Having been recently promoted to the rank of brigadier general, due in large part to his successful fighting in the Kentucky Campaign, Wheeler's appointment placed both Gens. Forrest's and Morgan's cavalry regiments under his command. Wheeler's cavalry is now attached to Hardee's Corps. It is on constant patrol between its army and the Federal lines at Nashville.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lowrey's Recuperation at home in Mississippi

Brig. Gen. Mark P. Lowrey
The commanding officer of Great Grandfather Oakes's regiment, the 32nd Mississippi, received a serious wound in the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky on October 8th. As field medical care was limited, Col. Mark Perrin Lowrey was granted leave to go home for 8 weeks of recuperation. His daughter later recounted the touching reunion:
When [Lowrey] got within 30 miles of his home and family, he found it would not be safe for him to go to [his home in] Kossuth because hundreds of northern soldiers were located within sight of his home... he stopped at his brother's home eight miles south of Ripley, Miss., and sent his brother with an ox wagon after us to move us to a little cabin rented from Captain J. J. Guyton near my uncle's home... My uncle reached our home near Kossuth about 10:00 o'clock one bright moonlight night... As we turned from the 'clothes line' to go back into the house we saw the shadow of a man coming around the corner of the house. We met him at the door. Of course, our hearts leaped to our throats as we thought the man was a 'Yankee soldier.' As we came near the entrance, my uncle spoke, 'Is that you, Sarah? My mother, recognizing his voice, said, 'O, Calvin, what did you come for?' (realizing the danger of any southern man coming within the Yankee lines).
After explaining the reason for her uncle's furtive, nighttime visit, Lowrey's daughter continued her narrative,
Well, we worked all night that night as we must move that wagon and team before daylight. We packed up all the wearing clothes of the family and a few bed clothes and arranged with my aunt and grandmother to move into our house... At 3:00 o'clock the next morning we had every child up and dressed and loaded into the wagon... At sunrise my uncle with his wagon load of [seven] children, and my mother who was in her buggy with two children, were three miles from the enemy's pickets... About 4:00 o'clock the second afternoon we drove through Ripley, Miss. As we started down the hill leaving town, behold, Father was on his war horse coming to meet us! As soon as we saw him we rolled out of the wagon and ran down the hill. He alighted from his horse and started up the hill, but had to let us all hug the same side so as to keep us off his wounded arm. Never were seven children so happy...
We reached our uncle's home after dark... the next day we moved to a little three room cabin two miles from my uncle's house.  The neighbors fixed us up for house keeping until we could send back for some of our possessions...
When General Lowrey had recovered sufficiently from his wound to re-enter the war, he called his family together before his departure [probably in December 1862] and read the 121st Psalm, prayed, bade them good-bye and departed... This Psalm is a most precious passage to the family...
Psalm 121 (King James Version)
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. 
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. 
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. 
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. 
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. 
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. 
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. 
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Col. Lowrey, who was also a pastor before and after the war, returned safely to his command to face the Federal army again at Nashville. In other documents, I have learned that Lowrey read and preached many times to his men from the Psalms and other Bible passages. What a comfort it must have been to have such a godly warrior in command.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

To Murfreesboro in 1862

Only days after retreating back to East Tennessee from its Kentucky Campaign, the Army of Mississippi was on the move again on this date in 1862. Gen. Braxton Bragg, having departed for Richmond, left to Gen. Leonidas Polk the task of moving the army toward Nashville.

Heading south, from Chattanooga the army was transferred by rail to Bridgeport, Alabama. At Bridgeport, the men were ferried across the river to Tennessee, and then they marched to Tullahoma. Their destination was the Stone's River Valley, only 30 miles south of the Federal bastion at Nashville.

Bragg's army will join forces with Gen. Breckinridge's Division, which Bragg had sent ahead without authorization from Richmond, and encamp around Murfreesboro, with its target in sight: William S. Rosecrans's army at Nashville. The 2 opposing armies will face one another again after chasing and fighting each other all year.

Red dotted line is Bragg's line of retreat to Murfreesboro
Source: Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jespersen

Source:  Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee 1862-1865, Thomas Lawrence Connely

Rosecrans takes command from Buell

On today's date in 1862, Union Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell was relieved of command of the Army of the Ohio in Kentucky and Tennessee for allowing Bragg's Confederate army to escape Kentucky. Lincoln authorized Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans to take over. Buell learned of his sacking on the 29th, from a local newspaper.

Rosecrans, the hero of Iuka and Corinth, will head the newly created Department of the Cumberland. He was immediately ordered to Louisville, via Cincinnati, to take charge of Buell’s former command. Almost universally, the men reacted with cheers and joy. Most assumed they would now go into winter quarters. Instead, as soon as he joined his new command, Rosecrans led his army back to Nashville to confront Bragg, who was taking a new a position in nearby Murfreesboro.

Born in Ohio, in 1819, Rosecrans was an 1842 graduate of the United States Military Academy, ranking fifth in a class of 56. Finding promotion slow in the peacetime army, and having no opportunity to gain advancement in the Mexican-American War, Rosecrans resigned his commission in 1854. Life as a businessman and inventor provided little more satisfaction and nearly killed him when a failed experiment severely burned his face. When the Civil War army offered Rosecrans an opportunity to return to the military profession, he seized it eagerly, rising to brigadier general by the summer of 1861. Success in Western Virginia soon brought him a transfer to the West, where he gained a semi-independent command under Ulysses S. Grant. In northern Mississippi Rosecrans fought strongly at the battles of Iuka and Corinth, although he earned Grant's displeasure at the same time. Promoted to major general in September 1862, he lobbied successfully to have the commission backdated to March. Now he commanded one of the nation's 3 largest field armies, centered in Nashville.

Rosecrans was known to be brilliant, articulate, firm in his convictions, and courageous. He was also a man of extraordinary energy, who drove both himself and his subordinates unmercifully. A devout Roman Catholic, he retained a personal chaplain on his staff. Unfortunately, his favorable virtues were offset by characteristics that were less beneficial. In temperament Rosecrans tended to be nervous and excitable. He was often impatient and critical of others, especially his superiors. Neither introspective nor an perceptive judge of others, Rosecrans had a remarkably simple outlook. Once convinced of the correctness of his views, he could be extremely smug. Generally affable with his staff, he often immersed himself in details better left to subordinates. This tendency, coupled with his love of philosophical and theological discussions, led him to remain active well past midnight, to the chagrin of his staff. He was often unable to sleep during campaigns and became increasingly nervous and irritable as operations accelerated around him.

But, despite his shortcomings, Rosecrans will soon amass important victories and fame for his successes at Murfreesboro and the Tullahoma Campaign.

Sources: Official Records, Vol 16, Part 1; The Civil War Almanac, John S. Bowman; National Park Service

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bragg's army arrives at Morristown, 1862

The head of the column of Gen. Braxton Bragg's army began reaching Morristown, Tennessee, on today's date in 1862. The conditions of the march from Camp Dick Robinson, following the Battle of Perryville Kentucky on the 8th, had been brutal and disheartening for the troops. Finally, the men received much needed food, uniforms, and soap.

Soon, the army moved again, this time on the East Tennessee railroad to Chattanooga. From there the troops moved through the Sand Mountain gorge and down the Tennessee River to Bridgeport, Alabama, where they crossed the Tennessee River and moved north by train through the Crow Creek Gorge, through the Cumberland tunnel. The army proceeded on to its final destination, the Stones River Valley and the siege of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. By December, the 32nd Mississippi Regiment, in which Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes served, was at Shelbyville, about 25 miles south of the city.

On this date, Bragg received a summons to the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, to give a report to his friend, President Davis, of his plans for the future of the army. He again left the army under the command of Gen. Leonidas Polk, with orders to take the army by rail to Chattanooga, and then on to Murfreesboro.

Somehow, Bragg was able to convince Richmond that any blame for losing Kentucky belonged with Gen. Polk. This will not be the only time that Bragg shifts blame to his subordinate general officers. While President Davis doesn't seem to have shared Bragg's assessment, nevertheless, he did not hold Bragg accountable for the loss. Sadly, blame shifting will continue through future campaigns, seriously impeding the army's effectiveness going forward.

In his invasion of Kentucky, Bragg's men had marched a thousand miles, had fought a bloody battle, and now are finally back where they started 2 months before. Despite their inordinate effort and sacrifice, Bragg's Kentucky invasion yielded little, if any, results.

Sources: The Army of Tennessee, Stanley F. Horn; Autumn of Glory, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Record of Events for 32nd Mississippi Regiment

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bragg's army reaches the Cumberland Gap

For 5 days Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi trudged south from Crab Orchard, ascending Wildcat Mountain, toward the Cumberland Gap and Eastern Tennessee, averaging 15-20 miles per day. This was in spite of Buell's Federal skirmishers nipping at its heels. The exhausted army also encountered insults, stone throwing, and even fire from Unionist ambushers in many Kentucky towns on their way south. And adding to the general misery, the weather turned prematurely cold.

Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell finally gave up his half-hearted pursuit of Bragg at London, Kentucky. Taken in balance with his performance at Perryville, this soon would cost him his command.

Contrary to rumors coming out of East Tennessee at the time and which persist today, the 200-mile retreat for the Confederate army was the first sustained period of hunger. Rations were scarce, and the troops survived mainly on parched corn, polluted water, and whatever they could forage en route. Many soldiers were barefoot and in ragged uniforms. But physical discomfort was only part of the suffering. According to Pvt. Sam Watkins's famous account, beneath the surface of the sorry troops lurked gloom and frustration.

On today's date in 1862, the leading end of Bragg's tattered army, having just passed through Barboursville, reached the Cumberland Gap. Soon it was in Knoxville.

Having now passed into his own department in East Tennessee, Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith resumed command of his army, glad to be out from under Bragg's command, which he had grown to hold in low regard. Smith will go on to distinguish himself during the rest of the war. He will become one of the last Confederate generals to surrender his army, which he will finally do in June 1865, almost 2 months after Lee's surrender at Appomattox, and more than 2 weeks after the Army of Tennessee surrendered in North Carolina. And Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith will have the distinction of being the last surviving full Confederate general until his death in 1893.

Sources: Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle, Kenneth W. Noe; Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee 1862-1865, Thomas Lawrence Connelly; Company Aytch: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show, Sam Watkins; Corinth Information Database

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wheeler's cavalry covers the army's retreat

On this date, 1862, both Gens. Bragg and Smith moved their armies south from Camp Dick Robinson, near Bryantsville, to Lancaster, 10 miles east of Danville. There they divided, with Bragg leading his force south via the road to Crab Orchard and Mount Vernon, while Smith moved to strike east to Paint Lick, and then south along the same road he used to enter Kentucky weeks earlier. Col. Joseph Wheeler's cavalry was assigned to ward off Union Gen. Buell's pursuing troops for both retreating columns. The 2 parallel Confederate armies will meet north of Barboursville at the roads’ junction and pass through the Cumberland Gap.

Col. Wheeler was a rising star in the Confederate cavalry and the entire army. Graduating in July 1859 from West Point, at the start of the Civil War, Wheeler entered the Confederate Army as a 1st lieutenant in the Georgia state militia. He was soon promoted to colonel and ordered to take command of the newly formed 19th Alabama Infantry Regiment. He served well in the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, and again in the army's retreat from Corinth the following month. Next, Wheeler transferred to the cavalry and commanded the 2nd Cavalry Brigade of the Left Wing of Bragg's army in the Kentucky Campaign through September and October. His delaying tactic at Bowling Green allowed Bragg's army to reach Munfordville and capture the fort there. He commanded the cavalry at Perryville, where he fought admirably.

On today's date in 1862, Wheeler was appointed chief of cavalry and charged with covering the rear of the army as Bragg retreated south from this date through the 26th. He fought in 26 engagements over the next 13 days. His well-deserved promotion to brigadier general came on the 30th. In the months ahead, another ancestor of mine, my great-great grandfather, David Crockett Neal, will fight in the 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment under Gen. Wheeler.

As Wheeler was doing his part to protect the rear of the army, the longest Confederate campaign in terms of miles covered, was drawing to a close. The conditions for Bragg’s army at this point were much the same, except for the causalities and the blow to Confederate morale. Many in Bragg’s ranks were downcast and disillusioned, and many were critical of Bragg's leadership through the campaign. It certainly didn't help matters that numerous troops in the rank and file also were starving and barefoot on the long march south.


Wheeler continued to lead cavalry troops following the Kentucky Campaign. In January 1863, he was appointed major general, and then lead the cavalry corps of the Army of Tennessee through campaigns in Middle Tennessee, including Tullahoma, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga. His cavalry helped to cover the army during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign. Then later that year, instead of following the Army of Tennessee in Hood's Tennessee Campaign, Wheeler's cavalry opposed Sherman's March to the Sea. In the 1865 Carolinas Campaign, Wheeler once again led his cavalry in slowing Sherman's advance. After the army's surrender, while attempting to cover Confederate President Jefferson Davis's flight south, Wheeler was captured near Atlanta. After a 2-month imprisonment, he was paroled in June 1865.

After the war, Wheeler was a planter and practiced law in Alabama, where he also married and raised  family. In 1880, As an Alabama Democrat, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving several terms until 1900.

Gen. Wheeler had the rare distinction of serving as a general officer during war time for 2 opposing forces. He was a celebrated cavalry general in the Confederate army, but during the conflict with Spain in 1898 (Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars), he was a general in the United States Army. Below, at 61 years of age, Gen. Wheeler is pictured with a future president serving under his command, Col. Theodore Roosevelt.

Gen. Joe Wheeler (front) and Col. Theodore Roosevelt (right)
 in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, 1898

Sources: War in Kentucky, James Lee McDonough; The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable AmericansRossiter Johnson & John Howard Brown

Friday, October 12, 2012

Retreat from Buell

By today's date in 1862, Gen. Braxton Bragg, having successfully withdrawn his army from its bloody and victorious engagement in the Battle of Perryville on the 8th, now had the entire Confederate force concentrated at Camp Dick Robinson near Bryantsville, at the junction of the Kentucky and Dicks Rivers, a position relatively secure from Federal attack. In total, he had about 45,000 experienced troops.

Camp Headquarters at Bryantsville (from Harper's Weekly)
Bragg called a council of his generals to inform them of his plan to leave Kentucky. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, whose army had finally joined forces with Bragg, urged Bragg to renew the fight with the strengthened force. At first Bragg seemed to agree that a decisive battle for the control of Kentucky should be fought here. But then he changed his mind. The resulting consensus of the other generals seems to have been a shared loss of confidence in Bragg and therefore, there being no other course to pursue, retreat was the only option. 

Perhaps to his credit, Bragg was beginning to feel the pressure of Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell troops were reaching for the Confederate flanks. He also had learned that no help would be coming from Mississippi, as Generals Price and Van Dorn had been defeated at Corinth by Union Gen. Rosecrans a week earlier. Gen. Breckinridge’s column would remain in Tennessee. Federal reinforcements were en route from Cincinnati to nearby Lexington. Supplies here at Camp Dick Robinson would run out in 4 days, while Buell 's army was being resupplied from Louisville daily. Finally, the recruits Kentucky were not joining the army as Bragg had hoped. With Buell about to cut off the army’s last path of escape, and autumn’s drenching rains approaching, there seemed to be no choice but to fall back into Tennessee and preserve the army. He will begin moving his army south at daybreak.

Today, many historians of the Battle of Perryville believe Bragg made a strategic mistake in not attacking Buell, perhaps losing the best opportunity that he would have of knocking out Buell and changing the course of the Confederacy's war in the West.

Sources:  Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle, Kenneth W. Noe; War in Kentucky, James Lee McDonough; Stone's River: The Turning-Point of the Civil War, Wilson J. Vance

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Confederate withdrawal from Perryville

Confederate General Braxton Bragg, deciding that his foe, Union General Don Carlos Buell, was heavily reinforced during the night following the Battle of Perryville on the 8th, retired the next morning. During the early morning hours of today's date in 1862, and using the cover of darkness, Bragg ordered his army to pull back from the Perryville battlefield to the lines it occupied the previous morning.

At daybreak on today's date, the army began its retreat towards Harrodsburg, about 10 miles northeast, and concentrated with Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith's army, leaving only a picket line to delay pursuit. Bragg's departure, and Buell's failure to follow up, will create a source of mystery to history students, in that neither side took advantage of obvious opportunities.

Overnight, both sides were caring for their wounded and dead. On Confederate Gen. Hardee’s front, men of Wood’s Brigadeof which my great grandfather's 32nd Mississippi Regiment was a part— moved back up toward the Benton Road to search for comrades and gather their personal effects. Discovering scores of wounded, they gathered straw on which to place those who could not be moved and brought water to the suffering. One witness from a sister regiment (33rd Alabama) recalled: “Although we were thoroughly tired… we were up with the wounded boys and assisting the doctors nearly all night… some complained of being cold, their clothing wet with blood. We wrapped our blankets about them." Homes, churches, and barns were converted into hospitals, where men from both sides were treated.*

In the meantime, Bragg ordered Col. Joseph Wheeler to form his cavalry as a rear guard along the Danville Pike, while Col. John A. Wharton, with 2 of Wheeler’s battalions, brought up the rear on the Harrodsburg Pike. Bragg also ordered Smith to rendezvous with him in Harrodsburg. 

Between 1:00 and 2:00 AM on the 9th, Confederate officers began telling the men on the front lines to get up as quickly as possible and prepare to march. Having won decisively, most of the troops believed that they would continue the fight at dawn. But as daylight broke this morning, Bragg led the way in retreat. With most of his army strung out along the Harrodsburg road, Bragg could not believe that Buell would let him get away so easily. 

The Rebel army moved out in 3 columns, wagons and artillery occupying the road, while infantry hugged the edges in 2 parallel columns. The army arrived in Harrodsburg around 12 PM. Intending to engage the Federals, Bragg and Smith placed their forces in an advantageous position, 2 miles south of Harrodsburg, to await the assault. However, by evening, as he was known to do all to often, Bragg vacillated. His uncertainty this time was whether to make a stand at Harrodsburg, move on to Danville to screen his vital supply depot at Bryantsville, or move on to Camp Dick Robinson near Harrodsburg. To his generals, Polk, Hardee, and Smith, Bragg's indecision was “appalling.” But at dawn, Bragg will withdraw to Camp Dick Robinson.

* Of course many of these wounded did not survive and were added to the scores of soldiers who lost their lives in that battle. Civil War historian Kenneth W. Noe writes graphically of the aftermath of the battle in his book, Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle. Following the battle, there was an appalling number of Confederate dead, which the Union army at first refused to bury. The owner of the farm where the battle took place, together with local citizens, were forced to bury the victims, many in a mass grave. Eventually, the memory of the great struggle that took place here almost passed away. Finally, on October 8, 1954, on the 92nd anniversary of the battle, and after years of neglect and degeneration to the place, the Perryville State Battlefield Site was officially opened. By the mid-1970s, the park had grown to 98 acres and designated a National Historic Landmark. Additional property was purchased by the mid-1990s, due to the renewed interest coming from Ken Burns’s series, The Civil War. Author Noe offers a compelling story of the aftermath of the Battle of Perryville, and the park that commemorates it, in his article, “Remembering Perryville: History and Memory at a Civil War Battlefield.” It's worth reading.

Sources: Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle, Kenneth W. Noe; Official Records, Vol. 16, Parts 1 & 2; Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 10; Stone's River: The Turning-Point of the Civil War, Wilson J. Vance

Monday, October 8, 2012

A 32nd Mississippi Infantry soldier's view of the Battle of Perryville

Confederate regiments typically were comprised of 10 companies, A-K (neither side had a Co. J for some reason). Each company had about 100 men, bringing the total in the regiment to approximately 1,000. Most men within a company were recruited from the same town or village. An entire regiment might be made up of men recruited from a single county.

Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes's 32nd Mississippi Infantry (of Wood's Brigade), commanded by Col. Mark P. Lowrey, was a typically-sized regiment of around a 1,000 troops in 10 companies. All but 2 were raised from a single county, Tishomingo. Whole companies of men who fought side-side were also neighbors back home.

My great grandfather (and a great uncle) served in Company D, comprised of men from from the tiny village of Kossuth, Mississippi. One of his neighbors from Tishomingo County, Jesse Cheeves, served in Co. A of the same regiment. At Perryville, these 2 companies fought alongside each other. What Cheeves witnessed would have closely matched my great grandfather's experience. Here are Pvt. Cheeves's own words:
Curlee was killed in the last charge at Perryville. W. H. Rees lost his left arm the same day by a cannot [sic] ball. The man in the rear rank behind Rees was struck in the chest by the same ball and knocked ten or twelve feet and instantly killed. The writer was to the right of Rees, his left arm touching Rees's right, when he fell. We were exposed to a terrible fire of solid shot and shell. The writer noticed one ball that fell just in front of the line, it was about the size and length of a Mason's fruit jar but in the shape of a minnie [sic] ball. We remained an hour under very heavy cannon fire. Sometimes the balls would come as fast as the stroke of a clock. They made all kinds of noise as they passed over. Sometimes it seemed they would dip down after us as they passed over the line. Twelve or fourteen feet behind our line was a large shell bark hickory nut tree full of nuts. Now and then a ball would pass through the top and bark and nuts would fairly rain down. At 2 o'clock p.m. our line of battle moved forward, the enemy being just across an opposite range of hill, the valley between us being from 600 to 800 yards wide. Our cannon ceased firing until the line had advanced far enough for the balls to pass over heads. Our guns behind us and the enemy's in front and the roar of musketry between made such a noise as the boys had never heard. We were in a field all the time and tore the fences down as we advanced. We drove the yanks from behind one rock fence. The writer was talking with a comrade a few months ago who was wounded just before we crossed this fence and lay upon the field until 3 o'clock at night. Our victory was complete. Our brigade captured a battery; Company A lost seven brave men killed and many wounded. We fought close to Co. D., made up at Kossuth, and a fine company it was.* 
Corinth Information Database, Milton Sandy

32nd Mississippi Infantry at the Battle of Perryville, 1862

On today's date in 1862, the opposing armies of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg and Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell finally meet, but not on a field of their choosing. Both armies were plagued by a lack of water. In fact, the first shots were fired between thirsty enemies over a meager water source. Soon, 16,000 men of Bragg's army were fiercely engaged with Buell's 60,000 men in the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky. When the battle is over the next day, Federal forces will suffer 845 dead, 2,851 wounded and 515 missing. The Confederate toll will be 3,396.

The Battle of Perryville, October 8, 1842
Source: Civil War Trust
In 1899, Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes wrote in a letter to the editor of The Confederate Veteran, that the Battle of Perryville was “the first battle of consequence” in which his regiment participated. His regiment, the 32nd Mississippi Infantry, suffered heavy losses in the battle, although the official reports are sparse. Most of the brigade commanders were wounded. My great grandfather's colonel, Mark Lowrey, had to take command of Wood's Brigade after its commander, Gen. S.A.M. Wood, was seriously wounded in the head while leading his men. Lowrey was also painfully wounded in the left elbow.

Wood's Brigade, part of Buckner's Division, was in line of battle at the left of Cheatham's Division. The brigade joined in a successful charge on the enemy, capturing Lt. Charles C. Parson's battery of Jackson's Division, after repeated charges in which they sustained many casualties (some of these from "friendly fire" from a Florida regiment and a Confederate battery)According to Gen. Hardee's report, "Cheatham and Wood captured the enemy's battery in front of Wood and among the pieces and among the dead and dying was found the body of Gen. James S. Jackson, who commanded a division of the enemy at that point."

Jessee Cheeves, whose company fought alongside my great grandfather's Company D, described how his friend, W.H. Rees, “lost his left arm… by a cannon ball. The man in the rear rank behind Rees was struck by the same ball and knocked ten or twelve feet and instantly killed… We were exposed to a terrible fire of solid shot and shell.”

As a result of its action, the 32nd Mississippi Regiment of Wood's Brigade earned an honorable mention in the official reports. General orders, December 21, 1862 states:
The regiments of the brigade of Brigadier-General Wood, which, on the memorable field of Perryville, participated in the gallant and desperate charge resulting in the capture of the enemy's batteries, will, in addition to the name of the field on their colors, place the cross-cannon inverted
The regiment was entitled to carry this distinguished insignia throughout the remainder of the war. It won't be the last time that this unit will distinguish itself on the battlefield.

Bragg won the battle tactically for the Confederates, but he wisely decided to pull out of Perryville and link up with Gen. Kirby Smith. Once Smith and Bragg joined forces, Bragg decided to leave Kentucky and head back to Tennessee, taking a defensive position at Murfreesboro. The Confederate army will never return, and the Union will continue to control Kentucky for the balance of the war.

Although Buell checked the Confederate advance at Perryville, unfortunately for him, he did not pursue the retreating Confederates quickly enough following that battle on October 8. As a consequence shortly thereafter, Buell was relieved of his command and was replaced by Gen. William Rosecrans.

Sources: The Confederate Veteran, Vol. 7 (1899); Perryville: Mississippi Military History, 1803-1898, Dunbar Rowland; This Grand Havoc of Battle, Kenneth W. Noe; Official Records, Vol. 16, Pts. 1 & 2