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, May 27, 2013

Loving that which we defend

McGavock Cemetery, Franklin, TN                                                     Photo by Mark Dolan, June 2010
War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend. 
JRR Tolkien, The Two Towers

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

32nd Mississippi Infantry | Guarding Tyner's Station

According to Company D's Captain F.S. Norman, during the months of May and June, my great grandfather's, along with several other companies of the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, were posted at the rail station in Tyner, Tennessee. Tyner's Station was located 10 miles east of Chattanooga, on the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railway. Company D would have moved from its headquarters in Wartrace about 100 miles northwest of Tyner, likely traveling on the Nashville & Chattanooga railroad. Today, Tyner is located within the city limits of Chattanooga.

Present day location of Tyner Station, TN

Tyner was not only a key station along this vital line of Bragg's communication with Chattanooga, it was also the main arrival and departure point for Confederate troops. In addition, Tyner was the site of the army's hospital, and those who died in hospital are buried in the adjacent Silverdale Confederate Cemetery, which is still maintained today (off Old Highway 11, near I-75).

Soldiers from Gen. Patrick Cleburne's Division will continue to occupy this important rail station through the Chickamauga Campaign. They will be back in force in July. Cleburne’s troops eventually built 4 forts to guard the Tyner Station on the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad and the village.

Sources: 32nd Mississippi Infantry, Company D Return, May-June, 1863; The Chattanoogan: "Civil War Fortifications in Chattanooga," 2/21/13

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The death of Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn

Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn
Earl Van Dorn (September 17, 1820–May 7, 1863), whose mother was the niece of President Andrew Jackson, was a career U.S. Army officer who fought with distinction in the Mexican-American War. After the war, he was once again sent to outposts in the South and took part in action against the Seminole and against Comanche Indians. During the War Between the States he served as a Confederate cavalry major general. Although he had military successes, including his successful raid on Grant's forces at Holly Springs, Tennessee, Van Dorn is also noted for his defeats at Pea Ridge and Corinth in 1862.

But on today's date in 1863, Gen. Van Dorn is remembered for having been slain by a jealous husband. 

Known to be brusque, impulsive, and highly emotional, Van Dorn was also a noted painter, writer of poetry, respected for his skill at riding a horse. A married man, sadly he was also alleged to be a womanizer. Regrettably, this reputation led to a self-induced tragedy on this date. 

Van Dorn was murdered in his headquarters at Spring Hill, Tennessee by Dr. James Bodie Peters, who claimed that the general had carried on an affair with his young and attractive wife. Alone in his office, Peters entered and shot Van Dorn in the back of the head. Peters was later arrested by Confederate authorities but was never brought to trial for the killing. In defense of his actions, Peters claimed that Van Dorn had "violated the sanctity of his home.” 

My Great-Great Grandfather David Crockett Neal’s 6th Tennessee Regiment escorted General Van Dorn's remains to Columbia, Tennessee. Later, Van Dorn's body was brought back to Mississippi and buried at Wintergreen Cemetery in Port Gibson.

General Van Dorn is one of the 2 major generals—both cavalry officers that one time or another commanded Great-great Grandfather Neal’s 6th Tennessee Regiment—who died violently, but not from enemy action. The other was Maj. Gen. John A. Wharton, shot as the result of an argument with Col. George Wythe Baylor, in April 1865.

Sources: eHistory Archive; The Civil War Trust