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, April 17, 2014

Preparing for the Spring campaign, 1864

For just about the whole month of April in 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman readied his army for its move against Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston's Army of Tennessee, now entrenched in the hills around Dalton in north Georgia. All month, ammunition, provisions, and military stores of all kinds were rushed to Chattanooga. Everything was being readied for the inevitable forward advance against the Confederates, which will begin early next month.

By the time his Atlanta Campaign will open on May 5th, Sherman's army will number over 100,000 men. Johnston will begin with a little more than half that number, but his force will be increased in early May to over 65,000. From now on, Johnston will have the weaker army against his opponent's larger and more aggressive force. Consequently, he will be compelled from the start to act on the defensive, keeping his army intact and waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of any mistake that Sherman might make.

Gen. Joseph Eggleston Johnston, CSA
Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, USA

As the underdog, it also will be necessary for Johnston to rely heavily upon a series of fortifications, which he has carefully constructed. His hope is that Sherman will be lured into attacking his strong position on the precipitous cliffs at Rocky Face above Mill Creek, and suffer severe loss.

Johnston has carefully prepared for the contingency of being driven out of one defensive line by having another behind to which he may fall back if forced to withdraw. However, Sherman has prepared for this as well. His tactics will call for moving his army as near the Confederate works as possible to make demonstrations in front that will distract the Confederates, while he sends a flanking force around and behind. Indeed, he will conduct the coming campaign in this fashion all the way to Atlanta.

But before Sherman can deal a decisive blow, there will be many difficult marches, severe fighting, and massive destruction before the Confederates make a stand at Atlanta. Both armies will be forced to march over land that was, according to Sherman, "as difficult country as was ever fought over by civilized armies."

Sources: Civil War Times, Daniel Wait Howe; Memoirs of Gen. William T. Sherman