A Paul Meek Library Online Exhibit
Edited, with Introduction, by Dieter C. Ullrich
Martin Van Buren Oldham was born on November 28, 1840 to Isaac Oldham and Rutha N. (Cherry) Oldham. Isaac died five years after his son's birth, and Van Buren was placed under the guardianship of his uncle Jeremiah Cherry in 1850. Until the Civil War, Van Buren resided and worked on the Cherry farm in Sandy Branch, Tennessee, in eastern Weakley County, north of the county seat of Dresden and near what is now the unincorporated town of Latham.
Oldham joined the Confederate Army as a private soldier at Camp Beauregard, outside of Jackson, Tennessee on May 23, 1861. He and other men from Weakley County were organized into Company G of the 9th Tennessee Infantry. During the war, Van Buren saw action at the Battle of Perryville, where he was wounded and taken prisoner. He served three months as a prisoner in both Camp Dent, Kentucky and Camp Douglas, Illinois. Following his exchange he rejoined his unit and was again wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga. After three months of recuperation he returned to his unit to assist in the Confederate defense of Georgia. On October 17, 1864, the war finally came to an end for him as he took the Oath of Allegiance at Nashville. The parole oath would list his residence as Montgomery County, his complexion as "fair," his hair "light," his eyes "blue," and recorded his height as 5' 10".
After the war, Van Buren attended the Louisville Medical School and earned a medical degree. He returned to Weakley County and his family farm where he began a successful medical practice and continued to farm. He married twice, first to Mary F. White in 1869; at her death in 1872, Oldham wed Judith F. Chambers. He was the father of three daughters and two sons. Van Buren Oldham died on August 15, 1884 at the young age 44. He is believed to be buried on the old family plot near Sandy Branch Church in Weakley County, Tennessee.
The 9th Tennessee Infantry of the Army of the Confederacy was organized on May 22, 1861 at Camp Beauregard near Jackson, Tennessee. Company G of the 9th Tennessee was formed with men from Weakley County through the enlisting efforts of Bradford Edwards, A. C. Gardner, and A. M. Boyd. The company was nicknamed the "The Hickory Blues."
The new regiment was ordered a few miles west to Union City in July of 1861 for instruction and training. By the fall, the 9th Tennessee was stationed across the Mississippi River at Camp Blythe, near New Madrid, Missouri. They crossed the river for a winter encampment at Columbus, Kentucky, and were dispatched to Corinth, Mississippi in March of 1862. The 9th Tennessee first saw action at the Battle of Shiloh, taking part in a gallant charge which cost the unit over 60 casualties. Following the battle the regiment moved east to Chattanooga to prepare for the invasion of Kentucky.
At the Battle of Perryville the regiment suffered high casualties--158 men--when they were marched into an open field. While Oldham and others of the wounded and captured were shipped to Union prison camps, the regimental survivors retreated with the rest of the brigade to Knoxville. From there the depleted regiment traveled to Murfreesburo where it was consolidated with the 6th Tennessee Infantry. The newly re-formed regiment participated in the Battles of Murfreesboro in December of 1862.
During the early months of 1863 the 6th and 9th retreated further into southeast Tennessee and then into northwest Georgia. After a hard year on the front lines, the regiment settled into its second winter quarters, this time at Shelbyville, Tennessee. It did not move again until the following June, when it was marched again to Chattanooga. At the Battle of Chickamauga, the 6th and 9th Tennessee lost over half the men committed to the engagement. The regiment again saw action again in the late fall during the Battle of Missionary Ridge. They would fall back upon Dalton, Georgia where the remnants of the 6th and 9th Tennessee again went into winter quarters.
During the spring and summer of 1864, the depleted regiment was engaged in the numerous skirmishes and battles in the campaign for Atlanta. At the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain they once again took heavy casualties, since their station was in the infamous "Dead Angle." Before the year ended, the regiment marched west to fight in the Battles of Franklin and Nashville. In early 1865, the rag-tag regiment made their way to North Carolina under General Joseph E. Johnston. On April 9, 1865, the 6th and 9th Tennessee were reorganized with the remnants of six other regiments to form the 1st Tennessee Consolidated Infantry Regiment. This new regiment served as a unit until May 1, 1865, when its members were paroled in Greensboro, North Carolina. Of the two thousand men originally mustered into service between the 6th and 9th Tennessee Regiments, only around one hundred survived to be paroled.
The diaries record Oldham's life for the week after his capture at the Battle of Perrysville and before his incarceration as a prisoner of war in Camp Dent, a Federal prison camp near Louisville, Ky. Camp life is described in both daily entries and a separate descriptive section; his release as an exchanged prisoner and railroad transfer through Pennsylvania, Virgina, and Tennessee in March is noted; and camp and combat activities in east Tennessee and Georgia until July the following year.
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This Civil War Virtual Archives Ring site is owned by Deiter C. Ullrich