Conflict Period:
Civil War (Union) 1
04 Apr 1826 1
Limestoneville, Pennsylvania 1
26 Nov 1910 1
Washington D.C. 1

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Personal Details

Full Name:
James Oakes 1
04 Apr 1826 1
Limestoneville, Pennsylvania 1
26 Nov 1910 1
Washington D.C. 1

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  1. Contributed by bruceyrock632


Aged Veteran Stricken On Washington Street Near His Home

WASHINGTON, November 27, 1910 - General James Oakes, who was retired in 1879 after thirty-six years of active service in the Mexican and Civil Wars, as well as the Indian uprisings in the Southwest, sank unconscious to the pavement today near his home, and died twenty minuted later at a local hospital from heart trouble.

General Oakes was 85 years old and was well known in New York, Pittsburg and Washington.  He was born near Limestone, Pennsylgania, APril 4, 1826, and was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and the United States Military Academy, being appointed to the latter institution by President Tyler in 1842.  In 1864 ghe reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, being assigned to the United States Fourth Cavaltry, and was made a Brigadier General brevet March 30, 1865.

At the close of the war he was head of the Freedman's Bureau at Austin, Texas.  He was retired at his own requeston April 29, 1879.

Born at Limestoneville, Pennsylvania, April 4, 1826. He graduated from West Point in 1846, 34th in a class of 59, and was assigned to the Dragoons-Cavalry. He served in the Mexican War, where he received two brevets, on Frontier duty and in Indian fighting, where he was wounded twice. He married Anna Maria deBeleen, November 11, 1854.

During the Civil War, he was promoted to Major, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, April 6, 1861, serving until September in Wheeling, West Virginia, on mustering duty. On May 17, 1861, he was offered the rank of Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers, but declined the commission. Transferring to the 5th U.S. Cavalry on August 3, 1861, he commanded the regiment in Washington, September 1861-January 1862, and in the move to Nashville, at Shiloh and at Corinth. From October 1862 to April 1863 he was engaged in mustering-disbursing at Jackson, Michigan, and until September 1866 was Acting Assistant Provost Marshal General for Illinois.

He was appointed Colonel, 6th U.S. Cavalry, July 31, 1866, and was also breveted Colonel and Brigadier General, U.S. Army, March 30, 1865, for recruiting services. He commanded the Freedman's Bureau and the District of Austin, Texas, 1867-69; afterwards he was on the Northern frontier of Texas and in Kansas. 

He retired at his own request, after 30 years of service, April 29, 1878, and made his home in Washington, D.C. where he died on November 27, 1910. He was buried in Section 1 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Maria debeelen Oakes (May 12, 1829-January 16, 1926), is buried with him.

Cool Things - Fort Hays Dress Jacket

The commander of Fort Hays wore this army dress jacket during the 1870s.  His years of Kansas service were the culmination of a long and distinguished career.

West Point's class of 1846 was one of the more notable groups to graduate from the United States Military Academy.  These soldiers would earn their stripes on the battlefields of the Mexican and Civil wars.  During the latter conflict, 22 class members became Union or Confederate generals, including George McClellan, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and George Pickett.  Also among the list of distinguished soldiers from this class was James Oakes, whose career eventually took him to Kansas. 

Born in Pennsylvania in 1826, James Oakes entered the United States Military Academy in 1842.  He graduated a 2nd Lieutenant and soon served in the Mexican War (1846-1848) during which he was promoted twice.  Oakes remained in the West where in 1850 he was wounded in a skirmish with Comanches.  This resulted in a lung wound that caused health problems for the rest of his life.  These early experiences were highlights in Oakes' career and earned him recognition as well as promotion.

Rising through the army ranks, Oakes became a Major at the beginning of the Civil War (serving mostly off the battlefield in the recruiting and mustering service) and Brevet Brigadier General at its conclusion.  He remained in active service, becoming a full Colonel and commanding the Freedman's Bureau and the District of Austin, Texas. 

Oakes' career took him to Kansas in the 1870s.  He served at Fort Leavenworth before moving West to command Fort Hays, an important base for troops defending the railroad and white settlements in the area.  It was while commanding Fort Hays that Oakes wore this dress uniform coat, prescribed by army regulations from 1872 to 1879.  The shoulder boards indicate his rank of Colonel in the 6th U.S. Cavalry.  The coat has a tailor's tag for maker Samuel W. Owen of Washington, D.C.  An English immigrant, Owen briefly served as an officer in the Civil War before resigning and returning to his shop, where he specialized in military uniforms until his death in 1874.

James Oakes retired from active service in 1879, leaving Fort Hays for Washington, D.C., which he called home for the rest of his life.  The spurs date from his retirement and were made by the Harpham Brothers of Lincoln, Nebraska, during the first decade of the 20th century.  Oakes died in 1910 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

His great-grandson, William Q. Martin, Jr. of Smith Center, Kansas, donated these items from Oakes' military career to the Society’s Kansas Museum of History in 2010.  Also received were uniform buttons issued by the U.S. Cavalry during the Indian Wars period, and a pair of shoulder boards suggesting the rank of Captain in the 14th U.S. Cavalry—puzzling because Oakes never served with that regiment.

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