History of Campbell County, Tennessee
 

Time Line

Civil War sites in the Siege of Knoxville

By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.

The following is a description of the Civil War sites involved during the Siege of Knoxville , Tennessee , at the end of the 1863 campaigns  

Campbell ’s Station

Location: Knox County - Campaign: Knoxville Campaign - Date(s): November 16, 1863. Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside [US]; Lt. Gen. James Longstreet [CS] - Forces Engaged: Department of the Ohio [US]; Confederate Forces in East Tennessee [CS] - Estimated Casualties: 970 total (US 400; CS 570)

Description: In early November 1863, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, with two divisions and about 5,000 cavalry, was detached from the Confederate Army of Tennessee near Chattanooga to attack Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s Union Department of the Ohio troops at Knoxville, Tennessee. Following parallel routes, Longstreet and Burnside raced for Campbell’s Station, a hamlet where the Concord Road, from the south, intersected the Kingston Road to Knoxville. Burnside hoped to reach the crossroads first and continue on to safety in Knoxville; Longstreet planned to reach the crossroads and hold it, which would prevent Burnside from gaining Knoxville and force him to fight outside his earthworks. By forced marching, on a rainy November 16, Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s advance reached the vital intersection and deployed first. The main column arrived at noon with the baggage train just behind. Scarcely 15 minutes later, Longstreet’s Confederates approached. Longstreet attempted a double envelopment: attacks timed to strike both Union flanks simultaneously. Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaw’s Confederate division struck with such force that the Union right had to redeploy, but held. Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins’s Confederate division maneuvered ineffectively as it advanced and was unable to turn the Union left. Burnside ordered his two divisions astride the Kingston Road to withdraw three-quarters of a mile to a ridge in their rear. This was accomplished without confusion. The Confederates suspended their attack while Burnside continued his retrograde movement to Knoxville. Had Longstreet reached Campbell's Station first, the Knoxville Campaign’s results might have been different.

Result(s): Union victory

Fort Sanders

Other Names: Fort Loudon - Location: Knox County - Campaign: Knoxville Campaign (1863) - Date(s): November 29, 1863 - Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside [US]; Lt. Gen. James Longstreet [CS] - Forces Engaged: Department of the Ohio [US]; Confederate Forces in East Tennessee [CS] - Estimated Casualties: 880 total (US 100; CS 780)

Description: In attempting to take Knoxville, the Confederates decided that Fort Sanders was the only vulnerable place where they could penetrate Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s fortifications, which enclosed the city, and successfully conclude the siege, already a week long. The fort surmounted an eminence just northwest of Knoxville. Northwest of the fort, the land dropped off abruptly. Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet believed he could assemble a storming party, undetected at night, below the fortifications and, before dawn, overwhelm Fort Sanders by a coup de main. Following a brief artillery barrage directed at the fort’s interior, three Rebel brigades charged. Union wire entanglements-–telegraph wire stretched from one tree stump to another to another-–delayed the attack, but the fort’s outer ditch halted the Confederates. This ditch was twelve feet wide and from four to ten feet deep with vertical sides. The fort’s exterior slope was almost vertical, also. Crossing the ditch was nearly impossible, especially under withering defensive fire from musketry and canister. Confederate officers did lead their men into the ditch, but, without scaling ladders, few emerged on the scarp side and a small number entered the fort to be wounded, killed, or captured. The attack lasted a short twenty minutes. Longstreet undertook his Knoxville expedition to divert Union troops from Chattanooga and to get away from Gen. Braxton Bragg, with whom he was engaged in a bitter feud. His failure to take Knoxville scuttled his purpose. This was the decisive battle of the Knoxville Campaign. This Confederate defeat, plus the loss of Chattanooga on November 25, put much of East Tennessee in the Union camp.

Result(s): Union victory

Bean’s Station

Location: Grainger County - Campaign: Knoxville Campaign - Date(s): December 14, 1863 - Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. J.M. Shackelford [US]; Lt. Gen. James Longstreet [CS] - Forces Engaged: Cavalry Corps, Department of the Ohio [US]; Confederate Forces in East Tennessee [CS] - Estimated Casualties: 1,600 total (US 700; CS 900)

Description: Lt. Gen. James Longstreet abandoned the Siege of Knoxville, on December 4, 1863, and retreated northeast towards Rogersville, Tennessee. Union Maj. Gen. John G. Parke pursued the Confederates but not too closely. Longstreet continued to Rutledge on December 6 and Rogersville on the 9th. Parke sent Brig. Gen. J.M Shackelford on with about 4,000 cavalry and infantry to search for Longstreet. On the 13th, Shackelford was near Bean’s Station on the Holston River. Longstreet decided to go back and capture Bean’s Station. Three Confederate columns and artillery approached Bean’s Station to catch the federals in a vice. By 2:00 am on the 14th, one column was skirmishing with Union pickets. The pickets held out as best they could and warned Shackelford of the Confederate presence. He deployed his force for an assault. Soon, the battle started and continued throughout most of the day. Confederate flanking attacks and other assaults occurred at various times and locations, but the Federals held until southern reinforcements tipped the scales. By nightfall, the Federals were retiring from Bean’s Station through Bean’s Gap and on to Blain’s Cross Roads. Longstreet set out to attack the Union forces again the next morning, but as he approached them at Blain’s Cross Roads, he found them well-entrenched. Longstreet withdrew and the Federals soon left the area. The Knoxville Campaign ended following the battle of Bean’s Station. Longstreet soon went into winter quarters at Russellville. Their success meant little to Confederate efforts except to prevent disaster.

Result(s): Confederate victory

 

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