Loudon County Genealogy & History Website Loudon County Military
 

Loudon County and the
Civil War

 

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      Although no major Civil War battles were fought in Loudon County, it was a hotbed of activity during the the conflict due primarily to troop movements through the county enroute to other battles. There was, however, a brief skirmish at Philadelphia occurring in 1863. Loudon County was important to both sides of the war because of it railroads, rivers, and bridges.

      Even though Tennessee seceded from the Union on June 18, 1861, many East Tennesseans remained loyal to the union. With encouragement from the Federal Government, Union sympathizers planned the burning of all major bridges in East Tennessee during the month of November in 1861. The Loudon railroad bridge was spared from this fate, because according to legend the group assigned this task decided to get drunk instead. Realizing the danger to the bridge, the Confederates dispatched the 16th Alabama Infantry to guard the bridge. They remained there until Union General Ambrose Burnside's invasion in September 1863

To prepare for this invasion, General Burnside sent Colonel William P. Sanders on a raid into East Tennessee. On June 19, 1863, Colonel Sanders struck the railroad at Lenoir's Station, bypassing both Kingston and Loudon because they were too heavily guarded. His troops succeeded in capturing a detachment of artillery men, three cannons, eight officers, and fifty-seven enlisted men. He burned the depot and several other buildings but refrained from burning the Lenoir Cotton Mill, because Dr. Benjamin Ballard Lenoir was a member of the Masonic Order. Colonel Sanders returned to Kentucky following the raid.

       As General Burnside moved from Kentucky into Tennessee with the intent to capture Knoxville, CSA General Simon Bolivar Buckner evacuated Knoxville and headed to Chattanooga to join forces with CSA General Braxton Bragg. On September 6, 1863 after crossing the Loudon's railroad bridge, the Confederate troops burned the bridge to prevent Union General James L. Shackleford from capturing the strategic bridge.

Following the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19-20, 1863, CSA General James Longstreet moved from Chattanooga to Knoxville in an attempt to recapture Knoxville. During this time, General Burnside sent a detachment of men to the Loudon area. They set up headquarters in the Wiley Blair Home which was located between Loudon and Lenoir City. Down the road, Colonel Frank G. Wolford, commander of the Union troops currently stationed  in Philadelphia, had set up headquarters in the Walter Franklin Lenoir Home. On October 20, 1863, two Confederate Calvaries, one commanded by Colonel George G. Dibrell (of the Tennessee 8th Cavalry ) and the other by Colonel John J. Morrison, surrounded and attacked Wolford's forces. Colonel Morrison had marched his men 50 miles in 15 hours to place them between Loudon and Philadelphia. He send part of his troops to Loudon to hold Wolford's troops and sent the remaining troops to Philadelphia to join the fighting with Dibrell's troops. The Union troops were severely beaten. Seven men were killed and 447 captured. Wagon trains, supplies, and equipment were also captured.

      From Knoxville, General Burnside sent Captain Orlando M. Poe, chief engineer of the Army of the Ohio, to Loudon to dismantle the pontoon bridge before General Longstreet and his troops could use it. Before completing this task, a small band of Confederates appeared and surprised Captain Poe. Expecting to be fired on, he was surprised when the Confederate Officer waved and beckoned him over. Captain Poe engaged the Confederate officer in the exchange of war tales while the Poe's men safely removed the pontoon bridge.

      During the early part of November 1863, General Longstreet's troops began marching back to Knoxville. In anticipation of this march, General Burnside began moving the bulk of his troops to Loudon. As Longstreet's troops approached Loudon on November 14, General Burnside pulled his troops back to Lenoir's Station. During November 14-15, 1863, Longstreet's men built a pontoon bridge across the Tennessee River at Huff's Ferry. Minor skirmishes occurred between the two troops all along the trail from Huff's Ferry to Lenoir's Station. Longstreet had planned to attack Burnsides men the next day but found that they had quietly slipped away to Knoxville. Following in hot pursuit, Longstreet's army finally engaged Burnside's army at Campbell's Station in Knoxville.

On December 3, 1863 in order to prevent Union General William T. Sherman's troops from using the Loudon Bridge, the Confederate army burned what remained of the railroad bridge. They ran 3-4 engines and and 50-100 boxcars off the end of the burned bridge into the Tennessee River. The wreckage was not recovered from the river until the 1880s. General Sherman's advanced cavalry reached Loudon on December 4, 1863. Sherman's forces skirmished with the retreating Confederates around Loudon during December 4-5, 1863.

      The Union forces now controlled Loudon County and remained in control until the close of the war. By March 1864, they had built a temporary railroad bridge. By November 1864, the permanant bridge was completed. No other war activity was reported in Loudon County except for a raid by Confederate General Joseph Wheeler in the summer of 1864. This raid, however, only touched the fringes of the county.

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