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1863 November 28: Burnside and the Chattanooga Campaign

November 29, 2013

The Polk County Press’ summary of what has been happening in eastern Tennessee, from its November 28, 1863, issue.  There are two articles titled “The News,” each with information on the Chattanooga Campaign and on other things.  We have pulled all of the items about the Chattanooga Campaign from both articles into this one post.  The divider separates items from one article from items found in the other article.  Items not dealing with the War have been left out.

After Union General William S. Rosecrans was defeated at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, General Ambrose E. Burnside was pursued by Confederate General James Longstreet. Burnside skillfully outmaneuvered Longstreet at the Battle of Campbell’s Station on November 16 and was able to reach safety in Knoxville. Burnside was briefly besieged at Knoxville until the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Fort Sanders on November 29.

The News.

The attack on Gen. BURNSIDE commenced on the 19th in earnest.  The aspect of affairs is not cheering, and it would be useless to deny that there are good grounds for fearing a disastrous result of the contest.  He has fallen back one-third of a mile in order to secure a stronger position, as the telegraph says.  This is a confession of weakness unpleasant to contemplate, and the whole tenor of the news is depressing.

For weeks it has been known that this attack has been contemplated, and there must have been gross mismanagement if BURNSIDE has not been strengthened sufficiently to hold that country against great odds.  We hope and believe that he has been so strengthened, but the importance of the struggle is too great to feel at ease until a victory is announced.

The exact location of the reported engagement cannot be determined from the dispatches.  It was on the Kingston road, but whether the rebels were advancing on Kingston or Knoxville cannot be positively defined.  We are inclined to the belief that the fighting was in the immediate vicinity of Kingston which is about thirty miles west of Knoxville, and situated at the junction of the Holston and Clinch rivers.  Our loss is set down at 100, 25 of whom were killed.

Map of Burnside's East Tennessee Campaign, from "Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War"²

Map of Burnside’s East Tennessee Campaign, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War”²


The latest advices from Burnside were up to the 23d inst., when he telegraphed the War Department that his position is impregnable and had no fears of Longstreet.

The fighting which has been mentioned as having taken place was an attack upon our out-posts and was only one of a series of engagements, which have taken place at intervals ever since last week Saturday.  On Saturday morning the 16th, Burnside attacked Longstreet, and drove him accross [sic] the Tennessee river, with a loss of over 1,000 in killed and wn’d.  In this battle Burnside’s loss is set down at 200.  On Sunday morning Longstreet re-crossed, and Burnside considering his force too small, fell back without an engagement to a place called Lenoirs, which is twenty miles south of Knoxville.  On Monday he fell back from Lenoirs, but as Longstreet was in hot pursuit, he formed a line of battle about noon, and an engagement ensured which lasted until three, P. M., when Burnside fell back to a more desirable position, and offered battle which was accepted, the fight closing at dark with our troops in posession [sic] of their own ground.  In this engagement which was very severe, our loss was about 300, including Brig. General Sanders,¹ who fell mortally wounded.  The loss of the rebels is stated to be more severe, as they were the attacking party.  During Monday night Gen. Burnside retired to Knoxville, where joining his main army he still remains, and up to the 23d no attack had been made upon him by the rebles [sic], and he is well fortified.

A successful advance has been made toward Missionary ridge by a portion of the army of the Cumberland, under Gen. Thomas.  The rebels contested the advance and the engagement was very severe, lasting for nine hours.  The battle resulted in a brilliant victory, and in gaining a very important position.  The last reports from Chattanooga, were that Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] was moving and that unless Bragg retreated the armies would fight another battle very soon.

Dispatches state that Bragg [Braxton Bragg] has opened fire upon Chattanooga and its adjacent camps.  There was a rumor at Cincinnati that Hooker [Joseph Hooker] had been engaged with the enemy, but no particulars were given.

— It is positively stated that Gen. Sherman [William T. Sherman] has effected a junction with Grant’s right wing.  The rebels also have been largely reinforced.

The last report from Lee’s [Robert E. Lee] army was that they were falling back to Hanover Junction, depleted one half to join in the attack on Burnside.

1.  William Price Sanders (1833-1863) was a cousin of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He graduated from West Point and served in Utah and other western territories. When the Civil War started, Sanders remained loyal to the Union and became a captain in the 2nd U.S. Dragoons, which was renamed the 6th U.S. Cavalry. He participated in the Peninsula Campaign and the Battle of Antietam. After Antietam, Ambrose Burnside gave him a command in the Department of the Ohio and he raided into East Tennessee and pursued Morgan’s Raiders. Sanders  was promoted to brigadier general on October 18, 1863, but he died before the appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Sanders was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter on November 18, 1863. Fort Loudon was renamed Fort Sanders in his memory. (Fort Loudon is underlined in blue on the map above.)
2.  Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden (Chicago: McDonnell, 1866-68): 533; available in the UWRF Archives (E 468.7 .G87 1866).

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