About 8 o’clock AM, November 24th, General Ferrero, acting under orders, sent forward the Second Michigan to charge the enemy’s rifle pits and drive them out. The regiment was sustained by our batteries as long as it was safe to fire over the heads of our men. They went down the long slope, over the fallen trees, and through the debris in front, upon the double quick, attacking....
As McLaws' division arrived in front of Knoxville on November 17, 1863, Brig General William T. Wofford was absent at home in Georgia. Colonel Solon Z Ruff (18 GA) was commanding the brigade in his absence. Captain James Lile Lemon (A/18GA) paints the picture for us:
Ordered to dig and move into siege lines which faced the works of the enemy surrounding the city. Here we lay for several days. The weather had turned quite cold and with frequent rains, turned the ground all to mud. At this time, due to hard and continuous campaigning, many of the uniforms of our men were playing out, especially their shoes and not a few of our boys were completely barefoot. [Lemon, p. 43.]
For Wofford's Georgians, the days dragged on in the rifle pits until November 24, 1863. Lt Col Nathan Hutchins of the 3rd Battn Georgia Sharpshooters reports the events of that day, 156 years ago.
Having advanced the picket line to the railroad, 600 to 800 yards from Fort Loudon, a rifle pit was dug, by direction and under the superintendence of Colonel Ruff, 100 yards in front of the picket posts on the left, this leaving its left partially exposed and unprotected, it was, therefore, only used for vedettes and sharpshooters. A sortie was made against this work on the morning of the 24th by a regiment of the enemy (the Second Michigan.) Crossing the railroad far to the left it moved down, its right flank perpendicular to our picket line, thereby getting completely on the flank and rear of the rifle pit. A portion of the Third Georgia Battalion Sharpshooters being on duty at this position, the remaining portion was moved up to its support and soon succeeded in driving the enemy from the works with a loss, as nearly as could be ascertained, of 50 or 60 killed, wounded, and prisoners, while the Battalion’s loss was 5 men wounded, 2 of them mortally [Report of Lt Col Nathan L Hutchins (3d Battn GA SS) dated January 1, 1864, OR, Series I, Vol XXI, Part 1, pp. 518-520.]
The Michiganders recalled it this way:
On our left, for some hours, the fire of the sharp-shooters was quite hot from a house above the rebel trenches. The Second Michigan charged there, also, in the most gallant manner, and drove the rebels back. A fierce and bloody engagement ensued, with great loss on both sides, our boys remaining in possession of the works, which they obliterated, and fell back. [Michigan Volunteers, p. 29.]
Evansville Daily Journal., December 02, 1863, MORNING EDITION, page 3. NOTE: "Lieut. Halpen" killed - should be Lieut. Charles R. Galpin.
OR: Report of Lt Col Nathan L Hutchins (3d Battn GA SS) dated January 1, 1864, OR, Series I, Vol XXI, Part 1, pp. 518-520.
LOC: Map of Fort Sanders, Knoxville, Tennessee, showing the Confederate assault of Nov. 29, 1863, John G Orth, created 1863. Interpretation by the author for Civil War Talk.
Feed them the Steel! Being the Wartime Recollections of Capt James Lile Lemon, Co A, 18th Georgia Infantry, Edited by Mark Lemon, privately published, page 43.
Record of Service Michigan Volunteers in the Civil War, 1861-1865, Volume 2, Second Michigan Infantry, Kalamazoo, Mich., Ihling bros. & Everard, printers, 190-, p. 29.