CWT Explores the Knoxville Campaign 07/10/21

lelliott19

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photo by @Gettmore
What a great day! It's always fun to explore Civil War sites with others who share a similar interest but today was extraordinary. It was a great day weather-wise for traipsing around some of the sites of the Knoxville/East Tennessee campaign, but it was the collective knowledge and enthusiasm of the group that made this day so special.
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@uaskme and I had the pleasure of touring some of the sites with @Norman Dasinger Jr back in December 2020, but there were some spots that we didn't see on that trip, and others that I wanted better pictures of. Some of the places I wanted to go aren't in areas where I felt comfortable, so @uaskme kindly agreed to accompany me. Then we posted an invitation here to see if anyone else wanted to go. The group included @uaskme @RLowe @Gettmore and his wife, Donna, @Seduzal and his wife Aretha, @midnitelamp and me.

We were so blessed to have @RLowe join us and volunteer to provide the overview of the campaign this morning [see OP photo] I had previously missed a complete understanding of the convoluted politics and rationale for sending Longstreet away from Chattanooga and to Knoxville. Ed is super knowledgeable and he was well-prepared with an easy to understand narrative and primary sources to support and demonstrate that decision making process. My favorite part was the correspondence he quoted between Bragg and Longstreet. Some of that was hilarious! Ed's thorough and crystal clear overview certainly helped me to "connect the dots." Thank you @RLowe

@Gettmore and his wife Donna joined us too. In case you haven't seen his photographs here at CivilWarTalk, he is a fantastic photographer. What a blessing to have him volunteer to take professional quality photographs of the places we went today! He took 102 photos and after editing and whatnot, he will post the best photographs of our trip for you all to see. Here's a sneak peek. He took this one of me at the Second Presbyterian Church at the site of Col. William P. Sanders' mortal wounding.
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I don't usually get pictures of myself at civil war sites. I'm usually the one taking the pictures and I really wanted one at the site of Sanders' mortal wounding. Thanks @Gettmore

It was a memorable and truly enjoyable day. I just wanted to give a partial report and let you know that more pictures from the lens of @Gettmore will be coming soon!
 
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Gettmore

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Western N.C.
And so it Begins... photos by @Gettmore narrative by @lelliott19

After meeting up with everyone at various places, we traveled to downtown Loudon where this scenic spot, under the water tower, was selected for the campaign overview. As mentioned above @RLowe was kind enough to join us and provide a thorough and easily understandable overview. He is a Loudon native and did a fantastic job on the overview. Including excerpts from a number of primary source made it extremely interesting. If you haven't read it before, you really have to get into the OR and find the exchanges between Bragg and Longstreet that he used. They were entertaining for sure!
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@RLowe @lelliott19 Mrs. @Gettmore @Gettmore @midnitelamp @Seduzal @uaskme [not pictured Mrs. @Seduzal ]
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Everyone listened closely as @RLowe gave us the details leading up to the decision to send Longstreet to Knoxville and the convoluted politics involved. It was fascinating!
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At this point, it was overcast and not too hot, but as the sun came out later in the afternoon, it became uncomfortable and we were all seeking shade and water then. :D
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Next we continued just over the hill, but via a circuitous route, to the site of the south side of Huff's Ferry. This is one of those places that @uaskme and I did not visit on our previous tour with @Norman Dasinger Jr . I had located it from a family cemetery just up the road, but had not walked down to it so was really eager to have an opportunity to see it!
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We stopped about half way down the road to fill everyone in on the method used to get the pontoons to Sweetwater; from Sweetwater to Loudon; and then down from the railroad tracks to Huff's Ferrry where the pontoons were paddled across the Tennessee River by the Palmetto Sharpshooters, a SC regiment in Jenkins/Bratton's brigade; and finally secured into a pontoon bridge.
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It's a private nicely improved road so we had no trouble navigating the trek, but the road gets steeper as you go. And you have to come back up. :D
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And here, once we got to the bottom of the hill, there it is! The place where 158 years ago, the Palmetto Sharpshooters laid the pontoon bridge that allowed Longstreet's men to cross the TN River. Someone in the group commented on how narrow the river is here and you can see for yourself that the location was probably chosen at least partially on that criteria. We noted the "eddy" - a little place where the current changes and reverses - that resulted in the "S" shape of the pontoon bridge, as described in primary sources.
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While everyone else was taking pictures, I was reading from my phone an account from a soldier in Tige Anderson's brigade who was part of the detail that dragged the train cars from Sweetwater to Loudon and then helped to get the pontoons down to the water. His account was informative and amusing and I wanted everyone to enjoy it as we gained our first view of the crossing site. We also briefly referenced an account by Edward Jackson McDaniel (F/6th SC) of Jenkins/Brattons brigade that we would revisit later at Lenoir and Eaton's Crossroads.
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Gettmore

First Sergeant
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Location
Western N.C.
And on we go... pictures by @Gettmore narrative by @lelliott19

So our next stop was the "T" intersection. I know it doesn't look important but it is! As Longstreet's men advanced toward Lenoir on the Hotchkiss Valley Road, they came to this "T" intersection. Just over that hill, the entire town of Lenoir would come into view. It was here that the first of Longstreet's missed opportunities occurred.

Longstreet's men began arriving at the intersection late in the day of November 15, 1863 with Jenkins' division in the lead. Burnside's men were resting quietly in Lenoir, apparently aware that Longstreet's men had crossed the Tennessee River but not yet aware they were approaching.
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By sending scouts ahead just beyond that rise, Longstreet would have been able to know the disposition of Burnside's army, but it was getting dark. Jenkins' Palmetto Sharpshooters - the same regiment that paddled the pontoons across and set up the pontoon bridge at Huff's Ferry - encountered Burnside's pickets (twenty-five men of the 45th Pennsylvania) at Chestnut Ridge and shots were fired. The element of surprise was gone --- and the opportunity was lost.
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There was indeed an opportunity here to scoot around Burnside to the north and cut him off. By making a forced march as fast as possible, Longstreet could have theoretically scooted ahead of Burnside's army and cut them off at Campbell's Station or sooner. Instead, Longstreet split his army and sent McLaws' division to the left (northwest) and Jenkins' (Hood's old) division to the right (southeast) and they rested overnight. McLaws Division rested along the Road noted as Old Hwy 95 which goes to Eaton's Crossroads.
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@RLowe explained that Burnside's men were instructed to destroy wagons, ammunition, food, and medical stores but the process was not carried out in time. The Confederates retrieved 100 wagons, 170,000 rounds of ammunition, 100,000 of which were usable, food, medical supplies, and some Hotchkiss shells [30 if I recall correctly]
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I'm not sure what is up with all my weird faces and hand gestures. It was fun interpreting the situation for the group and maybe I got a bit carried away. :D
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Here we revisited the account of Edward Jackson McDaniel (F/6th SC) of Jenkins/Brattons brigade. McDaniel provided the details and filled in some blanks for us.
 
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Gettmore

First Sergeant
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Location
Western N.C.
On to town... Photos by @Gettmore Narrative and maps by @lelliott19

We followed the Kingston Pike into Knoxville and ran right past the Bleak House, so our first stop was the Second Presbyterian Church -- the site of Colonel William P Sanders' mortal wounding.
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Colonel Wm P Sanders is one of my favorites, so we spent a pretty good bit of time here.

William Price Sanders was born in 1833 near Frankfort, KY. In 1839, his family moved to Natchez, MS where he was raised. Jefferson Davis was his cousin. His family was wealthy and rubbed elbows with some pretty important people there in Natchez. In 1856, Sanders graduated 41st in his class at West Point. He was not an outstanding cadet. In fact, in 1854 then West Point Superintendent Robert E Lee wrote a dismissal letter, but help came from the US Secretary of War - his cousin Jefferson Davis - and he avoided dismissal.
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In spite of pre-war suspicions that Sanders was sympathetic to the South, he remained loyal to the Union and served in the 2nd US Dragoons/6th US Cavalry in the Peninsula campaign and at Antietam. After Antietam, Ambrose Burnside assigned him to a command in the Department of Ohio and ordered him to lead a raid into East TN. After the successes there, he returned to Kentucky, and was appointed Brigadier General on 18 Oct 1863 - although his appointment was never confirmed by the Senate.
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Here in the flower bed, among the shrubbery, in the back of the Second Presbyterian Church is this ground level plaque, marking the spot where the gallant Union cavalry officer, William P Sanders, was mortally wounded November 18, 1863, while defending Knoxville. He was shot in the side by forces under the command of Edward Porter Alexander -- who had been Sanders' roommate at West Point. Although the marker says he was shot by a sharpshooter from the tower of the Armstrong house (aka Bleak House) some modern scholarship suggest that the wound resulted from the engagement that occurred between Sanders' cavalry and the infantry of McLaws' division. Meaning that the shot that mortally wounded WP Sanders could have come from ground level, instead of from sharpshooters in the tower.
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Again with the hand gestures and face --- I think Im telling them that the Middle Brook Pike is way over there. :D
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Here we talked about Sanders evacuation from this location to the Lamar House/Bijou theater. He died the next day. He was initially buried in the cemetery of the Second Presbyterian Church, which was located downtown at the time. Sanders' remains were later removed to the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
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And for one more piece of irony.... years later, the Second Presbyterian Church was relocated to this spot. Exactly where we stood - the spot where Sanders was mortally wounded. The door sill of the original church was brought along and rests a few feet from the plaque marking the place where Sanders fell.
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Next we backtracked to the Bleak/Armstrong House. Here @uaskme provided the interpretation. Utilizing Edward Porter Alexander's memoirs, he filled us in on the situation at the Armstrong House on November 18, 1863 as McLaws' division of Confederate infantry approached and readied to engage Wm P Sanders' Union cavalry. Sanders relayed back to Samuel Benjamin in Knoxville to fire a cannon at the house. Benjamin was successful and the shot hit the SE corner of the second floor, killing three Confederate sharpshooters who had been annoying Sanders' men. The Bleak House served as Longstreet's and McLaws' headquarters during the siege of Knoxville.
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Again, thanks to @Gettmore for the photos.
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Ok. I know this photo below looks like a modern day house. And it is. But just pretend that the house is not there. In fact, pretend that none of the houses are there. We would use this house as a landmark later - from the old Knoxville College campus - to find the location of the northwest bastion of Fort Sanders from 1500 yards away. As far as accuracy, there is no way today to be 100% sure exactly where the boundaries of Fort Sanders were. But recent archaeological work and modern scholarship tend to place the tip of the northwest bastion within 50 yards, give or take, of this house. Possibly in the backyard of the house across the street or the one behind that. But since this distinctive blue house with the blue roof is easily visible from the old abandoned Knoxville college campus, we stopped here to orient the group to the situation.
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At this stop, I read some accounts from both sides; nothing better than hearing it "in their own words."

You may already know that two columns of Confederate regiments took part in the assault on Fort Sanders. The column on the right was comprised of the 13th and 17th MS of Humphreys Mississippi brigade and the 50th, 51st, and 53rd Georgia of Goode Bryan's Georgia bridge. They directed their attack towards the west face of the NW Bastion. So if the blue house represents the apex of the NW Bastion, those regiments of Bryan and Humphreys would have been coming up towards Fort Sanders from the left of the house.

The other column of regiments was Phillips' Legion, the 18th GA, the 16th GA and Cobb's Legion of Wofford's Georgians. Their assault originated about the Meadow Brook Pike and was directed at the north face of the NW bastion. So, if the blue house represents the apex of the NW bastion, Wofford's column would have been coming from behind and right of the blue house. Like this
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Map by @lelliott19 for CivilWarTalk
And like this one showing the streets. Blue house indicated at the apex of the NW Bastion.
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Map by @lelliott19 for CivilWarTalk
Please note: scale may still be off in this version as I have not yet measured carefully --- but you get the idea. Below is a view of the rise in the ground behind the house across the street from the blue house. As requested by @Norman Dasinger Jr
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Next we headed over to the old abandoned Knoxville College campus where Edward Porter Alexander set up his Confederate artillery batteries. It's a circuitous route to get there, but once you arrive, you are almost level with the blue house and a quick Google earth measurement reveals that the blue house representing the apex of the NW bastion of Fort Sanders is almost exactly 1500 yards away.
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This is an old photo I tool back in Dec 2020 but I added it to @Gettmore 's grouping here to show relative distance. @lelliott19
It's crazy how clear @Gettmore 's lens was able to zoom in on the blue house with the blue roof. So close you almost touch it.
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The Knoxville College is closed and abandoned now, but this marker stands in front of the lawn. It says Fort Sanders was located 1800 yards south but I am not troubled by that discrepancy at all. The center of Fort Sanders itself probably was 1800 yards away, but my concern is to estimate the location of the apex of the NW Bastion -- where the columns directed their attacks. And I think the blue house is about as close as you can get. In this case, unless new information comes to light "pretty close" has to be good enough.
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And the final stop of the day. The group was kind enough to accompany me to the Henry Lonas Cemetery to visit the graves of two Colonels from Wofford's brigade who were killed in the Assault on Fort Sanders. Most people here at CWT know that I have been working on research for a regimental on the 16th Georgia and the 18th Georgia, Solon Z Ruff's regiment, served with my regiment in Wofford's brigade for most of the war. I never miss an opportunity to visit their graves when I am in Knoxville. I appreciated the group's willingness to accompany me in this ritual. It's an interesting story and I think they all enjoyed learning about it too.
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Brigadier General William Tatum Wofford was absent, sick at home, and the brigade was commanded that day by Colonel Solon Z Ruff of the 18th Georgia. According to the diary of Surgeon Robert Pooler Myers (16th GA) Colonel Ruff was "killed in the first charge at the ditch which surrounded the fort."
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In his diary, Surgeon Myers goes on to say that Col. Thomas was killed and fell in the ditch - his own coat pierced with 19 [bullet] holes. The next day, November 30, 1863, Ed Thomas, the son of Colonel Henry Phillip Thomas (16th Georgia) and Surgeon Myers went within the lines during a flag of truce to retrieve Col Thomas' "..body which was brought to us by four Yankees in a litter we were not allow’d to go near the fort which they had surrounded by a strong line of pickets."
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And on December 1, Surgeon Myers recorded that Ed Thomas "caused his fathers remains to be disinterred from field Infirmary & buried at the private graveyard of a Mrs Crawford about a mile from our Camp & 3 m fr[om]: Knoxville. Col Ruff was buried along side Col Thomas. I marked both of the graves with head boards & cut their names on there." And so the two Colonels of Wofford's brigade, killed in the assault on Fort Sanders, were buried side by side in the cemetery known today as the Henry Lonas cemetery.
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A member of our group @midnitelamp noticed this interesting marker there in the cemetery and @Gettmore snapped a picture of it too.
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Thus ended our Knoxville campaign adventure. Again, many thanks to @Gettmore for the great photos. Thanks to @RLowe and @uaskme for providing interpretation and to everyone who attended, shared their knowledge, contributed their expertise AND to all of you for reading the thread. It was such a GREAT day! I hope we can do it again very soon. -- @lelliott19
 
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lelliott19

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Even my wife enjoyed it...
I'm so glad Donna enjoyed the adventure. @RLowe and @uaskme really know their stuff inside and out --- the politics, the tactics, the military stuff. I don't know much about that at all. I just always try to throw in some good "stories." Women like "stories." :D I am so glad that Donna enjoyed the day.
 

lelliott19

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but to say the least, I would imagine that finally arriving at the site of Fort Sanders would be anti climatic.
Well, no. At least not for me. I love a good mystery and connecting the dots. I like to know where stuff happened. So calculating the approximate location of the NW Bastion and then seeing it from the Knoxville College campus is a treat for me. And getting to show it to others -- see them have that same "Aha moment" -- it was actually one of the highlights of the day for me. :D Go with us next time. You'll see.
 
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redbob

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Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
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Hoover, Alabama
Well, no. At least not for me. I love a good mystery and connecting the dots. I like to know where stuff happened. So calculating the approximate location of the NW Bastion and then seeing it from the Knoxville College campus is a treat for me. And getting to show it to others -- see them have that same "Aha moment" -- it was actually one of the highlights of the day for me. :D Go with us next time. You'll see.
One of the portions of the fort is supposedly about where the er of the Fort Sanders Medical Center and they claim that it is haunted.
 

Lubliner

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Nov 27, 2018
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Chattanooga, Tennessee
I came up with one question. The pontoon bridge that was laid down. What became of it?
If they left it behind for an escape route, it would have been guarded by at least a company.
If they had taken it up and carried it with them to where the assault place, how was it detailed, and was it brought away upon retreat?
Lubliner.
 

tmorr

Private
Joined
Sep 4, 2020
Fantastic thread, photos and virtual tour - THANK YOU!!! I'd like to request Campbell's Station be on the docket next time, if there is a next time. I graduated from Farragut HS in '85 and at the time there was still a lot of undeveloped land around the area. Not so much these days, but I rarely get to go back to Knoxville and wonder how much of Campbell's Station can still be interpreted. If memory serves me there as a thread a while back about it but it would have great to get a refresher. In any event, thanks again and keep up the great work!
 

Karmike50

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Jan 1, 2020
Location
Norris, Tn
Enjoyed this piece since I have lived in this area. I particularly enjoyed the overlap picture of the Fort Sanders area which was my old stomping grounds in college. I never appreciated its history back then. There was a lot buried and destroyed in the process of building Fort Sanders medical facility from what I had read at the time (‘70’s and 80’s).
 

SgtDarby8OVI

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Jun 30, 2021
This was a terrific tour. I did my own self-guided tour of Knoxville, Bean's Station, Strawberry Plains, and surrounding sites in 2016 but lost many of the photos in a 2019 cloud crash. Sadly, Fort Sanders didn't even survive the end of the 19th century. Within a short time after the 1895 reunion, high end housing inundated the fort decades prior to the hospital being built. There was apparently no thought given by civic leaders to preserve the fort and many of them built homes on the site. I once typed in "Ft. Sanders preservation" on a search engine and got a hit to a group trying to protect the Fort Sanders neighborhood from losing homes and ground to parking lots. See Earl Hess, The Knoxville Campaign: Burnside and Longstreet in East Tennessee (Univ. of Tenn. Press, 2012), 274-280 for a discussion of this turn-of-the-century preservation disaster.
 
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