Longstreet in East TN: Huff's Ferry, Campbell's Station, and Knoxville

lelliott19

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There's still plenty to see of Longstreet's East Tennessee campaign from Niota, TN to Knoxville --- you just have to know where to look. We met up this morning at the Niota Depot in Niota, TN. @uaskme met us at the depot as we awaited the arrival of our knowledgeable guide Norman Dasinger, Jr. If you ever want to know anything about East Tennessee, Norman is the guy who knows!
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Norman explained that the depot is made of handmade bricks. It was built 1854 so it was there, along the railroad in November of 1863, when Longstreet's men came by train from Chattanooga. We started there and drove the same routes, as nearly as possible, that Longstreet's and Burnside's men followed.

Before we left Niota, Norm took us to the local cemetery where stopped and paid our respects to Harry Thomas Burn, a Tennessee State Representative who was elected at 22yo and is still the youngest ever TN state representative. As a side note, Burn reportedly had relatives who fought on both sides of the Civil War.
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On August 18, 1920, with the vote deadlocked at 48 yeahs and 48 nays, Burn cast the deciding vote which allowed Tennessee to ratify the 19th Amendment. His vote came at the request of his mother, Febb Ensminger Burn, who sent a note saying in part, "Hurrah and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt." His parents' grave stone is pictured below.
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We left Niota and drove northeast on Lee Highway. In many places the main road has been moved and we stuck as much as possible to the old original roads. The next town is Sweetwater TN. A quick stop in the parking lot on main street, allowed Norman to orient us to the situation.
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By Brian Stansberry - Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51217287
We were on the South side of the TN river and, in November 1863, so were Longstreet's men. Burnside's men were on the North side of the river. Staying on the train to the next station was not an option. Although the railroad was operational across the Tennessee River, riding it to the next station would have put them face to face with Burnside's men.

Luckily for Longstreet, he had brought along by rail a pontoon bridge. He sent scouts ahead to identify a suitable place where a pontoon bridge could be effectively deployed. They chose Huff's Ferry not far from Sweetwater where the banks weren't too steep and where the river was less than 300 yards across. Longstreet determined to continue on with the pontoons aboard the train, and get it as close as possible to Huff's Ferry, where he would deploy the bridge across the Tennessee River. The pontoon bridge Longstreet used at Huff's Ferry, across the Tennessee River might have looked something like this one at Deep Bottom, across the James River.
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So the pontoons stayed on the train, but the noise of the engine would be likely to attract the attention of Burnside's scouts. So the engine was left at Sweetwater, the cars containing the pontoons were detached, and Longstreet's (at that point) 8000 men pushed the cars by hand 10 miles up the track. They got them as close as they safely could and then unloaded the pontoons down the river bank on the South side of the Tennessee River. After crossing the pontoon bridge, this is the trail they came up on the other side.
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While we were all standing there in the middle of the road listening to Norman tell us about the pontoon crossing, a lady drove up who lives there.
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She said, "I just need to turn in, I live here."

I said, "I'm so sorry, we are just looking for Longstreet."

To which she immediately replied, "Well you just missed him; he was here 157 years ago." :thumbsup:

It was so refreshing to meet a resident who actually recognizes the significance of her property; we grinned about it the rest of the day! Then she went on to say how her husband believes that some of the men must have bivouacked on the property due to some items he has found. So we took a picture, just in case.:D
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Possible location of bivouac of some of Longstreet's men.
<To be continued>
 

lelliott19

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Since yesterday's adventure didn't include visiting the place where Longstreet's men put the pontoon's into the Tennessee river, we decided to go find it today! On the map below you can see Huff's Ferry road on the North and the South side of the Tennessee River. You can also see the railroad track and how close it is to the southside of Huff's Ferry. That's where the pontoons were unloaded and carried to down to the river.
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The images in the post above show where Longstreet's men came out on the North side of the river but the picture below that I took today shows where the pontoons were put in the river.
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We couldn't drive all the way down there - this is as close as we could get. You can see we would have probably needed four wheel drive to get out. :D So we drove up a little further north and found an old family cemetery that overlooked the river.
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This one is taken from the cemetery, looking back at the approximate location of the pontoon crossing.
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Lubliner

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Such a beautiful day. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did the pictures. I see no signs keeping anyone from walking down the path shown in your first picture. I would assume this is Huff's Ferry Road. How far from that point to the river? Also on the next picture taken from the cemetery, can you orient me as to where the cemetery was located; with the rise in the background I am placing it on the southside just north of the crossing. Thanks @lelliott19.
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lelliott19

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Also on the next picture taken from the cemetery, can you orient me as to where the cemetery was located
Thanks for your interest @Lubliner Hopefully this will answer your question. The last picture in post #6 was taken from the Harrison Family cemetery, on the same side of the Tennessee River as the pontoons were put in the river - just a bit further up and looking back.
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So once Longstreet's men crossed the Tennessee River using the pontoons, they had to make their way North. As I mentioned earlier, the reason they couldn't continue by rail was that Longstreet's scouts reported Burnside's men in the vicinity of Lenoir, which was the next train station past the river. The pontoon crossing necessitated a bit of a detour to the west on Huff's Ferry Road - to get around the bend in the river. Once that was cleared, they turned North on what is now Hotchkiss Valley Road.
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The road has been altered to make its way around the interchange, but we picked it up again on the north side of I-75 and followed it north. Along that section, North of I-75, we passed this once beautiful barn that has now collapsed.
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Further north, we came to a dead end T intersection where present-day Hotchkiss Valley intersects old Highway 95. At the time, the Burns house was located to the right of this intersection. It was late in the day of November 15, 1863 when Longstreet's men began arriving at the intersection

It was here that the first of many "missed opportunities" occurred for Longstreet. 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. Just beyond this intersection, over that rise, the entire valley in which Lenoir sits becomes visible.
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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 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. By making a forced march as fast as possible, Longstreet could have theoretically made it to Knoxville ahead of Burnside's army. Instead, Longstreet split his army and sent McLaws' division to the left (northwest) and Jenkins' (Hood's old) division to the right (southeast.)
 

lelliott19

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So the pontoons stayed on the train, but the noise of the engine would be likely to attract the attention of Burnside's scouts. So the engine was left at Sweetwater, the cars containing the pontoons were detached, and Longstreet's (at that point) 8000 men pushed the cars by hand 10 miles up the track.
This old soldier, reminiscing twenty-six years later, says that Tige Anderson's brigade made up [at least part of] the group detailed to push the train cars carrying the pontoons after they were detached from the engine. He further states that the pontoons were loaded onto wagons to make the final 200-300 yard distance from the railroad to the river.
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Walker County Messenger. (LaFayette, Ga.), October 17, 1889, page 1.
 

lelliott19

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Here, we followed the route of Burnside's retreating army to the next stop which was at Campbell's Station, now known as Farragut, TN. Named after US Naval Officer, David Farragut, who was born nearby on the Tennessee River, the town has established a small park with a monument, right beside the Town Hall.
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Just about the last remaining open ground that offers a view of the battle of Campbell's Station also lies to the west of the town hall, so we parked in the parking lot and walked over to take a look. You cant really tell from the map snip I used, but the Tennessee River is just out of the frame to the South. Until this visit, I had no idea that the area of operations for the Battle of Campbell's Station was so compact.
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Looking in this direction, we were facing Longstreet's men as they approached Campbell's Station. A member of Wofford's brigade, who would have been facing you, and just out of view to the right, described it as follows:
When we arrived at Campbell's Station, about fifteen miles from Knoxville, we found that our division [McLaws'] by taking a different road had got in ahead of that of Hood's [now Jenkins'.] At the above Station, the enemy seem to show signs that they were going to make a stand, They planted a battery on a commanding position near the Station, and when our advance came up, commenced shelling them. Our brigade was immediately formed in line of battle with that of General Bryan's and ordered to advance which it did in gallant style. But before the line came near the battery, it was limbered up and all the Yanks clean gone. Halting for the night, we again resumed the pursuit next morning. But the enemy did not pretend to make any more stands until they got in their entrenchments near Knoxville....​
[Source: Letter, Andrew Jackson Bell (C/18th GA), dated Camp Near Rogersville, Tenn., December 12, 1863 as published in Southern Banner. (Athens, Ga.), January 13, 1864, page 1.]​
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Following the road from Farragut to Knoxville, carried us to the Bleak House located about 1.4 miles in front of Fort Sanders. We stopped and surveyed the terrain from this vantage point, which is fairly high ground.
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Brian Stansberry wikipedia creative commons
Then we traveled another 1/3 mile closer to Knoxville, where we stopped at the Second Presbyterian Church and got out again. This time, we walked right up like we were going to enter the church from the back -- and there in the flower bed, among the shrubbery, was 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. Sanders had been appointed chief of the cavalry corps Dept of Ohio and his commission as Brigadier General had been submitted, but not yet confirmed. <You can see how small the marker is by the leaves in the picture.>
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Sanders died the next day at the Lamar House (now the Bijou Theater) and was buried in the cemetery of the Second Presbyterian Church, then located downtown. Sanders' remains were later removed to the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
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Ironically, years later, the Second Presbyterian Church was relocated to 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.

The next stops were all around the downtown area - locating the approximate boundaries of Fort Sanders in the modern day landscape. It was no easy feat and the football traffic didn't help to make it any easier. After that, we headed over to the high ground of the old abandoned Knoxville College campus - which was where Edward Porter Alexander set up his Confederate artillery batteries. It's about level with the high ground of Fort Sanders and about 1500 yards away.
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After that, we went to find the Henry Lonas Cemetery. The Colonels of two regiments of Woffford's brigade
were killed during the November 29th assault: Solon Z Ruff (18th GA), commanding the brigade that day, and Henry Phillip Thomas (16th GA.) Surgeon Erwin J Eldridge (16th GA) recorded that they obtained a pass and he went with Thomas' son through the lines to retrieve the remains. They obtained permission from Mrs. Lonas to inter the men in her family's plot and the two Colonels were buried there, side by side.
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Many years later, descendants found the information and had markers erected in the cemetery.

Our last stop was one I had no idea even existed. The Sultana explosion took place near Memphis, TN on the Mississippi River --- about 400 miles from Knoxville. There is a Sultana museum in Marion, Arkansas and two statues commemorating the Sultana disaster: a small one, located in Muncie Indiana and this one, located in Mount Olive Baptist Church Cemetery in Maryville, TN.
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"In memory of the men who were on the Sultana, that was destroyed April 27, 1865 by explosion on the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tenn.
From: IND - 352 KY - 25 MICH - 243 OHIO - 460 TENN - 365 VA - 50 MD - 2"
....And the name of every man from TN, all 365 of them, who was onboard the Sultana is engraved into the monument.

To give you an idea of how large it is, here's another picture. It was a moving experience to see it there unexpectedly in Maryville TN - I was so glad Norman decided to show it to us.
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Thus ended our adventure. Thanks for coming along; I hope you enjoyed the pictures. :thumbsup:
 

bdtex

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Great story and a great way to end it. I have been to The Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion, AR and knew there were some monuments elsewhere. The Lonas Cemetery was a cool story too.
 

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I can see a Fort Sanders adventure up and coming I think. The last two times I was in Knoxville was the Fall of 1988, and the spring of 1990. There were some signs marking Longstreet's position at that time, but mainly I remember the patches of woodland I explored around the river and small railroad close to White's Fort, dating back to the 1700's. There once was a statue of a confederate in a rowboat near the entrance of a bank, which was pretty cool, and I remember one on the Library grounds I think. If my memory was as good as the times I knew, I would be delighted! I am too old to go and do it again.
Thank you for the jog @lelliott19. I hope more is to come.
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rebel brit

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Great thread, I'm enjoying following your travels using Google Earth.
Have you any plans to visit the Longstreet's Headquarters Museum in Russellville ?http://www.longstreetmuseum.com/index.htm.
Whenever we've passed through the area, unfortunately it's always been a Sunday or Monday when it's closed.

This Monument to the Sultana is in Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis.
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lelliott19

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This Monument to the Sultana is in Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis.
Thanks Rebrit. I thought there was one in Memphis or else at the museum in AR but when I searched all I came up with was the one in Muncie. The guy who saw to the erection of this one in Maryville was a member of a Union TN (cavalry?) regiment. I neglected to mention that the names are on all four sides.
Have you any plans to visit the Longstreet's Headquarters Museum in Russellville ?
We have never been to the Longstreet Museum in Russellville but would like to one day. This trip was pretty much planned as a one day tour. We drove up on Friday and drove home on Sunday - leaving all of Saturday unobstructed.

My biggest take away was how small the various fields of operation are. When Ive read about the campaign --- so and so was sent on another road to try to get to the next spot ahead of Burnside --- Ive always imagined great distances being covered, where the various commands were completely out of communication over great distances. In reality, with the south side hemmed in by the river, the distances are pretty small. At Campbell's station, where Anderson was sent to right to try and get in position to perform a flanking maneuver, with the river on his right, the distance was so limited, it seemed like Jenkins would have just hollered over there to him, "Hey Tige, you're not far enough around yet. Keep going! Keep going!"
 

rebel brit

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At Campbell's station, where Anderson was sent to right to try and get in position to perform a flanking maneuver, with the river on his right, the distance was so limited, it seemed like Jenkins would have just hollered over there to him, "Hey Tige, you're not far enough around yet. Keep going! Keep going!"
:laugh::laugh:
 
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