Battle of Fort Sanders

In attempting to take Knoxville, the Confederates decided that Fort Sanders was the only vulnerable place where they could penetrate Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s fortifications, which enclosed the city, and successfully conclude the siege, already a week long. The fort surmounted an eminence just northwest of Knoxville.

Northwest of the fort, the land dropped off abruptly. Confederate Lt. General James Longstreet believed he could assemble a storming party, undetected at night, below the fortifications and, before dawn, overwhelm Fort Sanders by a coup de main. Following a brief artillery barrage directed at the fort’s interior, three Rebel brigades charged.

Union wire entanglements-–telegraph wire stretched from one tree stump to another to another-–delayed the attack, but the fort’s outer ditch halted the Confederates. This ditch was twelve feet wide and from four to ten feet deep with vertical sides. The fort’s exterior slope was almost vertical, also. Crossing the ditch was nearly impossible, especially under withering defensive fire from musketry and canister.

Confederate officers did lead their men into the ditch, but, without scaling ladders, few emerged on the scarp side and a small number entered the fort to be wounded, killed, or captured. The attack lasted a short twenty minutes. Longstreet undertook his Knoxville expedition to divert Union troops from Chattanooga and to get away from General Braxton Bragg, with whom he was engaged in a bitter feud. His failure to take Knoxville scuttled his purpose.

This was the decisive battle of the Knoxville Campaign. This Confederate defeat, plus the loss of Chattanooga on November 25, put much of East Tennessee in the Union camp.

Result: Union victory
Location: Knox County, TN
Campaign: Knoxville Campaign (1863)
Date: November 29, 1863
Principal Commanders: Major General Ambrose E. Burnside [US]; Lt. General James Longstreet [CS]

Forces Engaged: Department of the Ohio [US];
Longstreet’s corps, Army of Northern Virginia

Estimated Casualties: 880 total (US 100; CS 780)

Battle of Fair Garden

Since the Battle of Dandridge, the Union cavalry had moved to the south side of the French Broad River and had disrupted Confederate foraging and captured numerous wagons in that area. On January 25, 1864, Lt. General James Longstreet, commander of the Department of East Tennessee, instructed his subordinates to do something to curtail Union operations south of the French Broad.

On the 26th, Brig. General Samuel D. Sturgis, having had various brushes with Confederate cavalry, deployed his troopers to watch the area fords. Two Confederate cavalry brigades and artillery advanced from Fair Garden in the afternoon but were checked about four miles from Sevierville. Other Confederates attacked a Union cavalry brigade, though, at Fowler’s on Flat Creek, and drove it about two miles.

No further fighting occurred that day. Union scouts observed that the Confederates had concentrated on the Fair Garden Road, so Sturgis ordered an attack there in the morning. In a heavy fog, Col. Edward M. McCook’s Union division attacked and drove back Major General William T. Martin’s Confederates until about 4:00 pm. At that time, McCook’s men charged with sabers and routed the Rebels.

Sturgis set out in pursuit on the 28th, and captured and killed more of the routed Rebels. The Union forces, however, observed three of Longstreet’s infantry brigades crossing the river. Realizing his weariness from fighting, lack of supplies, ammunition, and weapons and the overwhelming strength of the enemy, Sturgis decided to evacuate the area. But, before leaving, Sturgis determined to attack Brig. General Frank C. Armstrong’s Confederate cavalry division which he had learned was about three or four miles away, on the river.

Unbeknownst to the attacking Federals, Armstrong had strongly fortified his position and three infantry regiments had arrived to reinforce him. Thus, the Union troops suffered severe casualties in the attack. The battle continued until dark, when the Federals retired from the area.

The Federals had won the big battle but the fatigue of continual fighting and lack of supplies and ammunition forced them to withdraw.

Result: Union victory
Location: Union victory
Campaign: Operations about Dandridge
Date: January 27, 1864
Principal Commanders: Brig. General Samuel D. Sturgis and
Col. Edward M. McCook [US];

Forces Engaged: Cavalry Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Ohio [US]; Cavalry Division, Longstreet’s corps, Army of Northern Virginia

Estimated Casualties: 265 total (US 100; CS 165)  

Battle of Dandridge

Union forces under Major General John G. Parke advanced on Dandridge, Tennessee, near the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad, on January 14, forcing Lt. General James Longstreet’s Confederate troops to fall back. Longstreet, however, moved additional troops into the area on the 15th to meet the enemy and threaten the Union base at New Market.

On the 16th, Brig. General Samuel D. Sturgis, commanding the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Ohio, rode forward to occupy Kimbrough’s Crossroads. Within three or four miles of his objective, Sturgis’s cavalry met Rebel troops, forcing them back towards the crossroads. As the Union cavalry neared the crossroads, they discovered an enemy infantry division with artillery that had arrived the day before.

The Union cavalry could not dislodge these Rebels and was compelled to retire to Dandridge. About noon the next day, Sturgis received information that the Confederates were preparing for an attack so he formed his men into line of battle. About 4:00 pm, the Confederates advanced and the fighting quickly became general. The battle continued until after dark with the Federals occupying about the same battle line as when the fighting started.

The Union forces fell back to New Market and Strawberry Plains during the night, but the Rebels were unable to pursue because of the lack of cannons, ammunition, and shoes. For the time being, the Union forces left the area.

Result: Confederate victory
Location: Jefferson County, TN
Operations about Dandridge
January 17, 1864
Principal Commanders: Brig. General Samuel D. Sturgis [US];
Lt. General James Longstreet [CS]

Forces Engaged: Cavalry Corps, Army of the Ohio, and Infantry of the IV Army Corps [US]; Department of East Tennessee [CS]

Estimated Casualties: Total unknown (US 150; CS unknown)

Battle of Mossy Creek

Union General Samuel D. Sturgis received a report on the night of December 28, 1863, that a brigade of Confederate cavalry was in the neighborhood of Dandridge that afternoon. Surmising that the Rebel cavalry force was split, Sturgis decided to meet and defeat, and possibly capture, this portion of it. He ordered most of his troopers out toward Dandridge on two roads.

After these troops had left, Major General William T. Martin, commander of General Longstreet’s Confederate cavalry, now reunited, attacked the remainder of Sturgis’s force at Mossy Creek, Tennessee, which included the First Brigade, Second Division, XXIII Army Corps, commanded by Col. Samuel R. Mott, at 9:00 am.

First, Sturgis sent messages to his subordinates on the way to Dandridge to return promptly if they found no enemy there. The Confederates advanced, driving the Federals in front of them. Some of the Union troopers who had set out for Dandridge returned. Around 3:00 pm, fortunes changed as the Federals began driving the Confederates. By dark, the Rebels were back to the location from which they had begun the battle.

Union pursuit was not mounted that night, but Martin retreated from the area. After the victory at Mossy Creek, the Union held the line about Talbott’s Station for some time.

Result: Union victory
Location: Jefferson County, TN
Campaign: Operations about Dandridge 1863-64
Date: December 29, 1863
Principal Commanders: 
Brig. General Samuel D. Sturgis [US];
Major General William T. Martin [CS]

Forces Engaged: Cavalry Corps, Army of the Ohio and 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, XXIII Army Corps [US]; Longstreet’s corps, Army of Norhtern Virginia (Sturgis reported that the Confederate cavalry was supported by a brigade of infantry; approx. 2,000 men) [CS]

Estimated Casualties: Total unknown (US 151; CS unknown)

Battle of Bean Station

CSA Lt. General James Longstreet abandoned the Siege of Knoxville, on December 4, 1863, and retreated northeast towards Rogersville, Tennessee along present day U.S. Highway 11-W. Union Major General John G. Parke pursued the Confederates to insure they retreated from Tennessee, but not too closely. General Longstreet continued to Rutledge on December 6 and Rogersville on the 9th.

Parke sent Union Brig. General J.M Shackelford with about 4,000 cavalry and infantry to search for Longstreet. On the 13th, Shackelford was near Bean’s Station on the Holston River. Longstreet decided to go back and capture Bean’s Station. Three Confederate columns and artillery approached Bean’s Station to catch the federals in a vice. By 2:00 am on the 14th, one column was skirmishing with Union pickets. The pickets held out as best they could and warned Shackelford of the Confederate presence. He deployed his force for an assault.

Soon, the battle started and continued throughout most of the day. Confederate flanking attacks and other assaults occurred at various times and locations, but the Federals held until southern reinforcements tipped the scales. By nightfall, the Federals were retiring from Bean’s Station through Bean’s Gap and on to Blain’s Cross Roads. Longstreet set out to attack the Union forces again the next morning, but as he approached them at Blain’s Cross Roads, he found them well-entrenched.

Longstreet withdrew and the Federals soon left the area. The Knoxville Campaign ended following the battle of Bean’s Station. The weather became severe, and is recorded as one of the coldest winter in history. Longstreet was unable to move his army in the snow, rain, cold, muddy roads, and moved his army across the river, and went into winter quarters at Russellville.

Result: Confederate victory
Location: Grainger County, TN
Campaign: Knoxville Campaign (1863)
Date: December 14, 1863
Principal Commanders: Brig. General J.M. Shackelford [US];
Lt. General James Longstreet [CS]

Forces Engaged: Cavalry Corps, Department of the Ohio [US]

Confederates: Longstreets Corps, Army of Northern Virginia

Estimated Casualties: 1,600 total (US 700; CS 900)

General Longstreet

Bethesda Church, a quaint old building with high-backed pews and an enclosed pulpit, was organized in 1832 by Dr. John McCampbell and members of Hopewell Presbyterian Church near Dandridge...


General Kershaw

Born in Camden, South Carolina in 1822, Joseph Brevard Kershaw enjoyed a growing law practice in Camden before he volunteered to serve with South Carolina troops during the War with Mexico...


Bethesda Church

Bethesda Church, a quaint old building with high-backed pews and an enclosed pulpit, was organized in 1832 by Dr. John McCampbell and members of Hopewell Presbyterian Church near Dandridge...