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.
From Manassas to Appomattox
General James Longstreet
According to some, he was partially to blame for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg; according to others, if Lee had followed Longstreet's advice, they would have won that battle. He has been called stubborn and vain; and he has been lauded as one of the greatest tacticians of the Civil War
Civil War Milledgeville: Tales from the Confederate Capital of Georgia
In the town of Milledgeville, Georgia--the state capital during the Civil War the actions of local soldiers and citizens alike tell a story that is unique to that locale.
The division between combatant and civilian at the local level is not always clear. The often forgotten events and people that have shaped our larger understanding of the Civil War, from a womens riot to a confederate cavalry rescue.
The Battle of Brandy Station
North America's Largest Cavalry Battle
Just before dawn on June 9, 1863, Union soldiers materialized from a thick fog near the banks of Virginia's Rappahannock River to ambush sleeping Confederates. The ensuing struggle, which lasted throughout the day, was to be known as the Battle of Brandy Station the largest cavalry battle ever fought on North American soil.