Burnside had ignored requests to reinforce the Federals in Chattanooga, but as Longstreet advanced toward him he determined to go out and engage him, and fall back slowly to Knoxville, thereby ensuring that Longstreet did not return quickly to aid Bragg. Longstreet's movements were hampered by problems with the railroad, but finally his men were dropped off at Sweetwater, halfway to Knoxville, on November 12. Then commenced a race between the Confederates and Burnside, who had advanced as planned.
The two armies first seriously engaged each other on November 16th, 150 years ago today. The armies marched on parallel roads towards Campbell's Station. Whoever arrived first would control the route to Knoxville. The Yankees arrived there first, but just fifteen minutes later the Confederates showed up. Longstreet tried to hit the Federals on both flanks, and although the Union right was driven back, the attack on the left did not materialize. Burnside ordered his men to fall back, but they had won the first section of the race, and were able to continue on the road to Knoxville. In this fight the Federals lost about 400, the Confederates, 570.