Saturday, November 16, 2013

Knoxville Campaign - Battle of Campbell Station

While the Confederates were concentrating on Rosecrans' army around Chickamauga and Chattanooga, on the Tennessee-Georgia line, Ambrose Burnside took advantage of transfers of Confederate troops away from East Tennessee. He was successful, and in September Cumberland Gap and Knoxville fell to the Federals. The siege of Chattanooga freed up some of the other Confederate troops, and Braxton Bragg sent James Longstreet with his corps to deal with Burnside. Longstreet disagreed with the order, as both parts of the Confederate army would be outnumbered by the Federals they were facing, but he had to go nonetheless.

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. 


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