Sanders’ Raid

<SPRING 1863>
Since the beginning of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln has been urging Union generals to invade East Tennessee and give some relief to the Unionist residents there. In Spring 1863, Major General Ambrose Burnside USA is assigned to the command of the Department of the Ohio, which includes Northeast Tennessee. 

Major General Ambrose Burnside USA in dress uniform
Engraving by Benjamin Perley Poore

To President Lincoln’s delight, Gen. Burnside is willing to invade Northeast Tennessee. Just when he is putting his plans in motion, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant requests that he send his IX Corps to take part in the Vicksburg Campaign.

While waiting for his IX Corps to return from Mississippi, Burnside orders a cavalry raid to destroy important railroad bridges and track, particularly around Knoxville, the largest city in Northeast Tennessee. This raid is to be carried out by a select force of cavalry and mounted infantry. To lead the raid he chooses Kentuckian William P. Sanders, colonel of the 5th Kentucky Cavalry.

Col. William Sanders of the 5th Kentucky Cavalry USA

<14 JUNE 1863>
Sanders and his 1,500 cavalrymen and mounted infantry leave Mount Vernon KY.

<16 JUNE 1863>
Skirmish in Powell Valley, 15 miles from Jacksboro, Tennessee
SOMERSET, June 19, 1863.
Gen. STURGIS: Col. Reily, of the One hundred and fourth Ohio, telegraphed from Mount Vernon that some of the men who were with Col. Gilbert say that he and Col. Sanders passed through Big Creek Gap at 2 p. m. on Tuesday [16th], and went into Powell’s Valley. They had a slight skirmish 15 miles this side of Jacksborough. I am sending orders.
S. P. Carter, Brig.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 23, pt. II, p. 439.

<17 JUNE 1863>
Sanders’ column passes west of Huntsville, Tennessee and arrives near Montgomery on the evening of 17 June.

From Williamsburg KY—at the top edge of the map below, above Boston— Sanders’ raiders move southwest to Kingston TN.


Affair at Lenoir’s Station
On 19 JUNE at 8 a.m., the Union cavalry descended on Lenoir’s Station —southwest of Knoxville—capturing 65 Confederates and three iron 6-pounder field guns. The raiders cut the telegraph line, burned the depot, seized 75 horses and mules; and destroyed 2,500 weapons, 5 pieces of artillery, ammunition, and military equipment.

Lenoir’s Station: Sanders’ Raid Marker
Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside needed to gather information on Confederate troop strength and to cripple the important East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad before he invaded East Tennessee in 1863. In June, he ordered Col. William P. Sanders to march from Kentucky and destroy track both north and south of Knoxville. Unable to destroy the heavily-defended railroad bridge crossing the Tennessee River at Loudon, Sanders and his 1,500 men (including the locally raised 1st East Tennessee Mounted Infantry) turned to Lenoir’s Station, located within the 2,700-acre plantation of the Lenoir family. On June 19, Sander’s troops overwhelmed a small Confederate force here and destroyed the depot, the general store, and a railroad car containing Confederate military supplies. They also captured 65 artillery men and their cannons, horses, and mules.
Sanders spared the brick cotton mill in front of you (damaged severely by a 1991 fire). He allegedly wished to protect the only source of cloth for local Unionists. According to local tradition, Dr. Benjamin B. Lenoir, one of the owners, exchanged secret signs with fellow Masons among the Federal officers, ensuring the mill’s safety. The next day, Sander’s troops marched to Knoxville, briefly engaging Confederate batteries there before continuing to Strawberry Plains and destroying a major railroad bridge. The raid netted some 300 Confederate prisoners and ten pieces of artillery.
Later in November 1863, Confederate Gen, James Longstreet passed through Lenoir’s Station—briefly liberating the place—during his Knoxville campaign. Sanders died of wounds received on November 19, 1863, during the fight of Knoxville, and in his memory Union officials named a fort in his honor. Fort Sanders Hospital is near the fort site in downtown Knoxville.
Cotton mill, ca. 1870 from Lenoir City Golden Jubilee: 1907-1957
Gen. William P. Sanders Courtesy U.S. Army Military History Institute
Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside Courtesy Library of Congress
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

At about 7 p.m. on 19 JUNE, Sanders and his cavalry reach the outskirts of Knoxville. He leaves the 1st Kentucky to watch the west side of Knoxville while he circles around the city with the rest of his raiders to approach it from the north. He tears up the railroad into Northeast Tennessee to delay the movement of Confederate reinforcements.

<20 JUNE 1863>
Burning the Strawberry Plains Bridge
At daylight, Sanders moves his men to the Tazewell Road and reconnoiters the approaches to Knoxville. The Confederate garrison of about 1,000 Southern soldiers, plus a good many stubborn civilians, are hunkered down behind barricades of cotton bales—rural Northeast Tennessee is largely Unionist, but Knoxville is primarily Confederate.
The Union raiders skirmish with the Rebels for about an hour. Realizing he cannot take Knoxville, Sanders withdraws.
At 8 a.m. on 20 June, the Union horsemen ride northeast along the ET&VA Railroad, destroying track, bridges, and any other property useful to the Confederate States of America, including a bridge at Flat Creek.
Approximately 15 miles from Knoxville, a 1,600-foot-long railroad bridge at Strawberry Plains crosses the Holston River on eleven stone piers. The Unionist bridge burners attempted to burn this bridge on 8 November 1861, but were unsuccessful.
This bridge is crucial to all railroad traffic through Northeast Tennessee during the Civil War. It changes hands between the Union and the Confederacy several times; one side destroys it and the other rebuilds it. It is considered the most important bridge in East Tennessee, making it a priority target for the Union raiders.
Sanders reports that his army has “destroyed the splendid bridge over the Holston River, over 1,600 feet long, built on eleven piers. [With] the trestle-work included, this bridge was 2,100 feet in length.” 
The Strawberry Plains Bridge will be destroyed three more times during the war.

Ruins of Strawberry Plains Bridge, Siege of Knoxville, autumn 1863.
George N. Barnard photograph of the ruins of the railroad bridge over the Holston River at Strawberry Plains.
This image also shows a Union sentry on the right, a burned-out house on the left, and Knoxville’s Fort Loudon [later Fort Sanders] on the hilltop in the background. This photograph was taken during the Siege of Knoxville, November-December 1863.
Source: Library of Congress.

20 June 1863
At Strawberry Plains, Sanders finds four hundred Confederates guarding the highly coveted railroad bridge. Col. Sanders and his men flank their position and attack while receiving murderous grape and canister shots. Many Confederates retreat to the Old Stringfield Cemetery at the northern end of the bridge.
The Rebels defend themselves from behind the cemetery’s four-foot stone walls, but the Federals eventually overrun their position, forcing 140 to surrender. Many of these sign parole papers stating that they will return to their homesteads and cease all opposition to the Federal government.
Probably half of the parolees immediately rejoin their unit, while the rest actually go home. Many of these later serve as Home Guards. 
O.R., Ser. I, Vol. 30, pt. II, p. 547.

Present-day view of Strawberry Plains, looking north

Report of W. P. SANDERS,
Col. Fifth Kentucky Cavalry, Cmdg.
Expedition into East Tennessee,
LEXINGTON, KY., July 26, 1863.COL.: … I left Mount Vernon, KY 14 JUNE, with a force of 1,500 mounted men … From Mount Vernon to Williamsburg, on the Cumberland River, a distance of 60 miles, a train of wagons containing forage and subsistence stores accompanied the expedition.
From this point I followed a route known as the Marsh Creek road to near Huntsville TN. … We reached the vicinity of Montgomery, TN on the evening of 17 JUNE and learning that a small party of rebels were stationed at Wartburg, 1 mile from Montgomery, I sent 400 men from the First East Tennessee to surprise and capture them, following one hour afterward myself with the remainder of the command.
The surprise was complete. We captured 102 enlisted men and 2 officers (one of them an aide to Gen. Pegram), together with a large number of horses, 60 boxes artillery ammunition, several thousand pounds of bacon, salt, flour, and meal, some corn, 500 spades, 100 picks. besides a large quantity of other public stores, and 6 wagons with mule teams.
The prisoners were paroled and the property destroyed. A small portion of this command, who were out some distance from the camp, with their horses, escaped and gave the first notice of our approach at Knoxville … and other places.
On 18 JUNE, 8 a.m.… I determined to avoid Loudon, and started immediately for Lenoir’s Station, which place I reached about 8 a. m., arriving there about thirty minutes after the departure of the rebel troops. … Burned the depot, a large brick building, containing five pieces of artillery, with harness and saddles, two thousand five hundred stand of small-arms … a very large amount of artillery and musket ammunition, and artillery and cavalry equipment.
There was a large cotton factory and a large amount of cotton at this place, and I ordered that it should not be burned, as it furnished the Union citizens of the country with their only material for making cloth … I had the telegraph wire and railroad destroyed from here on to Knoxville, at points about 1 mile apart.
We met the enemy’s pickets at Knoxville about 7 p. m. on 19 JUNE, and drove them to within a mile of the City. Leaving a portion of the First Kentucky Cavalry on this side of the town, I moved the rest of the command as soon as it was dark by another road entirely around to the other side, driving in the pickets at several places, and cut the railroad, so that no troops could be sent to the bridges above.
At daylight 20 JUNE I moved up to the City, on the Tazewell road. I found the enemy well posted on the heights and in the adjacent buildings, with eight or nine pieces of artillery. The streets were barricaded with cotton bales, and the batteries protected by the same material. Their force was estimated at 3,000, including citizens who were impressed into service. After about one hour’s skirmishing, I withdrew …
I then started for Strawberry Plains, following the railroad, and destroyed all the small bridges and depots to within 4 miles of the latter place, at Flat Creek, where I burned a finely built covered bridge, and also a county bridge. The guard had retreated. I left the railroad 3 miles below the town, and crossed the Holston River, so as to attack the bridge on the same side the enemy were.

Flat Creek Bridge burned during Sanders’ Raid

As soon as we came in sight, they opened on the advance with four pieces of artillery. … After about an hour’s skirmishing, the enemy were driven off, and having a train and locomotive, with steam up, in waiting, a portion of them escaped, leaving all their guns … 137 enlisted men and 2 officers as prisoners, a vast amount of stores …
I remained at this place all night, and … destroyed the splendid [Strawberry Plains] bridge over the Holston River, over 1,600 feet long, built on eleven piers. The [wooden] trestle work included; this bridge was 2,100 feet in length.
At daylight on 21 JUNE I started up the railroad for the Mossy Creek Bridge, destroying the road at all convenient points. At Mossy Creek, New Market, and vicinity I captured 120 prisoners and destroyed several cars, a large quantity of stores … The bridge burned at Mossy Creek was a fine one, over 300 feet in length. …
I determined to leave the railroad here and endeavor to cross the mountains at Rogers’ Gap, as I knew every exertion was being made on the part of the enemy to capture my command. I forded the Holston at Hayworth’s Bend and started for the Powder Springs Gap, of Clinch Mountain.
Here a large force was found directly in my front, and another strong force overtook and commenced skirmishing with my rear guard. … On arriving within a mile and a half of Roger’s Gap, I found that it was blockaded by fallen timber, and strongly guarded by artillery and infantry, and that all the gaps practicable were obstructed and guarded in a similar manner.
I then determined to abandon my artillery, and move by a wood path to Smith’s Gap, 3 miles from Roger’s Gap. The guns, Carriages, harness, and ammunition were completely destroyed, and left. I had now a large [enemy] force both in front and rear, and could only avoid capture by getting into the mountains, … which I succeeded in doing, after driving a regiment of cavalry from Smith’s Gap.
The road through this pass is only a bridle-path, and very rough. I did not get up the mountain until after night. About 170 of men and officers got on the wrong road, and did not rejoin the command until we reached Kentucky. Owing to the continual march, many horses gave out and were left, and, although several hundred were captured on the march, they were not enough to supply all the men.
We reached Boston, KY, on 24 JUNE. Our loss was 2 killed, 4 wounded, and 13 missing…
I am much indebted for the success of the expedition to Col. R. K. Byrd, for his valuable assistance and advice … To Sergeant Reynold, First East Tennessee Volunteers, and his guides, I am chiefly indebted for the main success. His knowledge of the country … was invaluable. All the officers and men deserve great credit and praise for the cheerfulness with which they submitted to great hardships and fatigue, and their energy and readiness at all times either to fight or march. I inclose the parole of 461 prisoners.


23 JUNE 1863
Report of Col. William P. Sanders, Fifth Kentucky Cavalry.
Commanding expedition.
BOSTON KY, 23 June 1863.
I arrived here with my command at 11 o’clock this morning. I struck the railroad at Lenoir’s; destroyed the [rail]road up to Knoxville; made demonstrations against Knoxville so as to have their troops drawn from above; destroyed the track, and started for Strawberry Plains; burned Slate Creek Bridge (312 feet long), the Strawberry Plains Bridge (1,600 feet long), and also Mossy Creek Bridge (325 feet long).
I captured 3 pieces of artillery, some 200 boxes of artillery ammunition, over 500 prisoners, 1,000 stand of arms, and destroyed a large amount of salt, sugar, flour, and saltpeter, and one saltpeter works and other stores.
My command is much fatigued; we have had but two nights’ sleep since leaving Williamsburg. The force in East Tennessee was larger than I had supposed. I did not attack Loudon Bridge for reasons that I will explain.
At Mossy Creek I determined to return in the mountains. I had very great difficulty that was unexpected. I found the gap strongly guarded with artillery and infantry, and blockaded with fallen timber, through which I expected to return. A force was also forming in our rear. I determined to cross at Smith’s Gap. I will report more fully as soon as possible.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding.

25 JUNE 1863
CINCINNATI, OHIO, June 25, 1863-12 m.
Colonel Sanders, in returning from East Tennessee, found the gap through which he intended to pass so well fortified that he was obliged to go through another, which was impassable for artillery. He therefore destroyed the two pieces of artillery which he took with him, and three captured pieces, and left them behind.

25 JUNE 1863
CINCINNATI, June 25, 1863.
Colonel W. P. SANDERS, London, Ky.:
Your dispatch of yesterday duly received.
Please accept my best thanks and hearty congratulations for the brilliant success of your expedition.

26 JUNE 1863
MOUNT VERNON, June 26, 1863-3.30 p. m.
GENERAL: I have just arrived at this place. Will turn the command over to Colonel Byrd … as directed by General Hartsuff. Major Dow, with 170 men, is still back. He will be in Loudon to-night.
The number of pieces of artillery taken was ten, three at Lenoir’s, two at Knoxville, and five at Strawberry Plains. The bridge at the latter place was guarded by 400 men and five pieces of artillery. We captured all the guns, 125 prisoners; killed their commanding officer and several privates.
Our loss was only 1 wounded at that place, 1 killed and 2 wounded at Knoxville. Have lost some stragglers taken prisoners. The operator was taken the day we reached Knoxville. Have lost a number of horses.
W. P. SANDERS, Colonel, Commanding.

27 JUNE 1863
H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief.
Colonel Sanders’ command has arrived inside of our lines. … He and his command deserve great credit for their patience, endurance, and gallantry. The Strawberry Plains Bridge is the most important on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. Intelligent men from that neighborhood assert that it will take months to rebuild it. …

28 JUNE 1863
LEXINGTON, June 28, 1863.
GENERAL: I was in the edge of the town [Knoxville] limits. The force was 1,500 regular soldiers, and all the citizens were forced into the ranks. They had artillery in position; the streets were barricaded with cotton bales; batteries protected by the same. We were engaged with the enemy for about one hour at long range at this place.
General Buckner was absent at the time. He commands East Tennessee, Southwestern Virginia, and Western North Carolina. Part of the troops at Knoxville were brought from Bristol the evening I arrived there. I was within 2 miles of the place from sundown until 8 o’clock the next morning.
W. P. SANDERS, Colonel.


<19 JUNE 1863>
Major General SAM. JONES.
Knoxville, June 21, 1863.
SIR: At the request of Colonel [Robert C.] Trigg, temporarily in command of the troops at Knoxville in the absence of Major-General Buckner, I have the honor to report the following particulars in regard to the battle of yesterday:
On the 18th instant I returned to this city from Sevier [County], where I had been in command of an expedition against a party of bushwhackers.
On my arrival, I learned that Major-General Buckner had marched toward Big Creek Gap with all the artillery and all the other disposable force at this post, except Colonel Trigg’s Fifty-fourth Virginia Regiment and Colonel [J. J.] Finley’s Sixth Florida Regiment; effective force about 1,000 men.
On the morning of the 19th, I was informed by Major Van Sheliha, acting chief of staff, that the enemy in large force had passed by Loudon, and were at Lenoir Station, 24 miles from Knoxville, and he requested me to take charge of the artillery defense of the city, and to organize my force from the convalescents in the hospitals and from citizens to man my guns then in the city.
Lieutenant Colonel Milton A. Haynes, C. S. Artillery.

Colonel Robert C. Trigg CSA
Temporary commander at Knoxville

<20 JUNE 1863>
General S. COOPER.
KNOXVILLE, June 20, 1863.
Major-General Buckner is at Clinton [NW of Knoxville] concentrating his forces. Enemy (2,000 strong) attempted to burn the railroad bridge yesterday, but failed. Attempted to burn depots here last night, but failed again, and retired this morning after severe cannonading in direction of Rogersville.
V. SHELIHA, Chief of Staff.

General S. COOPER.
KNOXVILLE, June 20, 1863.
The enemy attacked us with five regiments mounted infantry and two pieces of rifle artillery last night. This morning we drove him back, and he will try to escape via Rogersville through Big Creek, Moccasin or Mulberry Gap, attempting to destroy bridges at Strawberry Plains before leaving. Your Fifty-first [Fifty-fourth] Virginia has been ordered to that point. General Buckner left for Clinton yesterday.
V. SHELIHA, Chief of Staff.

<21 JUNE 1863>
MORRISTOWN, June 21, 1863.
Maj.-Gen. SAM. JONES, Dublin:
The enemy burned the bridge over the Holston, 16 miles east of Knoxville, last evening. They advanced to within 14 miles of this place this morning and burned a bridge and depot. No troops here except my regiment, Brig.-Gen. Jackson in command.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 23, pt. II, p. 882.

Major General SAM. JONES CSA
Commander of Department of East Tennessee

The June 21st edition of Knoxville’s Daily Register features the ‘Visit of the Yankees to Knoxville’ the previous day, recounting a Union cavalry raid into Confederate-held East Tennessee. People of the rural areas of East Tennessee are largely Unionist, but Knoxvillians are mostly Confederate.

<21 JUNE 1863>
Major General SAM. JONES.
Report of Lieutenant Colonel Milton A. Haynes, C. S. Artillery.
Knoxville, June 21, 1863.
SIR: At the request of Colonel R. [Robert] C. Trigg, temporarily in command of the troops at Knoxville in the absence of Major-General Buckner, I have the honor to report the following particulars in regard to the battle of yesterday:
On the 18th instant I returned to this city from Sevier [County], where I had been in command of an expedition against a party of bushwhackers.
On my arrival, I learned that Major-General Buckner had marched toward Big Creek Gap with all the artillery and all the other disposable force at this post, except Colonel Trigg’s Fifty-first Fifty-fourth Virginia Regiment and Colonel [J. J.] Finley’s Seventh Sixth Florida Regiment; effective force about 1,000 men.
On the morning of the 19th, I was informed by Major Van Sheliha, acting chief of staff, that the enemy in large force had passed by Loudon, and were at Lenoir Station, 24 miles from Knoxville, and he requested me to take charge of the artillery defense of the city, and to organize my force from the convalescents in the hospitals and from citizens to man my guns then in the city. …
In the mean time the citizens of Knoxville had been ordered to report … for duty [for] the defense of the City. …
At 3 [o’clock] in the afternoon of that day [19th] it was known that the enemy was within 5 miles of the City, and their advance were skirmishing with 37 of our cavalrymen (all we had at Knoxville) at Mrs. Lomis’ house. …
I immediately posted them [eight pieces of artillery] in sections at College Hill … second, on McGee’s Hill … and third … at Summit Hill …
In the evening … I ascertained that about 200 persons, citizens, and convalescent soldiers from hospitals, had reported for duty, and that each of my batteries was fully manned, although in the morning of the same day there was no artillery force whatever in the City.
During the night [19th] I made a reconnaissance, passing the enemy’s lines as a farmer, giving all the information they desired in regard to the state of the defenses, telling them that they could march into Knoxville without the loss of a man.
I told them that I saw Col. Haynes about sunset, moving some cannon toward the depot – I thought about four in all – drawn by mules.
Having passed to a point at which it was necessary for me to turn off, and having all the information I could obtain, I returned to Knoxville at midnight [19th]. I visited all my batteries, and advised them that early in the morning the enemy would attack …
During the night [19th-20th] the pickets of the enemy advanced upon the City, but our pickets, thrown out by Col. Trigg, after an hour’s skirmish, drove them back at about 2 o’clock in the morning [20th].
At 7 o’clock on the 20th … I then went to Summit Hill battery, where I found Col. Trigg and his chief of staff (Maj. Sheliha) near the hospital. While in consultation with them, we saw the enemy marching at double-quick time on our right beyond the work-shops, where we had neither battery nor soldiers to oppose them. … I had taken a section of Wyly’s battery and moved them at a gallop to a point immediately in front of the advancing column, and opened fire upon them with spherical case.
The enemy took shelter behind houses and fences, and threw forward sharpshooters within 200 yards of our battery, we being … 400 yards from any support.
At the same time a battery of 3-inch rifled guns belonging to the enemy opened upon us at 800 yards, and during the first two or three shots killed and wounded some of our men and several horses. I then advanced the battery, and ordered them not to fire at the artillery, but at the infantry.
The enemy … advanced rapidly, and for a moment I supposed the day was lost. … I dismounted, took my post as a gunner … ordered canister, and sighted the piece myself, and after two rounds the enemy was in full retreat and the day was won. …
That they were fully beaten may appear from the fact that the commanding officer of the army sent to me a message by Lieut. Lutrell, of the C. S. Army, a prisoner, paroled by him, to the effect: “I send you my compliments, and say that but for the admirable manner with which you managed your artillery I would have taken Knoxville to-day.” …
Among many citizens who reported to me that day for duty, I must not forget to mention Hon. Landon C. Haynes, Hon William H. Sneed, Hon. John H. Crozier, Rev. James H. Martin, and Rev. Mr. Woolfolk—[all Confederate men]—and many others who do not desire me to mention their names. …
I have the honor to be, your most obedient servant,
Lieut. Col., Provisional Army Confederate States.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 23, pt. I, pp. 391-392.

<22 JUNE 1863>
KNOXVILLE, June 22, 1863.
Gen. BRAXTON BRAGG, Shelbyville:
The enemy appeared near Knoxville on the 19th, and attacked on 20th. Were repulsed. They burned the railroad bridges at Flat Creek and Strawberry Plains. Please grant permission to [A. L. ] Maxwell, bridge-builder, to rebuild them at once.
S. B. BUCKNER, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 23, pt. II, p. 882.

Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner CSA
Buckner was given command of the Department of East Tennessee at Knoxville on 8 March 1863. This military organization had badly deteriorated and was less than one-third its original size; Buckner has worked hard improving his command.
Believing the Sanders’ Raid is the long-awaited Union invasion, Buckner begins repositioning his troops. He leaves 1,000 Confederates under Col. Robert C. Trigg to defend Knoxville. They are joined by 200 armed civilians and soldiers not fit for active duty.
Trigg places six 6-pounder field guns on three hills outside the city—McGee’s, Summit, and Temperance—and supports them with his infantry units.

<24 JUNE 1863>
Report of Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, C. S. Army.
KNOXVILLE, June 24, 1863.
GEN.: The enemy’s cavalry escaped through Childer’s Gap, with loss of a few prisoners and horses, and their artillery and baggage. They are beyond the mountains. The railroad and small trestles will be in order to the Holston in four days. The cars can cross the Holston, on a trestle-bridge I am building, within two weeks. After that time there will be no delay or transfer of freight. After four days hence the only transfer will be in crossing the Holston, where, if necessary, I will send a small steamer.
S. B. BUCKNER, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 23, pt. I, p. 390.

<28 JUNE 1863>
It has already been announced that this marauding party made their escape through Childer’s Gap [Campbell County] late Monday evening [22nd]. We learn that McKenzie’s Regiment, Lieut. Col. Montgomery commanding, and a portion of Col. Hart’s 6th Georgia Cavalry, under command of Maj. Fain, had reached a position in the valley fronting this gap on Monday at 5 o’clock P. M., and before the raiders.
While Col. Montgomery’s command, however, was in this position, a courier reported the enemy on our right, endeavoring to turn our flank in that direction. Col. Montgomery receiving this intelligence, ordered his command including the portion of Col. Hart’s regiment to move back down the valley about two miles and await the enemy’s approach.
While Col. Montgomery was in this last position the raiders made their way across the valley to Childer’s Gap and escaped. Some prisoners captured by our forces stated that they expected all to be captured, as their officers had told them that three brigades of our forces were in front of them and Scott and Pegram close on their rear.
We make these statements on authority, not for the purpose of casting censure upon any one; but simply as part of the history of this whole marauding expedition.
Knoxville Daily Southern Chronicle.

<28 JUNE 1863>
Editorial comments on recent Federal raids in and around Knoxville. MILITARY RAIDS.
Well, we have had the benefit of a Renegade Yankee raid. We have, as it were, seen the giraffe – caught a glimpse rather close than comfortable, of the mongrel monster alive and hideous. We abhor it and all the breed.
We remember to have read somewhat of such things away back in the dim eras of history, before there was either Christianity or civilization, and near indeed to the Deluge. But how our eye hath seen it, and we pronounce and denounce it as neither christen, heathen nor human; but fiendish, satanic and devilish and upon the whole profitless.
It certainly profits us nothing who suffer it; that’s axiomatic. Nor is it worth the while and toil and peril of our enemy who make it. Such an incursion weighs nothing and determines nothing as to the great final result of the war.
A marauding party has caused individual suffering; ruined here and there a private citizen; may even have occasioned a momentary inconvenience to the Government – but this is the sum.
The energies of an invaded people and government rising with the emergencies of the occasion, follow close in the path of the destroyed to rebuild, repair and restore, like the returning waters to smooth and obliterate the furrows of the ocean-plowing keel, leaving no trace behind save the bare hateful memory of the moment.
War at best is inhuman, but such a war as our enemy wages against and forces upon us is worse than savage or demonic; it is pure, unminced, dephlegmated, Yankee.
Knoxville Daily Southern Chronicle.

<28 JUNE 1863>
A call for home defense in Knoxville; a reaction to Sanders’ Raid
We earnestly appeal to the people of Tennessee, and most especially to the citizens of Knoxville and its vicinity, to organize into companies for home defence. Delays are dangerous, such is the case at this particular crisis, and it is absolutely necessary to form companies and have them well armed and ready to march to the field of action at a moment’s warning in case of another raid.
It is the height of folly and crime for the people of this State to remain inactive and defenseless – such conduct is nothing more nor less than an invitation to bring about grief, despair and devastation upon our State.
It is the duty of all persons between the ages of 15 and 50 years of age capable of bearing arms, to arm themselves and be in readiness to protect their homes and firesides against the ruthless invader. There are hundreds upon hundreds who are capable of bearing arms, and who are liable to regular military duty that could with propriety form themselves into effective companies and be of invaluable service to their country should another raid occur within the lines of our State.
If such was the case, raids would soon be suppressed and public order secured. There is no part of the State entirely secure against raids, and if its citizens will organize and select daring and active men for their leaders, raids in Tennessee would soon terminate and peace reign.
In but few instances should exemptions and substitutes be admitted – let all be enrolled – foreigners not excepted. They should not remain in our midst and be inactive – if they refuse to stand by the colors of our flag let them dig its entrenchments or forsake its folds of protection.
~ Knoxville Daily Southern Chronicle


Col. Sanders is appointed chief of the cavalry corps of the Department of the Ohio in September 1863. He and his forces then march to Knoxville with Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s army, arriving on 3 September 1863. Sanders takes part in the military actions that take place almost daily in Northeast Tennessee that autumn.

<18 OCTOBER 1863>
William P. Sanders was appointed brigadier general. 

Brigadier General William Sanders

<AUTUMN 1863>
Sue Boyd and Col. William Sanders
Sue Boyd was a regionally famous singer with a clear, soprano voice. … Daughter of a former mayor, she grew up in Blount Mansion. During the War, her family favored the Confederacy. Her cousin was the famous rebel spy Belle Boyd, who spent several weeks in Knoxville in 1863 to avoid being arrested for her espionage activities.
Sue turned 19 during the Union occupation of Knoxville, and during that time, Kentuckian Col. William Sanders, 30 years old, caught her eye. For a few weeks in the fall of 1863, they spent some time together. Though he had a girlfriend back home, Sanders was attracted to Sue and gave her one of his colonel’s epaulets as a keepsake. 
After the war, Sue married a merchant from Massachusetts and had two sons. Her husband died 18 years later, leaving her a widow for almost half a century. … She never wrote about their relationship, but she dropped hints.

❤ NOVEMBER 1863>
Federal situation and military intelligence report, Morganton, Maryville, Unitia, Loudon. environs.
Maryville, November 3, 1863—8 p. m.
[Maj. Gen. JOHN G. PARKE:]
GEN.: … All quiet through the day. A citizen, said to be reliable, who was arrested by the rebels last night and left there this morning, says that [CSA Gen. Carter] Stevenson has been at Sweet Water some time, but moved up toward Loudon; says their force is from 10,000 to 13,000, with which they expect to capture Knoxville.
He professes to have overheard a conversation between [CSA Gen. John C.] Vaughn and others to the effect that their force in East Tennessee was overrated, and had been diminished by re-enforcing Bragg, but that they could get Cheatham and Breckinridge if they needed them. He also says that he learned of their intention to cross 1,400 men to-day with four days’ rations, who are to go up as far as Morristown and see what is there. …
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. P. SANDERS, Brig.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. III, pp. 36-37.

<4 NOVEMBER 1863>
Federal Scout, Maryville to Nile’s Ferry road
Maryville, Tennessee, November 4, 1863.
Gen. BURNSIDE: The scouting party … has returned; they met the enemy’s pickets some miles this side and drove them several miles without any result. All the citizens report seven regiments this side the river and say they are still crossing at that place and above, and report the infantry on the other side.
The rebels say they intend to take this place and all of East Tennessee. …
W. P. SANDERS, Brig. Gen. Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. III, p. 46.

<10 NOVEMBER 1863>
Federal scouts and intelligence in East Tennessee
Rockford, Tennessee
[Maj. Gen. JOHN G. PARKE:]
GEN.: All quiet in the front. Col. Adams, at Maryville, reported late yesterday evening that there were no rebels on this side the river. … It is almost impossible to get a true report from any citizens, even those who are undoubted Union men, as they do not wait to find out the truth, but run on the slightest rumor, and it naturally increases, and the rebel citizens do not know anything. …
I feel satisfied that I can be able to give you timely information of any approach of the enemy in this direction, and that I can hold this part of the country for some time.
I have one brigade here without shelter or blankets. If possible I would like to get the latter at least to-day. My quartermaster is in town for that purpose. Col. Adams has just reported no rebels this side the river (9.30).
Respectfully, W. P. SANDERS, Brig.-Gen.

<11 NOVEMBER 1863>
Federal cavalry authorized to cross Little Tennessee with intent of capturing Confederate soldiers
KNOXVILLE, November 11, 1863—3.15 p. m.
Gen. SANDERS, Cmdg. Cavalry Division:
The commanding general directs me to inform you that you have full authority for making a trip across the Little Tennessee with the view of capturing some of the enemy’s force on the other side. The general suggests that you cross the river at or near the foot of the mountain, and sweep down on the south side, recrossing at the ford near the mouth. If practicable, it would be well to start to-night. …
Yours, respectfully,
JNO. G. PARKE, Maj.-Gen.
P. S. -If you determinate to make the move, please let us know the route, so that couriers may follow you.

<14 NOVEMBER 1863>
Skirmish at Maryville
KNOXVILLE, November 14, 1863—12 m.
Gen. BURNSIDE, Lenoir’s:
Col. Sanders sends word that Maj. Graham was attacked early this morning at Maryville and most of his men captured. Sanders moved out to his aid with First Kentucky and Forty-fifth Ohio. Met the enemy 2 miles out; the First Kentucky was in the advance and was driven back, but he succeeded in rallying them …
JNO. G. PARKE, Maj. Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. III, p. 147.

Northwest bastion of Fort Sanders
Union troops held off a Confederate assault here.
George N. Barnard photograph.
Library of Congress.

<15 NOVEMBER 1863>
Excerpt from the Report of Major-General Joseph Wheeler, C. S, Army.
A description of the action in which Col. William P. Sanders was mortally wounded.
Commanding Cavalry Corps relative to skirmish at Stock Creek.
I moved over Little River on the following morning, the condition of the ford making it nearly noon before the entire command was crossed. We pressed upon the enemy, which consisted, as I learned from prisoners and citizens of Sanders’, Shackelford’s, Wolford’s, and Pannebaker’s brigades, with one battery of rifled guns, all being commanded by Gen. Sanders.
After driving them for 3 miles we came to Stock Creek, which was not fordable for horses, and the enemy had partly torn up the bridge. Just beyond the enemy had taken a strong and elevated position behind a fence inclosing a thick wood, with large fields intervening between the enemy and my position, the ground descending rapidly toward the line occupied by my troops.
The flanks of the enemy from Little River to Knoxville were protected by a high ridge on their left and the Holston River on their right, thus preventing my turning their position and compelling me to fight superior forces in positions chosen by themselves. …
In the meantime we continued to push the enemy … driving him from several strong positions. … The lines of the enemy were broken and the entire mass of the enemy swept on toward Knoxville in the wildest confusion. The charge was continued successfully for 3 miles to within less than half a mile of the river opposite the City.
The bulk of the enemy dashed over their pontoon [bridge] in their fright into the City, creating the greatest consternation. Great numbers scattered over the country and many plunged into the river, some of whom were drowned. One hundred and forty prisoners were taken in the charge and a considerable number killed and wounded.
The Federal commander of cavalry was reported in their papers as having received wounds from which he died. We were only prevented from following the fugitives into the City by a strong force of the enemy’s infantry and artillery in the fortifications on a high hill on the south bank of the river, who opened a heavy fire upon us as we approached.
It being now dusk and the balance of the command being 4 miles to the rear, after some warm skirmishing I withdrew to Stock Creek, which was the nearest point at which forage could be obtained. The enemy did not come out of their fortifications to follow us.
As I had some reason to believe the enemy might withdraw their forces to the other bank of the river, I returned at daylight and found instead of withdrawing they had strengthened their position during the night, from which they opened warmly upon us as we advanced.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. I, pp. 541-542.

<16 NOVEMBER 1863 – 14 DECEMBER 1863>
Sanders commands a brigade of the XXIII Corps and then the 1st Division of the cavalry corps of the Army of the Ohio in the Knoxville Campaign—16 November 1863 – 14 December 1863.

<18 NOVEMBER 1863>
Gen. William Price Sanders suffers a gunshot wound in his side as his cavalry fought on Kingston Road, delaying the Confederate forces advancing against Knoxville. The sharpshooter who wounded him is serving under Col. Edward Porter Alexander CSA, his old roommate at West Point, now Gen. James Longstreet’s Chief of Artillery. Another of Sanders’ classmates from West Point, Orlando M. Poe, is Burnside’s Chief Engineer and designer of the Knoxville fortifications.

Lamar House Hotel (1816), where Gen. Sanders died

<19 NOVEMBER 1863>
Gen. William P. Sanders is carried to the Lamar House Hotel in Knoxville, where he dies the following day.

Concerned that the news will affect the morale of his soldiers, Gen. Ambrose Burnside keeps Sanders’ body in the hotel until it can be secretly buried late at night.

<24 NOVEMBER 1863>
In the Field, November 24, 1863.
The commanding general has the sad duty of announcing to this army the death of one of the bravest of their number, Brig. Gen. W. P. Sanders. A life rendered illustrious by a long record of gallantry and devotion to his country, has closed while in the heroic and unflinching performance of duty.
Distinguished always for his self-possession and daring in the field, and in his private eminent for his genial and unselfish nature and the sterling qualities of his character, he has left both as a man and a soldier an untarnished name. In memory of the honored dead, the fort in front of which he received his fatal wound will be known hereafter as Fort Sanders.
By command of Maj. Gen. Burnside.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. III, p. 241.

Death of General William P. Sanders Marker
U.S. General William P. Sanders died in the bridal suite of this building which was the Lamar House hotel at the time of the Civil War. On the previous afternoon Sanders was mortally wounded as his cavalry fought on Kingston Road, delaying the Confederate forces advancing against Knoxville.
General Sanders was a West Point classmate and personal friend of Captain Orlando Poe who designed and supervised construction of the defenses of Knoxville.
His funeral took place the night of the 19th with his casket being carried to the site of the Second Presbyterian Church on Market Street where Sanders was buried.
In attendance were Commanding General Ambrose Burnside, Captain Poe, staff officers, Sue Boyd, her mother, a minister, and a small number of musicians and soldiers. Five days later, General Burnside announced his death and named Fort Sanders in his honor. Today General Sanders rests in the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
Marker erected 2013 by Knoxville Civil War Roundtable and Bijou Theatre Board of Directors at the intersection of South Gay Street and Cumberland Avenue in Knoxville TN.

3 thoughts on “Sanders’ Raid”

  1. General Burnside was a poor general except for his time in Tennessee. Too bad he was brought back for the Petersburg Campaign. Nice Blog


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