Battle of Huntsville Tennessee

Huntsville’s Role in the Civil War
Huntsville is the county seat of Scott County, Tennessee.
The town is surrounded by the low mountains and hills that comprise the southern section of the Cumberland Mountains.
Confederate soldiers frequently raid the town, looking for Unionists who voted to secede from the State of Tennessee.


MARCH 1862
Andrew Johnson appointed U.S. Military Governor of Tennessee.
Pro-Confederate Governor Isham Harris had to flee Nashville after Battle of Fort Donelson.
All of Tennessee except East Tennessee is under Union control.

28 MARCH 1862
Confederate expedition to Scott and Morgan counties to disperse organized Federal bands.
Report of Maj.-Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army.
Commanding Department of East Tennessee.
SIR: I have the honor to report that under instructions from department headquarters, Brig.-Gen. Danville Leadbetter sent an expedition … into Morgan and Scott Counties … for the purpose of dispersing organized Federal bands existing there and the removal or destruction of all supplies …
These troops, under the command of Col. [John C.] Vaughn, of the Third Tennessee Regt., advanced as far as Huntsville, in Scott County …
Returning in the direction of Kingston a sharp skirmish occurred at a small village near Montgomery in Morgan County, lasting about thirty minutes …
The entire population of these counties is hostile to us, those able to bear arms being regularly organized as Home Guards.
All loyal citizens have been expelled from the country.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, p. 50.

APRIL 1862
Confederates begin the draft.
Many men flee, hide, or join Pro-Union guerrillas.

13 APRIL 1862
Battle of Huntsville
Col. William Clift and 250 men of 7th Tennessee Infantry (USA) have fortified a hill southwest of Huntsville.
They are attacked by Confederates (600 Infantry and 300 Cavalry) under Capt. T. M. Nelson. 
U.S. troops are forced to retreat.

MAY 1862 – AUGUST 1862
7th Tennessee Infantry (USA), 250 to 400 men camped on a hill near Huntsville.

Confederate guerrillas raid homes of Jimmy Slavin, Esquire Blevins, and Hiram Marcum.
At Buffalo Creek, Julia Marcum kills a guerrilla with an axe.
She lost an eye and a finger.

13 AUGUST 1862
Skirmish at Huntsville, Scott County, Northeast Tennessee.  
Report of Colonel William H. Clift, Seventh Tennessee Infantry USA.
DEAR SIR: I avail myself of the present opportunity of reporting to you my movements for the last three months.
The way has been so blockaded by the enemy as to entirely prevent my reporting to you sooner.
I was ordered about June 1, by Maj.-Gen. [George] Morgan to go to Scott County, Tennessee, and commence recruiting and making up the Seventh Regt. Tennessee Volunteers, and was also ordered that so soon as I had a sufficient number of men to attack the small bodies of rebel troops stationed in different parts of East Tennessee to do so.
Accordingly about July 1, I made a scouting expedition to Montgomery, Morgan County, Tenn., to engage a party of rebels that were in the habit of coming up to that place from Kingston, Tenn., but the enemy had left on the day before we got to Montgomery, and we had to return without any engagement.
About July 20, I made another expedition to Anderson County, Tennessee.
Our friends in that county had promised to provide means for us to cross Clinch River to engage same cavalry from Alabama that was stationed near Clinton, Anderson County, Tenn.; but no preparation was made as promised.
I then turned my course, after taking several [Confederate] guerrillas prisoners near Clinton, Tenn., and returned by way of Wartburg and Montgomery, Morgan County, Tenn., to Huntsville, Scott County, Tenn.
About August 8, I made another expedition into Anderson County, Tennessee, at the request of our Union friends of that county who had again promised to provide means for us to cross Clinch River, but again failed and we were disappointed.
At intervals when I was not scouting I was busily employed fortifying an eminence near Huntsville, Scott County, Tenn.
I was attacked about 9 o’clock by the enemy, numbering from 1,500 to 2,000 men.
On the appearance of them in such disproportionate numbers my men (who were mostly new recruits) left my breastworks in wild confusion.
But while I speak in dishonorable terms of a part of my command, I am proud to speak in the most honorable terms of a part of the officers and men that remained under my command.
About 50 men held our breastworks for one hour and forty minutes against the enemy, at least 1,500 men.
Maj. James S. Dunan, Capt.’s Robins, Wilson, and Shelton fought with great coolness and deliberation.
When our numbers in the breastworks were reduced to about 20 men I ordered a retreat, which was conducted in good order, carrying with them our guns without any loss.
My position in Scott County, Tennessee, has been very perilous until within the last few days; but I kept my men in the most obscure parts of the county, and posted my pickets from 20 to 25 miles from my camps and within a short distance of the enemy’s lines, and in this way I evaded collision with the enemy until Gen. Bragg’s army retreated out of Kentucky.
I again sent out a scouting party October 1, and we passed over the counties of Scott and Morgan and a part of Fentress County, Tennessee, capturing some prisoners and a little of the rebels’ property.
I sent out another scouting party about October 15, which returned on the 29th instant, and report that they passed over Scott, Morgan, and Fentress Counties, Tennessee, and had a skirmish with [Champ] Ferguson’s guerrillas, killing 4 of them, and among the number was the cruel murderer Capt. Miliken. They also captured some property.
I have been subsisting my troops on corn bread and beef since the fight at Huntsville, Tenn., at a cost to the Government from about 10 to 15 cents for each soldier per day and about the same for about 50 horses for mounted infantry.
I deem it highly indispensable to break up these guerrilla companies as speedily as possible, as there can be no safety to the peace of the country while they are permitted to exist.
Your obedient servant,
WM. CLIFT, Col., Cmdg. Seventh Regt. of Tennessee Vols.
OR, Ser. I. Vol. 16, pt. I, pp. 858-859.
Note 1:
The 13 August 1862 skirmish at Huntsville was part of a larger context which included regular U. S. forces, and Confederate forces associated with Bragg’s withdrawal from Kentucky, and Rebel guerrilla forces.
Note 2:
Clift was a delegate at the East Tennessee Convention held in Greeneville on May 31-June 1, 1861 17—20 June 1862.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, p. 150.

13 AUGUST 1862
After the Battle of Huntsville, Confederate soldiers spend two hours looting Huntsville.

16 AUGUST 1862
August 16, 1862—12 m.
… I have this moment received a telegram from a person calling himself Lieut.-Col. Hazeland, Seventh Tennessee Volunteers … informing me that Col. Clift, of that regiment, was attacked at a place called Huntsville, near Jacksborough, by a force of 2,500 men. He has twice disobeyed my orders to fall back upon Barboursville.
Brig-Gen. Volunteers, Cmdg.

18 AUGUST 1862
Knoxville, Tenn.
Brig. Gen. THOMAS JORDAN, Chief of Staff, Hdqrs. Dept. No. 2, Chattanooga, Tenn.
GEN.: I have the honor to transmit, for the information of Gen. Bragg, a copy of a communication from Col. John H. Morgan, received this evening.
I have also to acknowledge the receipt of a telegram from Gen. Bragg in reference to Gen. Buckner, and which I have forwarded to Maj.-Gen. Smith.
I am informed, unofficially, that Clift’s force of renegades at Huntsville has been completely routed.
This I have reason to believe is the fact.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. F. BELTON, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 763.

23 AUGUST 1862
Knoxville, Tenn.
Col. S. J. SMITH, Cmdg., Loudon, Tenn.
COL.: I have reason to believe that the force of the enemy under Clift, recently dislodged from Huntsville, Tenn., is not broken up nor disorganized, but is only awaiting an opportunity to attack some vulnerable point—probably Loudon.
You will therefore direct your cavalry to scout in the direction of Kingston, especially to the northward of the road from that place, keeping out strong pickets to give timely notice of any advance of the enemy from toward Childer’s Gap, but in doing this other avenues of approach must not be neglected.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. F. BELTON, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 774.

Scott County. 
Confederate guerrillas raid Parch Corn Creek, No Business Creek, and Buffalo Creek.
Attack farms of Mr. Chitwood, Carroll Cross, Dennis Trammel, and James Chitwood, burn houses, steal 103 horses and capture two men that they hanged.
At the head of Buffalo Creek they skirmish with Union men (7th Tennessee Infantry) under Capt. James Duncan. Four Confederate guerrillas killed.

7-11 NOVEMBER 1862
Troubles in Scott County.
Maj.-Gen. H. W. HALLECK, Gen.-in-Chief.
GEN.: I find in the Louisville Journal, of the 12th instant, a narration, to which I wish to call your attention, in connection with my communication of the 13th.
Scott County, Tennessee, is in my own district, and the names and localities are perfectly familiar.
From that small county have gone many soldiers, now in our service, leaving their homes to such devastation as is here described.
Oh, Lord, how long?
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HORACE MAYNARD, U.S. Congressman
We have received a letter from a correspondent at London, Ky. … Our correspondent is a refuge[e] from Huntsville, Tenn., and feels much interested in events which are occurring in that region.
On the 7th of November a rebel force of 1,100 men crossed the Cumberland Mountains, by way of Big Creek Gap.
Arriving there, they separated into three detachments, one detachment going through Whitley County, by way of Boston, to Williamsburg; thence across Gilico Mountain, to Gilico Creek, and thence to Marsh Creek.
From that point they marched across to Ponch Creek, Scott County, Tennessee, and quartered on the farm of Mr. J. Chitwood.
On the route they stole 89 horses.
Another detachment crossed the mountains about 18 miles above, in Scott County, and visited the residence of Dennis Tramel.
The third detachment crossed still higher up, and proceeded up Smith Creek, burning the residence of Mr. Carwell Cross, stealing from him $690 in gold, and driving away 14 of his horses.
On the 9th ultimo the same party burned the residence of Dennis Tramel, afterward going to James Chitwood’s, at which point they joined one of the detachments from which they had previously separated.
On the 10th they resumed their march toward Huntsville, burning houses, shooting stock, and committing other outrages on the way.
Near the headwaters of Buffalo Creek the rebels encountered a number of Capt. Duncan’s Home Guards.
A skirmish ensued, in which 4 of the rebels were killed and several wounded, the Home Guards sustaining no loss whatever.
The rebels then retreated down Buffalo Creek, destroying and carrying off everything valuable that fell in their way.
On the route they captured Larkin Cross and Ransom Conover, both of whom they hanged in the apple orchard belonging to the widow Angel.
Mr. Cross was a good citizen, and the loss is severely felt. He leaves a wife and five interesting children.
Mr. Conover belonged to the Second (loyal) Tennessee Infantry, and was ill at the time he was so cruelly murdered.
He was highly esteemed by his neighbors, and leaves a wife and two children, wholly unprovided for.
On the 11th ultimo the rascals recrossed the mountains, and made their way to Jacksborough.
Our correspondent informs us that the rebels are committing many depredations in Whitley County, Kentucky.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 20, pt. II, pp. 178-179.

11 NOVEMBER 1862
Skirmish at Huntsville.
Tennessee Home Guard.


14 AUGUST 1863
The general commanding calls upon all members of his command to remember that the present campaign takes them through a friendly territory, and that humanity and the best interests of the service require that the peaceable inhabitants be treated with kindness, and that every protection be given by the soldiers to them and to their property.
~ Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, Camp Nelson.

20 AUGUST 1863 – 3 SEPTEMBER 1863
Knoxville Campaign.
U.S. Army Occupation
This campaign under U.S. Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Ohio is the largest to move through the area.

Prior to the march, Burnside commissions Union guerrillas in Tennessee counties and orders them to spy and harass (bushwhack) Confederate forces.

Almost two thirds of Burnside’s 16,000 men march through the Big South Fork area on their way to occupy Knoxville.

They move through Jamestown, Pine Knot, Chitwood’s, Huntsville, Montgomery, Wartburg, Emory Iron Works and encamp at numerous places.

I have the honor to inform you that our forces now occupy Knoxville, Kingston, and other important points.
~ General Ambrose Burnside to Major General Henry W. Halleck.

16 NOVEMBER 1863 – 14 DECEMBER 1863
Battles of Longstreet’s Knoxville campaign.
Campbell’s Station    November 16
Kingston                     November 24
Fort Sanders               November 29
Walker’s Ford             December 2
Siege lifted                 December 4
Bean’s Station            December 14

1862 Civil War Battles Timeline

12 JANUARY 1862
Gen. Felix Zollicoffer CSA, entrenched about 40 miles north of the Tennessee border, on the “wrong” (unfordable) side of the Cumberland River, is facing a Federal force about 10,000 strong. Confederate reinforcements are said to be on their way.
~ New York Times

14 JANUARY 1862
Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden CSA leaves Knoxville to join Zollicoffer in Kentucky. Gen. George H. Thomas USA advances toward Zollicoffer.

19 JANUARY 1862
Battle of Mill Springs
At the Battle of Mill Springs near Somerset, Kentucky, General George H. Thomas defeats the Confederate force under Generals Crittenden and Zollicoffer, compelling the Confederates to retreat into Middle Tennessee. Zollicoffer wanders into the Union forces in the dark and is killed. The victory secures Union control of eastern Kentucky.

Cumberland Gap remains under Confederate control when CSA Gen. Carter Stevenson moves in and reinforces the Gap.

Skirmish near Cumberland Gap.

White Rocks Cliffs at Cumberland Gap
These rock formations served as a landmark for early settlers who were traveling through the Cumberland Gap.

Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Smith CSA assigned to command in Northeast Tennessee.

8—23 MARCH
Battle of Big Creek Gap.

Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Smith CSA assumes command of the Department of East Tennessee.

Skirmishes at Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough.

21—23 MARCH
Reconnaissance to and skirmishes at Cumberland Gap.

Expedition into Scott County.

Oldest available image of Huntsville, Scott County, Northeast Tennessee

28 MARCH – 18 JUNE
Cumberland Gap campaign.

Martial law is declared in East Tennessee.

Affair near Woodson’s Gap.
Capture of Union refugees.

Skirmish at Cumberland Gap.

Skirmishes at Rogers Gap.
Rogers Gap is a saddle in Tennessee and has an elevation of 1,893 feet.

Map of Rogers Gap

11—13 JUNE
Skirmishes at Big Creek Gap.

Action at Big Creek Gap.

Occupation of Cumberland Gap by Union forces.

7—11 JULY
Operations about Cumberland Gap.

Affair at Tazewell.

Map of Tazewell, Cumberland Gap and other areas in Northeast Tennessee

Skirmish at Tazewell.

Operations around Cumberland Gap.

Action at Tazewell.

Skirmish at Huntsville, Scott County.

Skirmish at Rogers Gap.

Army of Kentucky CSA under Gen. E. Kirby Smith crosses the Cumberlands into Kentucky.

Kirby Smith Invades Kentucky
Heth’s Division, with the army’s artillery and subsistence trains, passed into Kentucky through Walker’s and Big Creek Gaps, while other combat elements of the Army of East Tennessee moved through Roger’s Gap. The two columns reunited at Barbourville, moving thence to Richmond, Ky., where on Aug. 30, they routed the Federal force under Maj. Gen. William Nelson.
Erected by Tennessee Historical Commission.
Marker is in Jellico, Tennessee, in Campbell County.

16—22 AUGUST
Operations about Cumberland Gap.

Department of the Ohio re-established.

Maj. Gen. J. P. McCown CSA assigned temporarily to command of the Department of East Tennessee.

Skirmish at Cumberland Gap.

Skirmish near Cumberland Gap.

Civil War in Tennessee Marker
War in the Mountains
Tennessee’s mountain residents were bitterly divided about secession in 1861, although most were Unionist. In Huntsville, Scott County residents voted to secede and join Kentucky if Tennessee joined the Confederacy.
Confederate commanders struggled to defend Tennessee’s lengthy border with Kentucky and western Virginia. A confederate fort in LaFollette overlooked Big Creek Gap, a mountain pass, in case a Federal advance came that way. Other gaps were similarly fortified. Although when Confederated Gen. Simon B. Bruckner inspected the posts from Clinton east to Cumberland Gap in June 1863, he found them “very imperfect.” Buckner strengthened the Cumberland Gap defenses; today, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park preserves both early Confederate fortifications and later Federal works.
The Confederate forts were intended to protect Knoxville, an important transportation center. In the city, Knoxville National Cemetery contains the remains of white Federal soldiers and U.S. Colored Troops who died in the area fighting. Both Confederate and Unionist leaders are buried in adjacent Old Gray Cemetery. The East Tennessee History Center on Gay Street interprets the region’s divided loyalties and the effects of the war.
Follow the routes of the armies along the Tennessee Civil War Trails. Colorful markers at each stop tell the story of the war’s interesting people, places, and events. A free map guide to the Tennessee Trails network is available in the Welcome Center. Please drive carefully as you enjoy the beauty and history of the Tennessee Civil War Trails.
“Drawing Artillery Across the Mountains,” Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 21, 1863
Cumberland Gap Courtesy Lincoln Memorial University
Union Monument, Knoxville National Cemetery (statue of Union soldier replaced the eagle in 1906) Courtesy Library of Congress
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Marker is in Jellico, Tennessee, Campbell County.

Skirmish at Rogers Gap.

Maj. Gen. John McCown CSA assumes command of the Department of East Tennessee.

Skirmish at Big Creek Gap.

Expedition from Cumberland Gap to Pine Mountain, Sullivan County, Northeast Tennessee.

Looking down the spine of Pine Mountain, to the southwest.

Skirmish at Pine Mountain Gap.

7—9 SEPTEMBER 1862
Several engagements occur in and around the Cumberland Gap and are known collectively as the Battle of the Cumberland Gap.

Operations at Rogers and Big Creek Gaps.

Union Army Evacuates Cumberland Gap.
Its garrison marches to Greensburg KY.

Confederate Army of Tennessee
This army is formed on 20 November 1862, when General Braxton Bragg renames the former Army of Mississippi. It is divided into two corps commanded by Leonidas Polk and William J. Hardee. A third corps is formed from troops from the Department of East Tennessee and commanded by Edmund Kirby Smith; it is disbanded in early December 1862, after one of its two divisions are sent to Mississippi.

Maj. Gen. John McCown CSA assigned to command the Department of East Tennessee.

Skirmish at Huntsville, Scott Country.
Home Guard.

Confederate Army of Tennessee consists of E. Kirby Smith’s, Leonidas Polk’s, and Wm. Hardee’s corps.

20 DECEMBER 1862 – 5 JANUARY 1863
General Samuel P. Carter’s raid into East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

E. Kirby Smith CSA resumes command of the Department of East Tennessee.

Cumberland Gap in Winter
Cumberland Mountains ridge line looking southwest from Cumberland Gap with Tennessee on the left and Kentucky on the right.

24 DECEMBER 1862 – 1 JANUARY 1863
Expedition into East Tennessee.

Capture of Blountville, Northeast Tennessee.

Skirmish at Carter’s Depot, Northeast Tennessee.

Carter’s Raid

Although Tennessee voted to secede from the Union in June 1861, East Tennessee remained loyal. The residents of Carter County voted against secession, 1,343 to 86. One of those residents, Samuel P. Carter (1819-1891), served in the navy as a midshipman beginning in 1840, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1846, and was at sea when the Civil War began.

Rear Admiral and Brigadier General Samuel Perry Carter


In 1861 U. S. Navy Lieutenant Samuel P. Carter writes a letter to then-Senator Andrew Johnson pledging his loyalty to the United States if there is a civil war. The Senator uses his influence at the U. S. War Department for Carter to be detached from the Navy. 

Carter is ordered to organize and enlist Unionists within his native East Tennessee, but the Confederates soon occupy the region in July 1861. Instead Carter raises a brigade of infantry from among the hundreds of East Tennesseans fleeing to Kentucky.

During this operation, he adopts Powhatan as a code name when secretly communicating with Unionists who remain behind Confederate lines.

1st and 2nd East Tennessee Regiments
Lieutenant Samuel P. Carter is assigned as acting brigadier general to the 1st and 2nd East Tennessee Regiments. These regiments serve together most of the time until 6 August 1863.

Carter’s Brigade is designated as the 12th Brigade of Brigadier General George H. Thomas’ 1st Division. The 12th serves at London and Somerset, KY and in front of Cumberland Gap.


Carter leads an infantry brigade at the Battle of Mill Springs on January 19, 1862.

The 12th Brigade then returns to duty at London and along the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

General S. P. Carter is part of a force that surprises and captures Lieutenant Colonel John F. White and two companies of the 1st East Tennessee Cavalry CSA at Jacksboro, Campbell County, Northeast Tennessee.

21-23 MARCH
The brigade takes part in skirmishes near Cumberland Gap.

14 APRIL 1862
General Carter’s Brigade is designated as the 24th Brigade, of Gen. George W. Morgan’s 7th Division, of the Army of the Ohio. The brigade serves in the operations around Cumberland Ford and Cumberland Gap.

MAY 1862
Carter accepts a commission as Brigadier General in the Union Army without resigning from the Navy. He is the only officer in American history to wear two stars in both the navy and the army.

17 JUNE 1862
Carter participates in operations under Brigadier General George W. Morgan that results in the occupation of Cumberland Gap by Union forces on 17 June 1862. The 24th Brigade is involved in numerous actions in that area.

Samuel P. Carter: Admiral and General Marker
Although Tennessee voted to secede from the Union in June 1861, East Tennessee remained staunchly loyal. The residents of Carter County voted against secession, 1,343 to 86. One of those residents, Admiral and General Samuel P. Carter (born August 6, 1819), lived here in Elizabethton. He was the only officer in American history to wear two stars in both the navy and the army. He served in the navy as a midshipman beginning in 1840, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1846, and was at sea when the Civil War began. Then-Senator Andrew Johnson had Carter detailed to Tennessee for “special duty” to recruit soldiers for the U.S. Army, and he received a general’s commission. Before the end of 1861, Carter led a cavalry raid across the mountains to destroy bridges on the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad. His raid gave hope to East Tennessee Unionists and disheartened Confederate supporters.
In the summer of 1863, Carter commanded the Union army’s XXIII Corps cavalry during the Knoxville Campaign. His October victory at the Battle of Blue Springs contributed to the success of the Union advance in the region. He was brevetted to the rank of major general in May 1865.
After the war, Carter left the army and resumed his naval career, commanding USS Monocacy. Before he retired in 1882, he was promoted to rear admiral. He died in Washington, D.C., on May 26, 1891.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Marker is in Elizabethton, Northeast Tennessee at the intersection of North Main Street and East Elk Avenue at the southwest corner of the Carter County Courthouse grounds.

Carter’s hope that he might convince Morgan to invade and occupy East Tennessee is dashed. While moving north to take part in the Confederate invasion of Kentucky, Major General E. Kirby Smith threatens Gen. Morgan’s supply line. Morgan evacuates Cumberland Gap, withdrawing into eastern Kentucky and marching north to Greensburg KY on the Ohio River.

31 OCTOBER 1862
Morgan is now in command of the District of Western Virginia, which includes Gen. S. P. Carter’s 3rd Brigade of that District.

Gen. Carter is separated from the brigade for special assignment.

Carter raids Northeast Tennessee
Gen S. P. Carter successfully lobbies his superiors for permission to conduct a raid into East Tennessee and cripple the vital East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad. The result is the first large-scale Federal cavalry raid of the war.

With a force of just under 1,000 men Carter moved through the rugged mountains of eastern Kentucky and Tennessee during the last week of 1862.

30 DECEMBER 1862
Carter’s raiders destroy railroad bridges at Zollicoffer [now Bluff City] and Carter’s Depot (now the town of Watauga). He repeatedly defeats the Confederate forces in his path, captures a moving train, destroys tens of thousands of dollars of military stores, and returns safely to Kentucky on January 2, 1863.
Plans to follow the raid with an invasion and occupation of East Tennessee, a move urged by Lincoln, are canceled when Carter reports the route impracticable for a large force.

7 JANUARY 1863
CINCINNATI, OHIO, January 7, 1863.
GENERAL: I have just received a dispatch from Major-General G. Granger that the cavalry force of about 1,000 men which he sent to East Tennessee on the 21st ultimo, by my order, under the command of Brig. General S. P. Carter, to destroy the East Tennessee Railroad bridges, &c. has been heard from.

General Granger has just received a dispatch from General Carter at Manchester, Ky., on his return, stating that on the 30th ultimo he entirely destroyed the Zollicoffer and Watauga Bridges, with 10 miles of railroad. Five hundred and fifty rebels were killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. Seven hundred stand of arms and a large amount of flour, salt, and other rebel stores, also a locomotive and two cars, were captured and destroyed.

A brisk skirmish took place at the Watauga Bridge and another at Jonesville [VA]. We lost but 10 men. This expedition, as characterized by General Granger, has been one of the most hazardous and daring of the war, attended with great hardships and privations, owing to the almost impracticable nature of the country, the length of the route (nearly 200 miles each way), and the inclement season.

The important results of this expedition can hardly be overrated, severing, as it has, Virginia and the Southwest; and Gen. Carter, his officers and men, deserve the thanks of the country. Great credit is also due to Maj.- Gen. Granger, under whose immediate supervision the expedition was fitted out, and whose long cavalry experience was a guarantee that nothing tending to its success would be neglected or forgotten.
Major-General, Commanding.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 20, pt I, p. 86-87.

7 JANUARY 1863
Cincinnati, Ohio, January 7, 1863.
Major-General G. GRANGER,
Lexington, Ky.:
General Carter has done well. He has severed the great rebel artery of communication between the North and South, the importance of which at this time can hardly be overestimated; has killed, wounded, and captured more than half of his own numbers, with the loss of only 10 men; has destroyed large amounts of rebel stores, arms, &c., and has brought back his own command in safety.

The result of the expedition has been telegraphed to the General-in-Chief, with an expression of my views as to the importance of the results accomplished. While waiting a reply from Washington, please present to General Carter, his officers and men, my congratulations upon the success of their efforts, and my full appreciation of the hardships and privations endured by them on their long and hazardous march over an almost impracticable country.
Major-General, Commanding.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 20, pt I, p. 86-87.

Brigadier General Samuel Perry Carter

9 JANUARY 1863
Report of Brig. General Samuel P. Carter
U. S. Army, commanding expedition.
Major-General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.
LEXINGTON, KY., January 9, 1863.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the expeditionary force to East Tennessee, which was intrusted to my command.

Although a movement on East Tennessee was proposed as early as November 25 last, it was not until December 19 that arrangements were completed and the necessary order given for the movement of the troops. It was hoped that the force to be sent on this hazardous, but most important, expedition would have been much larger than that which the commander of the department felt could be detached for such service when the final arrangements were made.

My original design was to have divided the force into two columns, and strike the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad at two points at the same time, distant 100 miles apart, and, by moving toward the center, have completely destroyed the road for that distance; but, on the junction of the different detachments, I found that the number was too small to risk a division, and I was reluctantly compelled to keep them united, or within easy supporting distance during the whole of my operations.

{All action from December 20-28th, 1862, take place in Kentucky and Southwestern Virginia.}

… The enemy, deterred by the resolute advance of our brave men, fled from [Estillville, VA] toward Kingsport, East Tenn. (as I afterward learned), without firing a gun. A rebel lieutenant and several soldiers, with their arms, were captured on the south side of the gap, on the Blountville road.

During the remainder of the night we moved forward, as rapidly as was practicable over unknown roads, picking up rebel soldiers by the way. Owing to the darkness of the night, a portion of the command lost their way and became separated from the main body. A small force of rebel cavalry, which was hovering about our rear, killed a sergeant of the Second Michigan and captured two others who had wandered from the road.

At daylight on the morning of the 30th we reached the town of Blountville, Sullivan County, East Tennessee, surprised and took possession of the place, captured some 30 soldiers belonging to the Fourth Regt. Kentucky (rebel) Cavalry, in hospital, and paroled them. …

We were informed that at Bristol, 8 miles distant, there was a large amount of stores, [but] … we were reluctantly compelled to leave it … and move toward the railroad bridge at Union [called Zollicoffer during the Civil War], 6 miles from Blountville.

I accordingly sent forward Lieut. Col. Campbell with a portion of the Second Michigan, under the direction of Col. James P. T. Carter, of the Second East Tennessee Infantry, toward Zollicoffer, with orders to take the place and destroy the railroad bridge across the Holston River.

As soon as the remainder of the troops, which got separated from us during the night, came up, I moved them rapidly forward in the same direction. When we reached Union, I found the town in our possession, and the railroad bridge, a fine structure some 600 feet in length, slowly burning.

The rebel force, about 150 strong, consisting of two companies of the Sixty-second North Carolina troops, under command of Maj. McDowell, had surrendered without resistance, the major himself having been first captured by our advance while endeavoring to learn if there was any truth of our reported approach.

The trestle at Carter’s Depot held immense strategic importance during the Civil War, as the ET&VA was part of a vital supply line connecting Virginia with the rest of the South. The trestle was among those targeted by the East Tennessee bridge burnings in November 1861, though the conspirators found it too heavily guarded by Confederates. In late December 1862, General Samuel P. Carter conducted a raid into the region, overwhelming the Confederate detachment at Carter’s Depot before destroying the trestle.

The prisoners were paroled, and a large number of them were that afternoon on their way to the mountains of North Carolina, swearing they would never be exchanged. Their joy at being captured seemed to be unbounded.

The stores, barracks, tents, a large number of arms and equipments, a considerable amount of salt, a railroad car, the depot, &c., were destroyed …

As soon as the work of destruction was fairly under way, I dispatched Col. Walker, with detachments from the Second Michigan, Ninth Pennsylvania, and Seventh Ohio Cavalry (in all 181 men), the whole under guidance of Col. Carter, toward the Watauga Bridge, at Carter’s Depot, 10 miles west of Union.

On their way they captured a locomotive and tender, with Col. Love, of Sixty-second North Carolina troops, who, having heard of the approach of the Yankees, had started on the locomotive to Union to ascertain the truth of the rumor.

On reaching the station, about sunset, they found the enemy, consisting of two companies Sixty-second North Carolina troops, estimated by Col. Walker at nearly 200 men, falling into line. Col. Walker gallantly attacked them, and, after a brief but firm resistance, they broke and fled to the wood.

The gallant Maj. Roper, of the Sixth Kentucky Cavalry, with two companies of the Ninth Pennsylvania Regiment, under Capt. Jones, of that regiment, made a dashing charge, and captured and destroyed many of their number. Our loss was 1 killed, 1 mortally and 1 severely wounded, and 2 slightly wounded. …

The railroad bridge across the Watauga River, some 300 feet in length, was soon in flames, and entirely destroyed; also a large number of arms and valuable stores. The captured locomotive was run into the river and completely demolished, destroying in its passage one of the piers of the bridge.

The men and horses, especially the latter, were much worn and jaded from constant travel and loss of rest. The alarm had been given; the rebels had the road open to Knoxville, and could move up a strong force to resist us.

I also learned that some 500 cavalry and four guns, under Col. Folk, were within 3 miles of us; that an infantry force would be concentrated at Johnson’s Depot, 6 miles west of Carter’s Station, by daylight; and, further, that Humphrey Marshall, who was at Abingdon, was moving his troops to occupy the passes in the mountains, and thus cut off our egress. It was deemed prudent, therefore, to return.

We left Watauga about midnight, and, after a hard march, reached Kingsport, at the mouth of the North Fork of the Holston River, at sunset on the 31st ultimo. After feeding and resting a short time, and issuing a ration of meat to the men, we were again in the saddle.

We passed some 8 miles north of Rogersville, and reached Looney’s Gap, in Clinch Mountain, late in the afternoon; passed through without opposition, and about 11 p. m. of January 1 reached a place in the edge of Hancock County, Tennessee, where forage could be obtained, and bivouacked for the night. This was the first night’s rest we had been annoyed during the day and night by bushwhackers, but we, providentially, escaped with only 2 men slightly wounded.

Soon after daylight, on the morning of the 2nd instant, we resumed our march toward Jonesville, Lee County, Virginia, with the intention of reaching the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, on the Kentucky side, before we halted. …

Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, the severity of the marches, and the scanty supply of rations for no inconsiderable portion of the time, both officers and men bore their hardships without a single murmur or a word of complaint.

They returned, after a journey of 470 miles, 170 of which were in the enemy’s country, in high spirits and in good condition, proud to think they had accomplished a feat which, for hazard and hardships, has no parallel in the history of war. …

I am, general, respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. P. Carter, Brig.-Gen. of Volunteers.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 20, pt. I, pp. 88-92.

Samuel P. Carter Marker
Born in this house. After attending Washington College and Princeton, graduated from U.S. Naval Academy; serving in the Navy until May 1, 1862, he was appointed brigadier general, U.S. Volunteers. His most conspicuous service was a raid into East Tennessee with a cavalry brigade late in 1862. Brevetted major general, he returned to the Navy as a commander, retired as a commodore in 1881, and was named a rear admiral on the retired list in 1882. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
Erected by Tennessee Historical Commission.
Marker is at 829 East Elk Avenue, Elizabethton TN 37643.

Birthplace of Samuel P. Carter
Alfred Moore Carter House 
Elizabethton, Carter County, Northeast Tennessee.

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.

Tazewell in the Civil War

Town of Tazewell
Tazewell is a small Northeast Tennessee town, the seat of Claiborne County. It is located on the northern slope of Walden’s Ridge, which is part of the Ridge and Valley Province of the Appalachian Mountains. During the American Civil War, the people of Claiborne County are divided, often within families and among neighbors and friends. Tazewell changes hands four times during the War. Although no major battles are fought in the county, there are several bloody skirmishes.

Present-day view of the area around Tazewell Tennessee.
With those amazing mountains in the background.

19 MARCH 1862
Defining Confederate pluck
Tuscarawas [OH] Advocate, April 4, 1862
Letter from B. B. Brashear.
March 19, 1862.
Editor, Advocate:
While at Somerset [KY] I visited the Secesh wounded. Among them was an educated and intelligent lieutenant who belonged to the 16th Mississippi … from whom I learned something of the disappointments, the expectations, and the hopes, of the rebels. He bitterly denounced their General, Gen. [George] B. Crittenden [commanding the Department of East Tennessee] – called him a craven and a drunkard. …
I said to him, suppose you are conquered at Bowling Green [KY] as you have been here, what will you then do? He answered:
“That would prolong the conflict between us. We will contest every inch of ground between this and the Rio Grande.”

1 JUNE 1862 – 27 OCTOBER 1862
Operations in East Tennessee

You will find here several different reports of the same events, which gives a well-rounded description of all of the actions involved. I have heavily edited some of these documents for readability; these officers are well-educated and taught to use excess verbiage.

22 JULY 1862
Affair at Tazewell, violation of flag of truce.
Report of Col. James P. T. Carter CSA.
Second Tennessee Infantry.
Camp Cotterell, July 23, 1862.
GENERAL: Yesterday, soon after 6 p. m., with 450 of the Second East Tennessee Regiment and 30 men of the Forty-ninth Indiana … with two days’ rations and sixty rounds of ammunition … left camp to carry out your instructions to endeavor to cut off the rebel cavalry which have been in the daily habit of visiting Tazewell. …
I reached the vicinity of Tazewell; but soon after nightfall, finding the night so dark, I moved slowly and with caution up the old road for some distance. … There I was met with information that from fifty to sixty of the rebel cavalry had passed down toward the river on a scout. … In a short time they were heard approaching, and when up with our position a portion of my command opened fire upon them.
The night was very dark, and it was impossible to distinguish either horse or horseman. Not many shots had been fired when I distinguished the voice of Lieut.-Col. Keigwin, of the Forty-ninth Indiana, calling me by name, and telling me to cease firing, as he was with a flag of truce. This was the first intimation I had that a flag had been sent out.
Of course I ordered the firing to cease, and, hurrying down to the road with my men, rendered every assistance in my power to the wounded. … No one can regret more than I do this most unfortunate occurrence. If I could have had the least idea that a flag of truce was on the road, I need scarcely assure you this would not have happened …
The wounded were taken to a house near at hand and every attention was shown them. It was not until some time after the damage was done that the courier reached me with your order recalling the expedition.
Respectfully, &c.,
JAS. P. T. Carter, Col., Comdg.
Second Regiment East Tennessee Volunteers.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 108-109.

Claiborne County in Northeast Tennessee

22 JULY 1862
New York Times
The Louisville News contains an extract from a private letter from a member of the Fourteenth Kentucky Regiment, dated Camp Baird, Claiborne County, Tennessee. The writer gives the particulars of an affair which occurred near Tazewell on the 22nd. He says that on the night of the 22nd, a flag of truce came in from the rebels, and, through a mistake, some four or five on each side were killed outright or seriously wounded.
The bearers of the flag were allowed inside of the pickets to the camp of Col. [MARCELLUS] MUNDY, who sent them to Gen. [GEORGE] MORGAN. According to the General’s orders they were removed a mile and a half beyond the outposts, to remain till morning.
As there was no camping ground at that point, they all concluded to go to Tazewell, nine miles further along. The party consisted of Lieut.-Col. [JAMES] KEIGWIN, of the Forty-ninth Indiana; Capt. [?] LYONS, Chief of Topographical Engineers of Gen. MORGAN’s Staff and several other officers besides the truce bearers. All went except Col. MUNDY, who said his orders would not permit him to go any further.
In the meantime one of the soldiers out on duty saw the party and informed Gen. [S.P.] CARTER that there was a party of rebel cavalry just beyond our lines. Gen. C. sent a regiment to the point designated, and posted them in different positions. As the truce party returned, on the morning of the 23rd, they were fired upon by CARTER’s men. Lieut.-Col. KEIGWIN was shot through the hips, and so seriously wounded that he may not possibly recover. Capt. LYONS had one arm broken.
A rebel Lieutenant was killed on the spot, and three or four other rebels were so seriously injured that they cannot recover. Every rider was unhorsed, and quite a number of horses were killed. … Later information says that six or eight were killed on the spot.
Published in the New York Times, 4 August 1862

26 JULY 1862
Skirmish at Tazewell.

2 AUGUST 1862
Battle of Tazewell: Key to Cumberland Gap.
A Civil War Experience
The 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, as part of Col. John F. De Courcy’s 26th Brigade, march south from their stronghold at Cumberland Gap toward the small town of Tazewell on 2 August 1862. The purpose of their expedition is to find and acquire forage and supplies for the Federal garrison holding Cumberland Gap.
During several days of foraging and extended trips further south of Tazewell, some periodic skirmishes with Rebel cavalry are encountered but the troops are successful in filling their wagons with much needed food and hay for their animals.
Claiborne County Historical & Genealogy Society

3 AUGUST 1862
Reconnaissance from Tazewell to Big Spring.

4 AUGUST 1862
Report of Col. John F. De Courcy USA,
Sixteenth Ohio Infantry, commanding brigade.
TAZEWELL, EAST TENN., August 4, 1862.
CAPTAIN: I have to report, for the information of the general commanding, that on my arrival at this point on the evening of the 2nd instant I found the enemy’s pickets posted on the hills in front of the town. They, however, retired on the approach of the Sixteenth Regiment Ohio Volunteers, and this corps took up that ground for the night. I have ever since occupied a very extended line of pickets on that ground.
The foraging has thus far proceeded satisfactorily. Hay, horses, cattle, and sheep were brought in yesterday. No corn has been found as yet.
Yesterday [the 3rd] I made a reconnaissance toward Big Springs. The enemy had there about 100 cavalry, and they held their ground for about an hour and did not leave until I opened fire on them with a 10-pounder.
This day [the 4th] I proceed with the Sixteenth Regiment and two guns to Little Sycamore, via Big Springs, where I shall leave a part of the Forty-second Regiment to protect my line of retreat in case of disaster. From Little Sycamore I shall move toward Big Sycamore, and return to Tazewell from that point without passing through Big Springs.
This expedition is intended to cover a large train which proceeds from here direct to Big Sycamore. I have not sufficient strength to make detachments without at the same time leaving altogether open the position in rear of this town. But by thus calling the enemy’s attention toward Little Sycamore I hope to make them uneasy about their Morristown line of road.
Two of the enemy’s spies have been arrested whilst in the act of giving their cavalry information of the position of our infantry. It would serve as a good example if these men were punished according to the laws. If an order be sent me to that effect, I will have them publicly shot.
I have the honor to be, yours, respectfully,
JOHN DE COURCY, Col., Commanding Twenty-sixth Brigade.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 42-43.


Col. John F. De Courcy
Colonel De Courcy was a professional British soldier who was drawn to the United States by the Civil War; he was assigned to the Army of the Ohio in late 1861. De Courcy and the 16th Ohio Voluntary Infantry accompanied Gen. George W. Morgan USA in seizing the Cumberland Gap from Rebel forces in June 1862.
Three months later, the Confederates attacked the Gap in great numbers during the Kentucky Campaign. Morgan’s garrison left the Gap just before Rebel troops arrived and conducted an epic march through the roughest country in Kentucky north to the Ohio River.
In December 1862, Gen. George Morgan, the 16th Ohio, and Col. De Courcy traveled west to take part in the disastrous Chickasaw Bluffs assault near Vicksburg MS, which was led by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. De Courcy’s brigade spearheaded that attack and sustained heavy losses.
Dissatisfied with his position, De Courcy gave up command of the 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and left the regiment at its winter camp at Young’s Point, Louisiana. He took a leave of absence in the spring of 1863, but he was available when Gen. Ambrose Burnside USA began his invasion into East Tennessee.
Burnside appointed De Courcy commander of an independent brigade and ordered him to have his troops at Cumberland Gap by the end of the first week in September. On 7 September 1863, Gen. James M. Shackelford USA—who was marching with the main army—appeared on the south side of the Gap, while De Courcy’s gathered his troops at the north end on the afternoon of 8September. … Both Shackelford and De Courcy sent in demands for Gen. John W. Frazer CSA to surrender the Gap, which were rejected.
Burnside arrived the following morning. Frazier surrendered the Cumberland Gap that afternoon, 9 September 1863. … De Courcy and his men marched into the Rebel lines to accept their surrender. Almost immediately, Burnside placed Col. De Courcy under arrest for insubordination, because he had not deferred to Brig. Gen. Shackelford to receive the surrender. The incident came to nothing, and Burnside let the matter drop.
In March 1864, when the 16th Ohio’s original enlistment expired, De Courcy mustered out and left the country. He returned to British service as a colonial administrator.
In 1875, John Fitzroy De Courcy became the 35th Baron Kingsale, the largest peerage in Ireland; a seat he held until his death in 1890. He apparently left no written account of his three years in the Union Army.

5 AUGUST 1862 – 6 AUGUST 1862
Report of Col. John F. De Courcy
Foraging, operations against and about Cumberland Gap, reconnaissance and skirmishes near Tazewell.
CAPTAIN: In continuation of the daily report which Gen. Morgan directed me to send in of the foraging expedition which I was ordered to make in the vicinity of Tazewell, I have the honor to state as follows:
About 10.45 a. m. yesterday [the 6th] the enemy made a sudden attack in great force on the Sixteenth Regiment Ohio Volunteers on the entire length of the line of advanced posts furnished by that corps. The attacking force consisted of at least three infantry regiments, with some artillery, supported by other regiments and more artillery.
The enemy had been secreted during the previous night in the dense woods in front and on the flanks of the advanced posts and their pickets. The manner of the attack showed evidently that the intention was to cut off the advanced gun. In this the enemy would have succeeded but for the courageous coolness of the men serving the gun, and the companies placed there to protect it.
So well did these companies comport themselves that the gun was enabled to fire one round at the enemy at a distance not greater than seventy-five yards. The gun was then limbered up and retired in good order (Major Kershner’s horse was shot during this part of the affair), but the companies protecting the retreat of the gun were themselves surrounded by two regiments and completely cut off.
Here began a most desperate combat betwixt the companies of the Sixteenth Regiment Ohio Volunteers and the enemy’s two regiments. Finally more than four-fifths of the officers and privates of the two companies cut their way through and rejoined later in the day their regiment, in rear of Tazewell.
Whilst these brilliant deeds were being performed on the right as severe an engagement was taking place on the left. There Major Kershner (who was in command of the Sixteenth Regiment Ohio Volunteers) had taken position with three companies on a high knoll commanding the roads by which the enemy was advancing.
The conduct of these companies and their management by Major Kershner was excellent. For one hour and a half they held two regiments at bay, and compelled one of these regiments to fall back to reform; but the companies having exhausted all their ammunition, were finally ordered to fall back in skirmishing order.
I arrived near the scene of action about 11 o’clock. It was at once apparent that the position in front of Tazewell was not any longer tenable. I immediately ordered the Fourteenth Regiment Kentucky Volunteers to form in line right and left of the road, placing at the same time two guns near the center to cover the retreat of the Sixteenth Regiment Ohio Volunteers.
As soon as the latter had reached this line, I ordered the guns to retire, and shortly after the Fourteenth Regiment Kentucky Volunteers followed and took up position on the heights in rear of Tazewell, where the remainder of the brigade, with the artillery, were posted.
Having received information that the enemy had massed troops on the Knoxville road with the design of getting in rear of my right, I gave up all idea of advancing, and determined to hold these heights as long as my line of communication with Cumberland Gap was not endangered.
This was accordingly done, and the First Wisconsin Battery, ably commanded by the gallant Lieut. Anderson, with a well-directed fire, first stopped the enemy’s advance, and finally compelled him to retreat over the hills and out of sight. The enemy’s artillery fire was good, both as to range and direction, and the caliber of their guns was larger than ours.
About the time the enemy began to retire almost all stragglers had rejoined, and all stores and wagons had been sent well to the rear. The artillery ammunition being nearly all expended, and the men much exhausted from want of food, having lost their rations during the action, and their physical powers having been taxed to the utmost during the hottest part of the day, I resolved to retire slowly.
The movement began about 7 p.m.; was effected in excellent order, and in a direction through the woods which completely concealed it from the observation of the enemy’s scouts. Several hours previous I had again received information from loyal citizens and colored people that several regiments of the enemy were in rear of my right flank, which would have rendered this movement imperative had even the above reason not compelled it.
I have called upon officers commanding regiments to make a detailed report of the doings and conduct of their respective commands, and copies of these reports will be forwarded to you without delay. A return of killed, wounded, and missing will be furnished you as soon as possible.
Amongst the missing the name of Capt. Edgar, Sixteenth Regiment, will appear. This able, zealous, and gallant officer was seen to fall when his company was breaking through the enemy’s regiments.
I have the honor to be, sir, yours, respectfully,
Col., Commanding Twenty-sixth Brigade.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 43-44.

A period map showing Tazewell and surrounding area.
Dashed blue line indicates the route of De Courcy’s brigade.

6 AUGUST 1862
Battle of Tazewell
As his forage operation continues, Col. De Courcy is aware of a large Confederate force camped south of the Clinch River, not too far from Tazewell; but he does not anticipate any major engagement will take place. On the Wednesday morning of 6 August, however, De Courcy is confronted by a vastly superior Rebel force commanded by Col. Thomas Hart Taylor.

7 AUGUST 1862
Report of Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan, U. S. Army.
CUMBERLAND GAP, August 7, 1862.
COL.: To obtain forage and feed and learn the strength of the enemy, De Courcy was ordered to Tazewell on the 2nd instant. He secured 200 wagon loads of forage, all of which safely arrived on the 5th. Some slight picket skirmishing took place, in which we had 2 men wounded, while the enemy had 1 killed and several wounded.
Early in the morning of the 6th instant, not wishing to bring on a general action, I ordered Col. De Courcy to return to this post, but he was attacked at daybreak on that day. Considering enemy’s forces the attack was feeble. Two of his regiments surrounded two companies of the Sixteenth Ohio, detached to protect a section of artillery.
The enemy’s movement was well executed, and had it not been for the coolness and gallantry of Lieut. Anderson we would have lost two pieces of artillery. Although surrounded by a vastly superior force, the two infantry companies, under command of Capt.’s Edgar and Taneyhill, fought heroically, and three-fourths of them succeeded in cutting their way through to their regiments. But we fear that Capt. Edgar, an officer of great merit, was killed, and Capt. Taneyhill taken prisoner.
There were several instances of distinguished conduct both on the part of officers and soldiers. A soldier of the Twenty-second Kentucky was shot through the neck and fell. His gun dropped from his hands; his foe contrived to advance upon him, when the wounded hero grasped his gun, rose to his feet and shot the rebel soldier dead when within five paces of him, when he again fell weltering in his blood.
Two soldiers of the Sixteenth Ohio had lost their way and were going toward the enemy, when Lieut.-Col. Gordon, of the Eleventh Tennessee, hailed them, demanding their regiment. With coolness and courage they required him to declare his rank and regiment and took him prisoner. Resuming their march by a circuitous route they rejoined their commands. Gordon speaks highly of their courage and courteous treatment.
At 3.30 p. m. a courier arrived from Col. De Courcy and asked for aid. Leaving three regiments to guard the Gap I marched with my remaining force to his assistance, but when within 2 miles of Tazewell I met him on his return. The enemy left the field at 5 o’clock and maintained his position until 7 o’clock p. m. The enemy’s loss is believed to be considerable. I did not pursue, lest with a superior force, he should gain my rear.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, pp. 835-836.

Lt. Col. Philip Kershner

6 AUGUST 1862
Battle of Tazewell
On Wednesday morning the whole country was enveloped in a dense fog and perhaps delayed the attack for a short time. About seven o’clock the 16th Ohio under command of Major [Philip] Kershner came up and relieved the 14th, which marched down on the road toward Tazewell perhaps a quarter of a mile, into an old orchard, where guns were stacked and knapsacks unslung to await further orders.
Here it will be necessary to give some idea of the ground in order that a clear understanding may be had of succeeding events. …
Tazewell is a small village situated between two elevated ridges … both ridges sloping toward the town, the summits of which are near two miles apart. On the south side of the village there is a small uneven hill, densely covered with small cedar and pines. The Morristown road crosses the ridge south of Tazewell, through a small … gap where the heavy timber is still standing …
In the gap there were two guns of the battery and a small reserve force, the rest of the regiment being scattered in different positions through the woods, and on various roads and lookout points …
The 16th Ohio had but just taken its post in these various positions, when some of the enemy’s artillery down at Big Spring opened at long range to attract attention in that direction. In a few moments some scattering guns were heard at the outer picket posts, followed almost immediately by rousing cheers and heavy volleys of musketry.
The 14th formed instantly in line of battle and waited for orders to move up the hill to the assistance of the 16th … Not many moments elapsed, before it was clearly to be seen that the enemy in large numbers had completely surrounded the 16th and the two pieces of cannon. …
A rebel column came sweeping down the hill on the right with loud cheers; each discharge of canister left a wide gap in their ranks, which was instantly closed without the slightest wavering; twice the canister tore though their ranks but on they came within twenty or thirty paces of the guns. … the guns were brought off at double quick and the enemy were so near that the line of skirmishers were in a few yards of the road just as the guns were passing.
Major Kershner’s … small reserve force cut his way through the rebel ranks; the artillery drove into the orchard where the 14th was in line, and again opened fire upon them, and so also did the 14th which somewhat checked them, and afforded some protection to the retreat of the 16th.
They were so completely surrounded and cut off from each other that they came down the hill in straggling parties and irregular order, but still maintained a severe and effective fire upon the enemy, who immediately formed in line of battle and came down the hill in excellent order, and with a defiant yell which clearly bespoke their confidence of success.
The guns again moved off in haste and the command was given for the 14th to retreat, which was done in considerable disorder, because the regiment had to cross two fences, and the ground was quite uneven … while the rebel regiment was flanking us on our rear. The boys, however, did some pretty effective shooting in defiance of the orders … to cease firing, and move on to the ridge beyond the town. …
As soon as we were under cover of the town, our cannon opened fire upon the rebel column, and drove them back … The day was exceedingly hot and many were almost entirely exhausted from heat and thirst. Our battery played so effectively upon the rebels, that they did not enter the town, but most of their force returned to the ridge from which they had driven us, and in short time they had two cannons in position, and commenced returning our fire. The [artillery fire] continued during the whole afternoon without damaging us in the least. …
About night the brigade started out to take a walk, and they walked to Cumberland Gap before midnight … Regiment went on picket this morning and was attacked by a greatly superior force. … We got in a good position behind a fence, where we fought until our last cartridge was gone.
Then we retired beyond the town where our batteries were in position. The rebel’s tried to plant a battery, but could not do it. … we returned to camp that night meeting our whole Division near Powell’s River coming to reinforce us. We all returned to the Gap.
William Warner Reid Diary,
16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

12 AUGUST 1862
Colonel J. B. FRY:
Knoxville Register admits that [CSA Col. John C.] Vaughn’s regiments alone lost 109 men at Tazewell on the 6th instant, but claims that they captured four guns. All they got was the shot.

The Graham-Kivett House.
Tazewell’s oldest house, built c. 1810.,_Tennessee#/media/File%3AGraham-Kivett-House-tn1.jpg

15 AUGUST 1862
Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
Messrs. Editors:
Since our arrival here [Cumberland Gap] June 18th, the monotony of camp life has only been broken by work upon the fortifications and an occasional foraging expedition inside the enemy’s lines. One of the most important of these trips was entered upon Saturday morning, Aug. 2nd, by the 26th Brigade, composed of the 16th and 42nd Ohio, and the 22nd  Kentucky regiments under Acting Brigadier General J. F. De Courcy, accompanied by six pieces of artillery under command of Lieut. Anderson of the 1st Wisconsin battery, and Lieut. Webster of the siege battery.
At five o’clock Saturday morning the Brigade left camp, having in charge two hundred wagons, and after driving in the rebel pickets, encamped the same evening on the brow of a hill overlooking Tazewell, the county seat of Claiborne county, Tennessee, and fourteen miles from Cumberland Gap.
Four of the pieces were planted in front of camp, while the 16th Ohio with two pieces of artillery were stationed as pickets on the ground previously occupied by the rebels for the same purpose. The Brigade remained in camp Sunday, while the quartermasters spent their time confiscating rebel horses about town.
On Monday morning the Brigade took up its line of march for Clinch river, seven miles distant, where the rebels were reported encamped, eight thousand strong. There was a slight skirmish near Lycoming, in which one rebel was killed and four or five wounded. Our loss nothing.
Seventy wagons escorted by two companies of the 16th loaded within three-fourths of a mile of the river, and returned without accident. The Brigade re-occupied its camp near Tazewell, Monday evening and during Tuesday. The 14th Kentucky, which had been ordered up as a re-enforcement, acted as picket Tuesday and during the night.
Wednesday morning at 7 o’clock the 14th Kentucky was relieved by the 16th Ohio. Companies B and E were stationed one fourth of a mile in advance as outposts, the remainder, save companies C and G, picketed in different directions about the hill and ravines.
Half an hour after, scattered firing was heard in the direction of the outposts, and the cannon accompanying them was ordered in. No uneasiness was felt for an hour when a simultaneous attack was made on all the pickets, the outposts being entirely surrounded.
The outposts had twice been ordered in but failed to receive the message. They determined not to surrender, but to try to run the gauntlet and escape; but a concealed regiment opening fire on them at ten paces, killing Capt. Edgar of company B, and severely wounding Sergeant Major Beatty Smith, broke their ranks when every man for himself tried to make their own way through the lines, and about half succeeded.
The remainder were taken prisoners. The rear pickets had been attacked by four regiments who had taken position during the previous night, guiding their movements by cow bells. The reputation of the 16th Ohio was at stake, and the pickets fought desperately.
A part of company D supported a rifled Parrot on the brow of the hill, which poured incessant volleys of grape and canister death into the rebel ranks. Then charges were made to capture the piece by a rebel regiment, and once they were so certain of success that their commander ordered them to seize the gun and run it in the bushes; but they had reckoned without their host.
The cannon, double shotted, opened on them at twenty paces, mowing down almost an entire company; and while the gallant little fragment of company D poured a deadly volley into them, Major [Philip] Kershner ordered the piece to retire, and withdrew the pickets to the rear of the ravine.
At this juncture Major K’s horse was shot from under him, and during the remainder of the fight he gave his commands on foot. He was the only field officer engaged in the fight, and maneuvered his regiment (the 16th Ohio) admirably.
For one hour companies C and G held the whole rebel force in check, when the 14th Kentucky came to their assistance, and together they gradually retired, followed by four regiments of rebel infantry.
When our regiments had retired a sufficient distance to be out of danger, our artillery back of Tazewell opened on the rebels, when they gave a fine exhibition of a skedaddle back over the hill. They replied with a twelve pounder, but after having it twice dismounted, drew off.
Major Kershner cannot receive too much credit for the manner in which he conducted the fight, and his success in bringing his men and guns from the field with as little loss. He is a cool, brave man, well versed in tactics, respected and obeyed by his men, and deserving of a higher position in the service.
Dr. Chase, Assistant Surgeon 16th Ohio, was the only medical officer in the fight, and sustained the reputation of his profession, being the last man to leave the field, though the balls created anything but agreeable music about his ears.
General De Courcy was on the field during the latter part of the action.
During the fight, the 42nd Ohio guarded the Virginia road, to prevent the enemy from flanking, and the 22nd Kentucky supported the four guns back of Tazewell.
Two of the 22nd Kentucky were wounded while on picket Tuesday, and succeeded in killing two rebel cavalry, and wounding five or six. Capt. Edgar’s body was brought in by a flag of truce Sunday and interred with appropriate honors. Our regiment lost one killed and fifty-two wounded and missing. Dr. Brashear has today accompanied a flag of truce to Tazewell, to see two of our wounded prisoners.
The Knoxville Register admits one hundred killed on their side, and we are informed on reliable authority that four hundred will not more than account for their killed and wounded. Corporal Paul Wilder, of company B, captured Lieut. Col. Goodwin, of the 11th Tennessee, and brought him into camp.
WILSCOT, unknown soldier

This map shows more detail and place names than the older map.

21 AUGUST 1862
… from what I can learn from the most reliable sources the action commenced about 11 o’clock and continued about two hours and a half. There were no forces engaged on our side but the 16th Ohio, the other forces on our side being necessary to hold in check some 3 or 4 rebel regiments that were awaiting an opportunity to get into our rear and cut off our retreat and communication with the Gap.
The official report shows 54 men missing belonging to several companies… All the 16th engaged in the fight lost their knapsacks, blankets, overcoats and all their contents, including letters and many other little et ceteras that they had from time to time gathered up.
The rebel force, as nearly as we can learn, was 11 regiments of infantry together with artillery and cavalry. Four of our regiments were engaged in the contest with the 16th Ohio, and were several times repulsed, but they outflanked us and we were compelled to retire in consequence of vastly superior numbers …
Yours truly,
Hamilton Richardson
[Captain Hamilton Richardson, 16th OVI]
Wooster Republican.

21 AUGUST 1862
A letter from a member of Capt. McClure’s company … dated on the 10th inst:
“You have no doubt heard of our fight at Tazewell. Our regiment was pretty badly cut up, as all the fighting on our side was done by the 16th. Our company was divided, and attached to other companies, in order to equalize them. I was with Capt. Botsford’s company and had a severe time of it.
When the rebels made the attack, our company was held back as reserve. As soon as they made a charge, we were ordered to support the artillery which we did in handsome style, keeping the enemy in check and our artillery made good their retreat; we then fell back gradually to our main support.
When I came to myself again, I found that I was minus my knapsack and haversack, but with them the secesh received about forty rounds of cartridges, which to some of them I think wasn’t very agreeable. As you will get a better description of the engagement than I can give, I will leave the rest to them.
We buried Capt. Edgar last night. His body was procured by a flag of truce.
Dave, 16th OVI,
Wooster Republican.

Battle of Tazewell
In early August 1862, Gen. E. KIRBY SMITH advanced from Knoxville toward Cumberland Gap, intending to clear the way through the Gap with the 18,000 troops with him. With Gen. CARTER L. STEVENSON’s Division in the lead, Smith camped at the Clinch River, where his pickets sighted one of De Courcy’s foraging parties, 7 miles southeast of Tazewell on 4 August.
After filling their wagons … De Courcy returned to Tazewell, reported the encounter with Smith’s pickets and requested reinforcements. Gen. George Morgan immediately dispatched the 14th KENTUCKY—then doing picket duty on Walden’s Ridge—to reinforce De Courcy.
When the 14th was relieved from picket duty at 7 a.m. on 6 August, Walden’s Ridge was covered in dense fog. Within a half hour, Col. THOMAS H. TAYLOR’s Brigade of Stevenson’s Division, supported by the RHETT ARTILLERY, attacked the 16th OHIO’s pickets in the fog, driving them down the ridge and capturing 52.
When Taylor turned their right flank, the 16th were able to extricate their two guns from the crest of the ridge; but by the time the 14th Kentucky could be formed, the engagement was over and what was left of the 16th had dispersed. With Taylor’s Brigade now in musket range of the 14th KENTUCKY and moving to attack both flanks, the Union regiment fired a volley before retiring to the Union line north of town.
Then, as Taylor’s Brigade advanced toward Tazewell, they passed a lane that ran at right angles to their line of march. Where the lane connected with the main road, the Federals had one of their cannon posted, hidden by some bushes. The sergeant in charge of the piece, double-shotted it with canister and trained it so as to rake the main road and beyond.
As Taylor’s Brigade came down the slope of Walden’s Ridge in line of battle, with colors flying, the cannoneer waited until his line of sight was filled with gray clad troops before firing, sweeping the lane, the road, and the field beyond with a hail of canister.
Confederate casualties from this single discharge are not known, but the slaughter was said to be terrible. In the chaos which ensued, the sergeant limbered up his gun and escaped to the Union lines.
Both the 16th Ohio and 14th Kentucky lost their knapsacks, two day’s rations for 800 men and about 50 small arms that day, but De Courcy managed to save all their wagons and artillery, along with all the horses and provisions they had confiscated.
For the rest of the day there was an exchange of artillery fire between the opposing forces on the two hills until, after dark, with his wagons well on their way to the gap, De Courcy retired.
De Courcy had stripped Claiborne County of provisions for civilians and the Confederate military. One of Taylor’s men, writing home to his parents in Georgia on August 12, complained of the lack of rations over the prior month, saying that sometimes the troops went without food for three days at a time.

Major General E. Kirby Smith

16 AUGUST 1862
Gen. Smith waits for his reinforcements and bypasses Cumberland Gap through Barbourville KY to the west, leaving Stevenson’s Division to watch Morgan’s garrison in the Gap, who Smith believed were too well fortified to capture, but too small a force to challenge him in the field.

11 NOVEMBER 1862
Great Fire of Tazewell
On 11 November 1862, after Confederate troops who have been stationed at Tazewell leave the area, it is discovered that a fire is burning in the town. Some twenty buildings are destroyed, including the courthouse, a large hotel and several brick storehouses. It was watched with dismay by Hugh Graham, whose ‘Castle Rock’ home escaped destruction.

Battle of Bull’s Gap

Bull’s Gap [now Bulls Gap] is a town in the southeastern corner of Hawkins County, Northeast Tennessee, near a gap of the same name in Bays Mountain—part of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. These Appalachians form a broad arc between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Plateau and are made up of long ridges with continuous valleys in between. Bays Mountain runs northeast to southwest, from Kingsport to just south of Knoxville. The northern segment has peaks reaching up to 3,000 feet. It is not a single ridge, but a series of ridges. The tallest peak is Chimneytop Mountain (3,117 feet).

Ridge-and-Valley segment near Bristol, Tennessee

Acts of 1806 Chapter 53
SECTION 1.  That so much of the ordinance aforesaid, as respects the line beginning on Nolichucky river, at the place where the ridge which divides the waters of Bent and Lick creek strikes the same; thence with that ridge to Bull’s Gap of Bays Mountain, at the house of William Cross, leaving the same in the county of Greene; thence eastwardly along the main height of Bays Mountain, to the Chimney Top Mountain, be, and the same is hereby declared to be the line between the counties of Greene and Hawkins, so far as leads from William Cross’s in Bull’s Gap, to the top of Chimney Top Mountain.

In 1792 John Bull received a grant for 55 acres near the east-west passage over Bays Mountain. Capitalizing on his location, Bull operated a stage line through the passage that quickly became known as Bull’s Gap.

Because of the vital East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad line through Bays Mountain, Bull’s Gap becomes a strategically important location for both armies during the American Civil War. The Gap is the scene of many small battles as the armies fight for control of this vital artery between Northeast Tennessee and Knoxville. The efforts by the Confederates to capture Bull’s Gap and the Federal efforts to hold it accounts for many of the battles and skirmishes which occurred here from October 1863 until the end of the war in the spring of 1865.

USA Gen. Ambrose Burnside occupies Knoxville and works diligently to rid Northeast Tennessee of Confederate troops.

17 OCTOBER 1863*
A Brilliant Action at Bull’s Gap
New York Times, October 17, 1863.
Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck. General-in-Chief, Washington:
On the 8th inst. the enemy held down as far as Blue Springs, and a cavalry brigade of ours held Bull’s Blue Springs, and a cavalry brigade of ours held Bull’s Gap, supported by a small body of infantry at Morristown. I, accordingly, dispatched a brigade of cavalry around by Rogersville to intercept the enemy’s retreat, and, with a considerable body of infantry and artillery, moved to Bull’s Gap.
On Saturday, the 10th, I advanced a cavalry brigade to Blue Springs, where they found the enemy strongly posted and offering a stubborn resistance. Skirmishing continued until about 5 o’clock in the morning, when I sent in a division of infantry, who charged and cleared the woods, gallantly driving the enemy in confusion until dark.
During the night the enemy retreated precipitately, leaving their dead on the field and most of their wounded in our hands. We pursued in the morning with infantry and cavalry. The intercepting force met them at Henderson’s but owing to some misunderstanding, withdrew and allowed them to pass with only a slight check.
The pursuit was continued until evening, when I withdrew most of my infantry and returned to this place. Gen. Shackelford with his cavalry and a brigade of infantry continued the pursuit, the enemy making a stand at every important position; but he had driven them completely from the State, captured the fort at Zollicoffer, and burned the long railroad bridge at that place and five other bridges, and destroyed the locomotives and about thirty-five cars. His advance is now ten miles beyond Bristol. Our loss at Blue Springs and in the pursuit was about 100 killed and wounded. The enemy’s loss was considerably greater. About 100 prisoners were taken.
A. E. Burnside, Major-General
~ New York Times.

12 NOVEMBER 1863
KNOXVILLE. Federal situation report
We now hold as far east as Bull’s Gap, scouting to Greeneville and to the south of that place. We picket the Tennessee River from Washington to Kingston. The main force is stationed from Kingston to Knoxville. We occupy all the country south of the Holston, scouting the line of the Little Tennessee. The command is in good health and spirits; very short of clothing and on quarter rations of everything but meat and bread. …
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 31, pt. III, p. 128.

24 DECEMBER 1863
Skirmish at Bull’s Gap.

Bull’s Gap on the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad


16 JANUARY 1864 – 17 JANUARY 1864
Actions at Bull’s Gap.
~ Dyer’s Battle Index for Tennessee

8 MARCH 1864
Reconnaissance from Morristown to Bull’s Gap.

9 MARCH 1864
Federal situation report, New Market, Strawberry Plains, Mossy Creek, Morristown, Bulls’ Gap …
NEW MARKET, March 9, 1864.
Maj.-Gen. SCHOFIELD, Knoxville:
Have just returned from Mossy Creek. Deserters and citizens continue to come in, but their news does not reach beyond Bull’s Gap, where [CSA Gen. Simon Bolivar] Buckner is said to be. Vaughn’s brigade is still at Browerville and does not number over 400 or 500 in all, partly mounted and partly foot. A cavalry outpost at Chucky Bend. One man who came through from Greeneville, on Friday last, reports some troops scattered between Greeneville and Bull’s Gap, but cannot say how many. …
A rebel cavalry party, 30 or 40 strong, is reported at Massengill’s Mill, on north side of Holston, about 8 miles above Strawberry Plains, yesterday. Col. Garrard sends a party across to-day to look after them. A regiment goes to Morristown to support a cavalry reconnaissance toward Bull’s Gap … I have directed every possible means to be used to get immediately some definite information of the condition of affairs beyond Bay’s Mountain.
My own belief is that Longstreet is gone, and that Buckner is left in command of whatever force remains. Upon examination it is found that the small trestle bridge at Mossy Creek was partially cut by the rebels with the intent doubtless to make a trap for our first train. …
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. D. COX, Brig.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32 pt. III, pp. 43-44.

15 MARCH 1864
Skirmish at Bull’s Gap

28 MARCH 1864
Federal scouts from Mossy Creek to Bull’s Gap
MOSSY CREEK, March 28, 1864.
Gen. SCHOFIELD: I have scouts just from Bull’s Gap; they report rebel infantry nearly all gone, and are daily leaving the country. Cavalry at the gap not thought to be many; also squads of cavalry in all the gaps and roads between Bull’s Gap and the bend of the Nola Chucky [Nolichucky River], 1 mile below the mouth of Lick Creek. They say the citizens told them the infantry are moving to Virginia, and in few days the cavalry will go to Kentucky. CSA Gen. [East Tennessean John C.] Vaughn* had pickets stationed 7 miles below Rogersville on Saturday and Sunday; the cars came to Bull’s Gap Friday. The men are said to be deserting by hundreds and going to North Carolina, the roads being so closely guarded they cannot come this way.
R. A. CRAWFORD, Chief of Scouts.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. III, p. 174.

*Not to be confused with CSA Brigadier General Alfred Jefferson Vaughan, Army of Tennessee

31 MARCH 1864
Confederate destruction of railroad trackage and bridges in Lick Creek and Bull’s Gap environs.
KNOXVILLE, March 31, 1864.
Maj.-Gen. SHERMAN: The rebels have all gone from Bull’s Gap, and are now beyond Greeneville. They have destroyed the railroad bridge across Lick Creek and the trestle-work near the gap; they have also broken up the railroad to some extent and carried off the telegraph wire. This is all positive and I take it is conclusive as to [CSA Gen. James] Longstreet’s designs.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. III, p. 199.

Major General J. M. Schofield USA

1 APRIL – 2 APRIL 1864
Federal Reconnaissance and scouts about Bull’s Gap, Strawberry Plains and Morristown.
Gen. Stoneman reached Bull’s Gap, and his cavalry is scouting beyond that place. The enemy have all gone beyond Jonesborough and probably beyond the Watauga. Scouts report that Longstreet’s main force is moving to East Virginia, only about 3,500 men, mostly cavalry, being left to protect the saltworks. I will know the facts in a few days.
Longstreet was with his troops at Bull’s Gap while I was at Morristown last week, he having returned from Virginia. Upon learning we were advancing he also brought back a division of infantry, which was then en route for Virginia. The rebels have destroyed the bridge beyond Bull’s Gap and Greeneville, and have carried off the telegraph wire, but have not injured the track as far as learned.
I will occupy Bull’s Gap with infantry, and scout the country above with cavalry, but will not injure the railroad until I get further instructions from you. I will have all preparations made to carry out your plans.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Maj.-Gen.

2 APRIL 1864
Brig. Gen. T. J. Wood, Commanding Third Division, Fourth Army Corps.
GENERAL: Gen. Stoneman went yesterday with a division on a reconnaissance to Morristown. To-day he is at Bull’s Gap, and possibly beyond. The result of his movement will determine whether any other force may be required to complete what is to be done on that line. No news from below.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. D. COX, Brigadier-Gen., Chief of Staff.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. III, pp. 225-226.

Brigadier General J. D. Cox USA

24 APRIL 1864
Scouts in Bull’s Gap environs.
Maj.-Gen. SCHOFIELD, Knoxville:
[Gen. Mahlon Dickerson] Manson got off promptly at daybreak this morning. The cavalry are ordered to make 30 miles a day, and the infantry 20. All have five days’ rations and forage. The instructions for their guidance in different contingencies I made out fully as you directed. The news brought in by scouts makes me confident of success for the expedition, there being no rebel force sufficient to meet them this side of Holston.
J. D. COX, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, p. 476.

25 APRIL – 27 APRIL 1864
Expedition from Bull’s Gap to Watauga River and skirmish.
Report of Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, U. S. Army,
Commanding Department of the Ohio.
KNOXVILLE, April 27, 1864.
I have intelligence from the Watauga expedition. As was anticipated the rebels destroyed the bridge after being driven across it by our cavalry. The river was too high to be forded. Our loss in the fight was 3 killed and 18 wounded; that of the enemy not yet reported. The troops will reach Lick Creek to-night. They have destroyed all the bridges from Bull’s Gap to the Watauga and about 20 miles of track. Considering the time allowed them think they have done remarkably well and all that could be desired.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. I, p. 686.

25 APRIL – 27 APRIL 1864
Account of CSA Surgeon John W. Lawing
Thomas’ (North Carolina) Legion, C. S. Army, on the expedition from Bull’s Gap to Watauga River.
Carter’s DEPOT, EAST TENNESSEE, April 28, 1864.
I desire through your paper to give a brief account of the engagement recently fought at this place. The enemy, about 2,000 strong, consisting of the Third Indiana, the Tenth Michigan Mounted Infantry, and a battalion with two pieces of artillery under General [Mahlon Dickerson] Manson, United States Army, attacked this place on Monday, April 25. The fight began at 2 o’clock p. m., and with only occasional intervals continued until dark.
The resisting force, which consisted of only a portion of Colonel [William Holland] Thomas’ Legion, North Carolina Troops, and without artillery, under Lieutenant-Colonel James [Robert] Love of North Carolina, met them heroically and repulsed them in a crippled condition. …
Under cover of the night the enemy removed their wounded and dead and resumed the firing early next morning, but after a short skirmish they retired. A few of our cavalry pursued and on their return reported that the enemy had burned a small bridge, torn up a portion of the railroad track, and were still retreating, evidently not intending to renew the attack.
During this engagement our men displayed a heroism worthy of veterans and of the noble cause in which they are engaged. This victory, though comparatively small, is in keeping with the progress of events which makes our Confederate cause ever plainer to our minds and dearer to our hearts.

Bulls Gap Railroad Depot, date unknown

28 JUNE 1864
A Confederate Martial Marriage at Bull’s Gap.
An Alabama soldier … who is uglier than the renowned Suggs—in fact so far diseased with the chronic big ugly as to have failed procuring a furlough from Brig. Gen. [Evander] Law—wooed and won a buxom Tennessee maid of doubtful age. …
The bridegroom stood largely over six honest feet in his socks, was as hairy as Esau, and pale, slim and lank. His jacket and pants represented both of the contending parties at war. His socks were much the worse for wear, and his toes sticking out of the gaping rents thereof, reminded one of the many little heads of pelicans you observe protruding from the nest which forms the coat of arms of Louisiana.
The exact color of his suit could not be given. Where the buttons had been lost off in the wear and tear of war, a unique substitute, in the shape of persimmon seed, was used. The bride had essayed to wash “Alabama’s” clothes, while he modestly concealed his nudity behind a brush heap, awaiting there until they were dried.
The bride was enrobed in a clean but faded dress. Her necklace was composed of a string of chinquapins, her brow was environed by a wreath of faded bonnet flowers, and her wavy hair was tucked up behind in the old-fashioned way. She wore a stout pair of No. 9 brogans, and her stockings and gloves were made of rabbit skins—fur side next to the flesh. … She wore no hoops, for nature had given her such a form as to make crinoline of no use to her.
All being ready, the “Texas Parson” proceeded to his duty with becoming gravity. … Then the following was read aloud:
“By order of our directive General Braxton Bragg, I hereby solemnly pronounce you man and wife, for and during the war, and you shall cleave unto each other until the war is over, and then apply to Governor Watts for a family right of public land in Pike, the former residence of the bridegroom, and you, and each of you, will assist to multiply and replenish the earth.”
The ceremony wound up with a regular bear hug between the happy mortals, and we resumed our hog hunt, all the time “guffawing” at the stoic indifference manifested by the married parties on the picket line at Bull’s Gap. On our falling back from the gap we observed the happy couple perambulating with the column through the mud and snow, wearing an air of perfect indifference to observation or remark from the soldiery. …
Richmond [VA] Whig, 28 June 1864.

Brigadier General Jacob Ammen USA

Report of Brig. Gen. Jacob Ammen, U. S. Army,
Of skirmishes at Rheatown, Jonesborough, the Watauga River, and Carter’s Station.
Knoxville, Tenn., November 6, 1864. CAPT.; September 19, 1864, I received the following telegram:
LOUISVILLE, KY., 19 September 1864.
Brig.-Gen. AMMEN, Knoxville, Maj.-Gen. [Stephen] Burbridge will start to-morrow on his expedition into Southwest Virginia. Gen. [Alvan] Gillem is to co-operate with him. Support them by such force as you can make available, according to understanding we had at Chattanooga.
J. M. SCHOFIELD, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
The understanding was, that Maj.-Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge would attack the enemy at Abingdon and the salt-works 27 September; that Gen. Gillem, with his force, was to attack the enemy at Jonesborough the same day, and that the troops under my command would hold Bull’s Gap.
Subsequently Gen. Burbridge telegraphed to Gen. Gillem to attack at Jonesborough 29 September, and follow up the enemy the 30th, as Gen. Burbridge could not be at Abingdon before that time. In pursuance of these instructions I went to Bull’s Gap by railroad with 300 of the First Ohio Volunteer Heavy Artillery, Col. Hawley in command 21 September.
Next day 200 more of the same regiment came on the train, and 25 September, 200 of the Tenth Michigan Cavalry mounted and 100 of the same regiment dismounted reached Bull’s Gap. Gen. Williams having united with the force commanded by CSA Gen. Vaughn in East Tennessee, Gen. Gillem requested me to accompany him, as he had not troops enough to meet the enemy in our front.
Gen. Gillem’s command, consisted of the Ninth and Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Sixteenth Kentucky Cavalry, and six pieces of artillery; total, 1,650; my command, First Ohio Heavy Artillery, 500, and 300 of the Tenth Michigan; total, 800. Capt. Kirk with his command and two companies of 100-days’ men were left at Bull’s Gap.
27 September, we left Bull’s Gap with the two commands (2,450); marched to Greeneville without seeing the enemy. 28 September, near Rheatown, the advance met a small party of the enemy, wounded 3, and drove the rest back. September 29, the advance met a small force at Jonesborough drove it from the town; met more, and the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry drove them on the Duvall’s Ferry road and across the Watauga River.
A part of the enemy went on the Carter’s Station road and were pursued by the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry. 30 September, marched to Carter’s Station, attacked the enemy, and drove most of his force across the river to a strong position …
1 October, the artillery was placed advantageously, did good work, and soon after 12 m. the enemy left his works and retreated … At 12 m. started back with the First Ohio Volunteer Heavy Artillery and Tenth Michigan Cavalry and reached Knoxville 5 October 1864. …
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
J. AMMEN, Brig.-Gen., U. S. Volunteers, Cmdg. Division.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, pp. 558-559.

Confederate attack repulsed at Bull’s Gap
BULL’S GAP, TENN., September 22, 1864—3.50 p. m.
Gen. BURBRIDGE: The enemy attacked the forces at this place this morning, and were repulsed. They are now visible on our flank. It is Gen. Ammen’s and my opinion that all their available force is here.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. II, p. 440.

Major General Stephen G. Burbridge USA

27 SEPTEMBER  1864
Report of Col. John B. Palmer, Fifty-eighth North Carolina Infantry (C.S.).
Asheville, November 3, 1864.
MAJ.: I have the honor to submit the following report of the recent operations of the force under my command: On 27 September last I notified you that Gen. Vaughn had been ordered back to Saltville, and that I had fallen back to Warm Springs, and that I intended moving to Cocke County, Tenn., in the rear of the enemy, who had followed Gen. Vaughn’s forces to Carter’s Depot.
This movement of mine … seriously alarmed the enemy and caused their precipitate retreat to Bull’s Gap. In according with directions received from Gen. R. E. Lee to co-operate with Gen. Breckinridge when notified by him, I moved from this place on 17 October, and, concentrating my forces at Warm Springs, moved over the Paint Mountain on the 19th with 800 men and three pieces of artillery.
… a small force of cavalry I had stationed in Cocke County, Tenn. … struck the railroad at Mossy Creek and burned the railroad bridge. This caused the enemy to evacuate Bull’s Gap and retire in the direction of Bean’s Station. On 21 October I formed a junction with Gen. Vaughn at Bull’s Gap. During the night of that day I moved to Russellville, and having effectually destroyed the railroad in that vicinity and collected and secured the telegraph wire, I, by Gen. Vaughn’s directions, returned to Bull’s Gap.
On the 27 October I proceeded, by directions of Gen. Breckinridge, to Morristown for the purpose of conferring with Gen. Vaughn, whose forces I found skirmishing with the enemy. That night my mountain howitzer was ordered forward. … Gen. Vaughn requested me to send back to Bull’s Gap and have my command in readiness to move the next morning at 6 a. m. to Russellville, should he so order. This I did.
Early on the morning of the 28th I addressed a note to Gen. Vaughn to know if my command had been ordered up during the night, in order that if it had I might go back and place it in position at Russellville; or if it had not, that I might go to his headquarters and hold a conference with him as directed by Gen. Breckinridge.
I received the following reply from Gen. Vaughn’s assistant adjutant-general:
HDQRS. CAVALRY, &c., Morristown, 28 October 1864.
Col. PALMER, Cmdg.:
The general directs me to say … that your command was ordered to Russellville last night. Enemy are still in our front. Some skirmishing this morning.
Assistant Adjutant-Gen.
I notified Gen. Vaughn that I would place my command in position at Russellville, and immediately returned to that place … I selected a line about one mile in advance of Russellville, on the Morristown road, and was moving my command into position when Gen. Vaughn’s staff officer arrived from the front and requested me to form my line in rear of Russellville, on the Bull’s Gap road.
I faced the column about and was marching it to the new position when Gen. Vaughn’s retreating cavalry swept by my men in the wildest disorder. My men were hastily thrown across the road and an ineffectual attempt made to stop the fleeing cavalry and induce them to form a line. The rear of Gen. Vaughn’s baggage and supply train had just reached my line when the pursuing enemy entered the town on its opposite side.
Skirmishers were immediately thrown out from my command on the left and engaged the enemy, while my artillery opened from a slight elevation in rear of my right, effectually checking the enemy’s advance and enabling Gen. Vaughn to rally from 150 to 200 men in rear of my line. The enemy made no farther advance, but fell back to Morristown, stating that they had encountered at Russellville the whole of Breckinridge’s corps.
I had with me not more than 600 men, the balance having been left at Bull’s Gap by direction of Gen. Vaughn. From this position I was ordered back to Bull’s Gap, and from thence to Greeneville, I protesting against both movements. From Greeneville Gen. Vaughan fell back to Rheatown, and by his directions my command returned to this district. …
It is evident that this district, as I have always urged, affords an admirable base from which to operate against and threaten the enemy in East Tennessee. …
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. PALMER, Col., Cmdg. District. CSA
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, pp. 844-857

16 OCTOBER 1864
Skirmish near Bull’s Gap.

18 OCTOBER 1864
The enemy evacuated Bull’s Gap …
HDQRS., In the Field.
MAJ.: Mossy Creek bridge was burned by one of my scouts on night of 16th instant. The enemy evacuated Bull’s Gap very hurriedly about 2 o’clock this morning, retreating in the direction of Knoxville. I am pursuing. Commissaries should look well to the supplies in this department.
Very respectfully,
J. [John] C. VAUGHN, Brig.-Gen.

20 OCTOBER 1864
HDQRS. CAVALRY, Near Bull’s Gap, October 20, 1864.
MAJ.: The enemy moved hurriedly from Bull’s Gap on the night of the 17th instant. They are now encamped at Bean’s Station. The cause of the evacuation was occasioned by a detachment of twenty men, under Capt. Mims, burning the fort used by the enemy at Mossy Creek, and the destruction of the railroad bridge. He also destroyed effectually some two miles of the railroad. He reports great consternation among the citizens at Knoxville and surrounding country. …
Two companies of cavalry at Strawberry Plains. Small force represented to be at Knoxville. I am of the opinion that the enemy will return and give me battle in a day or two. Col. Palmer will probably reach me to-morrow. I shall endeavor to hold as much of the country as possible, but if pressed shall resume my old lines at Rheatown.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN C. VAUGHN, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.

Gen. John Vaughn’s Tennessee Brigade during the Vicksburg Campaign.

23 OCTOBER 1864
MAJ.: My forces pursued the enemy to their fortifications at Strawberry Plains, where they met some re-enforcements; and from the condition of my stock, for want of shoeing and other causes, I think it prudent to fall back to the line at Bull’s Gap. The strength of the enemy that left Bull’s Gap was between 3,000 and 4,000, consisting of cavalry, artillery, and infantry. …
I would suggest … that Gen.’s Cosby’s and Duke’s commands be sent here, and I think we could draw the enemy out of his works, and if so, could very easily defeat him. I hope the general will favor the suggestion. My command is increasing every day and getting some recruits.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN C. VAUGHN, Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.

John C. Breckinridge CSA advances from Virginia into Northeast Tennessee.
When Federal cavalry begin roaming up East Tennessee’s Watauga Valley in late 1864, Gen. John C. Breckinridge CSA in southwestern Virginia decides they are too close to Bristol and resolves to push them back. … he moves down the railroad line to Greeneville.
Union troops under Gen. Alvan C. Gillem advance beyond Greeneville, but retire in front of larger Confederate forces moving out of Jonesborough. To protect the rail lines to Knoxville, the Federals fall back to Bulls Gap on the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad.

Major General John C. Breckinridge CSA
Painting by Eliphalet Frazer Andrews

Battle of Bull’s Gap Summary
11 NOVEMBER 1864
Confederate forces attack in the morning, but are repulsed by 11:00 a.m.
Confederates are pushed back within hours of the initial attack.
Artillery fire continues throughout the day.
12 NOVEMBER 1864
Both sides launch morning attacks.
Confederates hit Union forces in a variety of locations but gain little ground.
13 NOVEMBER 1864
Firing occurs throughout most of the day.
Confederates do not assault Union lines.
Union forces are short on everything from ammunition to rations.
They withdraw from Bull’s Gap toward Russellville late in the evening.
The battle of Bull’s Gap ends on the third day.
A minor victory for the Confederate Army.
14 NOVEMBER 1864
Breckinridge attacks the Federals on 14 November and engages them near Russellville, causing a rout.
The Federals fall back to Strawberry Plains (northeast of Knoxville) where Breckinridge again engages his forces.
Federal reinforcements soon arrive and foul weather begins to play havoc with the roads and streams.
Breckinridge, with most of his force, retires back to Virginia.
The Confederate victory at the Battle of Bulls Gap is a setback in the Federal plans to rid East Tennessee of Confederate military presence, though temporary as Breckinridge withdraws to Virginia.

Battle of Bull’s Gap > As the Confederates saw it.
On 11 November 1864, Gen. Basil Duke CSA is in the process of pushing the Federal rear guard out of Lick Creek and chasing them to Bull’s Gap. Union commander Gen. Alvan C. Gillem USA … sorties several times from Bull’s Gap, but Duke keeps pushing him back. When Breckinridge arrives, he decides to attack up the mountain the next morning.
Although Duke thinks the movement is reckless, both he and Breckinridge are in the thick of the fighting on the morning of 12 November. Breckinridge devises a coordinated assault on the Union front, flank, and rear …
The flanking force on the Union left, consisting of dismounted cavalry led by Breckinridge in person, carries a line of trenches in hand-to-hand fighting. …
Exhausted Confederate troops stumble back down the steep mountainside … victims of steep terrain well-defended.

Brigadier General Basil Duke CSA

Henrietta Hunt Morgan Duke
Wife of Gen. Basil Duke
Sister of Gen. John Hunt Morgan

Battle of Bull’s Gap > The Union viewpoint
Report of the Battle of Bull’s Gap by Gen. Alvan Gillem USA
‘Regret to inform you my command has met a terrible reverse.’
On the night of the 9th moved from Greeneville to Bull’s Gap; 11th, the enemy attacked me and was repulsed; 12th, at daylight assault was renewed, Breckinridge leading storming party … On the 13th the enemy renewed attack, but not with such vigor. From our position we could see their infantry arriving … as my command had been living four days without bread, horses starving, and ammunition exhausted …  
I determined to evacuate the gap on the night of the 13th, and was not interfered with until the greater part of my command, artillery, and trains had passed Russellville, when the rear was attacked and men became panic-stricken.
All efforts of myself and their officers to rally them was fruitless. They ran over everything. The enemy, who had not attacked vigorously at first, then charged and broke through our lines, capturing artillery and trains. … I passed over the grounds in the enemy’s rear. Did not see a dead Federal soldier; but, in horses, arms, and equipments, have lost heavily. …
This command has heretofore fought gallantly. Had it not become panic stricken could have easily repulsed the enemy and kept them back. … Will reorganize command and await your orders; and, if you are willing to trust me, try them again.
Had assistance been extended when asked for from the commander at Knoxville this disaster would not have occurred. But my men were allowed to starve while storehouses were full and a railroad running to Russellville.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, pp. 885-886.

Major General Alvan C. Gillem USA

New York Times.
Defeat of Gen. Gillem near Bull’s Gap.
Capture of Four Hundred Prisoners by Gen. Breckinridge.
Fighting at Strawberry Plains.
LOUISVILLE, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 19.
Intelligence deemed reliable, the accuracy of which cannot be determined to-night, says:
Very recently the rebel Gen. BRECKINRIDGE, with 10,000 men, attacked Gen. GILLEM near Bull’s Gap, and after a desperate fight, defeated GILLEM, who lost four hundred prisoners. …
From The Richmond Enquirer, Nov. 16.
The following official dispatch was received at the War Department last night:
Hon. James A. Seddon, Secretary of War:
Gen. BRECKINRIDGE reports that on the night of the 13th inst. he turned Bull’s Gap, when the enemy attempted to retreat.
About 1 o’clock on the 14th inst., with VAUGHN’s and DUKE’s commands, he struck their column and routed it. Several hundred prisoners, ten stands of colors, six pieces of artillery, with caissons and horses complete, fifty loaded wagons with teams, and ambulances with medical supplies, &c., captured.
CHATTANOOGA, Saturday, 19 November 1864.
The rebels attacked our forces at Strawberry Plains, eighteen miles above Knoxville, in force yesterday morning, at daylight. The fighting continued at intervals all day. Our forces held their own. The rebels were repulsed in every attack.

Granny Feathers House, Bull’s Gap, Northeast Tennessee
This building, once a hotel, has survived since 1856.

After the American Civil War, Bull’s Gap and the damaged railroad begin to rebuild. The earlier planned Rogersville connection to the ET&VA is completed in 1870 by the Rogersville and Jefferson Railroad, and the town of Bull’s Gap grows and prospers at the junction of the two lines.

Battle of Big Creek Gap

8 MARCH 1862
Col. James P.T. Carter USA and his troops are ordered on 8 March 1862 to proceed to Big Creek Gap, Tennessee and capture or disperse the Confederate forces that are blockading roads and molesting the Unionist civilians. Col. Carter is the youngest of the Carter clan from Elizabethton—brother of bridge burner W.B. Carter and brigadier general Samuel P. Carter, who is also serving in Northeast Tennessee.

10 MARCH 1862
On the morning of 10 March 1862, Col. Carter leaves with his command, which consists of the First East Tennessee Regiment, the Second East Tennessee Regiment, a detachment of the First Kentucky Cavalry, and Company B of the Forty-ninth Indiana Regiment led by Lt. Col. James Keigwin.

Big Creek Gap: Natural Opening
The road in front of you winds through Big Creek Gap, one of the few natural openings through the Cumberland Mountains in the region. During the Civil War, this corridor was much narrower and steeper, and even lightly loaded wagons found travel extremely hazardous. Cumberland Gap, one the main migration route[s] from the eastern states to the west and a strategic gateway during the Civil War, is about thirty miles northeast of here.

Early in the conflict, Confederate military engineers ringed Cumberland Gap with defensive works and considered the pass impregnable from the north and east. East Tennessee citizens who supported the Union alerted Federal commanders to the possibility of flanking the fortifications via Big Creep Gap. After a rigorous march, a detachment of Union soldiers, including a company of Campbell County men under Capt. Joseph A. Cooper, first penetrated the narrow passage here in March 1862 and routed the Confederate cavalry posted nearby. A more substantial offensive effort under U.S. Gen. George W. Morgan occurred in June, producing a bloodless Confederate withdrawal from Cumberland Gap. Subsequently, control of the Gap changed hands several times.

Across the highway, on a small knoll above and the right of the old rock quarry, are remnants of the earthworks that defended Big Creek Gap. They are the only know[n] Civil War-era fortifications in Campbell County. In the summer of 1861, the 19th Tennessee Infantry (CS) and other units stood watch here to guard the state border and prevent local men from joining the Union army in Kentucky. Rifle pits, gun emplacements, and ammunition dumps by soldiers from both are still extant.
(upper right) “Drawing Artillery Across the Mountains,” Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 21, 1863.
(lower right) Gen. Joseph A. Cooper Courtesy and USA Gen. George W. Morgan, Leslie’s Illustrated History.
 Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Location. Marker is in LaFollette, Tennessee, in Campbell County at the intersection of North Tennessee Avenue and North Indiana Avenue (U.S. 25W)

13 MARCH 1862
Carter and his soldiers arrive at the foot of the north side of the Cumberland Mountains at 6 o’clock pm and learn that two companies of the Confederate First Tennessee Regiment Cavalry are encamped at Big Creek Gap. With the road completely blocked, Col. Carter sends the Union cavalry unit around another road. Carter and his men set off again at 9 o’clock pm, planning to meet on the other side of the mountain, about nine miles away. They are troubled during their march by the total darkness of the night and the necessity of walking single file through the narrow passageways in the mountains.

14 MARCH 1862
At about 6 o’clock am, after an intense skirmish of about 15 minutes, the Carter’s troops completely rout the Southerners, capturing dozens of horses and mules, and several wagons. Because of the poor visibility and bad roads, the cavalry did not arrive until after the skirmish.

Report of Big Creek Gap: Col. James P. T. Carter
GEN.: In obedience to your order of the 8th instant to proceed to Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough, Campbell County, Tennessee, and capture or rout the rebel forces which were reported to be in that vicinity blockading roads and molesting the persons and property of Union citizens, I left with my command on the morning of the 10th instant [‘instant’ means the 10th day in the current month], accompanied by Lieut. Col. James Keigwin, of the Forty-ninth Indiana Volunteers, and marched to Big Creek Gap via Boston.

My force consisted of the Second East Tennessee Regt. Company A, of the First East Tennessee Regt., Capt. Cooper; Company B, of the Forty-Ninth Indiana Regt., Capt. Thompson, and a detachment of Lieut. Col. Munday’s First Battalion Kentucky Cavalry. We arrived at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, on the north side, on the 13th instant, at 6 o’clock p. m. I then learned that two companies of the First Tennessee Regt. rebel cavalry were encamped at Big Creek Gap.

Finding the road completely blockaded, I detached the cavalry, and sent them around by another road, with orders to meet the main body of the command at a certain point on the opposite side of the mountain. Procuring the services of a guide, I divided my command, placing one portion under charge of Lieut.-Col. Keigwin. We took up the line of march at 9 o’clock p. m., intending to meet at a point on the opposite side of the mountain about daybreak. The distance we had to march was about 9 miles, yet so difficult was the ascent of the mountain that it was only by the superhuman exertions, as it were, of the men that the march was made. The men, however, bore it patiently, and moved on “eager for the fray.”

Having to pass through narrow ways in single file, and the night being very dark, a portion of the infantry got lost, and did not arrive in time to take part in the skirmish. About 1,300 of the infantry came upon the camps of the rebels, under command of Lieut. Col. John F. White, at about 6 o’clock a.m. of the 14th instant, and after a sharp skirmish of about five minutes the rebels were completely routed. The rebel loss was 5 men killed, 15 wounded, and 15 taken prisoners, among whom were Lieut.-Col. White and Lieut. Hoyl. We captured 86 horses (27 killed), 7 mules, and several wagons, a large amount of camp and garrison equipage, a quantity of powder, and a large amount of quartermaster and commissary stores-a sufficient amount of the latter to supply the command during their stay.

It being impossible to bring off the quartermaster stores I caused them to be burned and the powder destroyed. Owing to the darkness of the night and the impassability of the roads the cavalry did not arrive till after the skirmish. Had the troops been able to get up in time I am satisfied that we could have succeeded in capturing the whole force. On the arrival of the cavalry we marched to Jacksborough, distance 5 miles, and there overtook the rear guard of the cavalry; killed 1 man and captured Capt. Edward Winston, of the Corps of Sappers and Miners. We hoisted the Stars and Stripes over the town, and on the 15th instant marched to Fincastle, and from thence to Woodson’s Gap, where we encamped a few days.

Learning that there was a manufactory of saltpeter in the neighborhood, I sent a detachment of cavalry with orders to destroy the same. They destroyed about 1,000 pounds of saltpeter, broke up the kettles, burned up the shed, and destroyed about 11,000 pounds of bacon and 20 sacks of flour. Our loss was 1 wounded-Lieut. Myers, Company H, Second East Tennessee Volunteers. His wound, however, is not dangerous.

Officers and men behaved admirably, and proved that they are ready and willing at all times to meet the rebels. The people through the section of country over which we passed are truly loyal in their sentiments and hailed the advent of our troops with unbounded enthusiasm. Everything they had was freely tendered to us. We found forage and provisions abundant on the route after we left Boston.

The position we had at Woodson’s Gap was a very strong one, and could have been held against a large force, and had we been permitted to remain we would no doubt have had an opportunity of meeting the forces at Cumberland Gap which had been sent out to attack us, but on the 19th instant I received an order from you to report at headquarters with my command at the earliest possible moment. I accordingly took up the line of march for this place on the 20th instant, and arrived here on the 23rd instant without the loss of a single man.
Your obedient servant,
JAS. P. T. Carter,
Colonel, Second East Tennessee Volunteers. 
Later Acting Brigadier-General, Comdg., Twelfth Brigade.

Big Creek Gap, Northeast Tennessee

Report of Big Creek Gap: Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army,
Knoxville, March 15, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that the enemy, having passed the Cumberland Mountains, yesterday surprised and captured, without the fire of a gun, I believe, the larger number of two companies of the First East Tennessee Cavalry near Jacksborough. Their force consisted of a regiment of infantry.

Couriers who arrived last night bring the intelligence that they are moving in this direction. I have ordered forward to Clinton two Alabama regiments, the Third Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, a battalion of North Carolina Volunteers, a section (two pieces) Third Maryland Artillery, and a portion First East Tennessee Cavalry (an aggregate of 2,000 men), the whole under the command of Colonel D. Leadbetter, who had received such instructions from me as I thought necessary for the exigency.

From what I have learned of the character of the troops from East Tennessee in our service, of their strong Union proclivities, greatly increased by their near relationship to and from intimate association with many citizens who have fled the country and espoused the Federal cause, I am satisfied the capture near Jacksborough was the result of treachery. Pickets detailed from them cannot be relied on, and even officers are not free from suspicion of more fidelity to the Federal than to out service.

It is not an individual opinion that some of the regiments from this section are disloyal, but it is the conviction of many of our friends, who know the public sentiment prevailing in those counties in which they were raised and the strong personal ties which would influence them to become so. There is a want among them of that confidence in the loyalty of each other which would make them faithful in the discharge of their duty to their fellow soldiers and to the country, and this is aggravated, too, by the opinion, which exists to some extent, that East Tennessee cannot be defended by the force we have in the field, and must be abandoned upon the advance of the Federal Army.

I cannot, therefore, too strongly urge upon the Department the propriety, if not the necessity, of removing these troops to some other point, where they cannot prove traitors, either by purchase or from love to the Federal Government, and where, if they do not make efficient soldiers, they cannot be tampered with by the enemy. If this be done, and their numerical strength be supplied by troops from other States, I am persuaded it would in every respect be to the advantage of the service.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General, Commanding.

USA Col. James P. T. Carter claims victory for his brave soldiers and the pro-Union sentiment in the surrounding area.

CSA Gen. E. Kirby Smith thinks the Union victory is the result of treachery.

Conflict in Campbell County: War in the Mountains
The Civil War in Campbell County was often personal. Few residents owned slaves, and a large majority – 1,094 to 60 – voted against secession in June 1861. Local men formed what became Co. A and Co. B, 1st Tennessee Infantry (US), at the courthouse in Jacksboro on August 1-2, 1861. Despite the strong Unionist sentiment, Confederate forces occupied the rugged mountain region later that year to secure several strategic gaps and to block any large Federal advance from Kentucky.

Confederate control did not last long. In March 1862, Union forces won an engagement at Jacksboro, raised the United States flag at the courthouse, and then marched north to destroy a saltpeter operation near here. The Federals noted that “the people…are truly loyal in their sentiments and hailed the advent of our troops with unbounded enthusiasm.” The expedition destroyed 1,000 pounds of saltpeter (essential to the manufacture of gunpowder), numerous kettles, 11,000 pounds of bacon, 20 sacks of flour, and a shed.

Travel through the mountains was challenging and dangerous. One night in April 1863, William Sloan carried dispatches from Kentucky to Confederates near Jacksboro. He confided to his diary, “the darkness was at times so pitchy that it gave me the sensation of passing through a tunnel, or dark underground passage; but of course there was some light else my horse could not have found his way, but such light was not discernible to my senses. Altogether it was the most dismal ride I ever took in my life, to say nothing of being uncomfortable.”
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails. Location. 
Marker is near Jellico, Tennessee, in Campbell County on Indian Mountain State Park Circle in Indian Mountain State Park.

15 MARCH 1862
The Federals raise the United States flag over Jacksborough and march to Fincastle, and from there to Woodson’s Gap, where they camp for a few days. Col. Carter soon receives an order to report to headquarters with his command as early as possible.

For a short period of time the entire area of Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough are involved in the Civil War.

“BIG CREEK GAP AND JACKSBOROUGH, TENN.,” War of the Rebellion, Serial 010, Page 0019-0021, Chapter XXII, The Ohio University, accessed 9 November 2021,

“Operations in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Mississippi, North Alabama, and Southwest Virginia. March 4-June 10, 1862,” Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Chapter XXII, accessed 7 November 2021,

Dallas Bogan, “Union, Confederate Forces Faced Off Skirmishes At Big Creek Gap, Jacksborough,” History of Campbell County, accessed 8 April 2021,

Battle of Blue Springs

Burnside’s East Tennessee Campaign
Since his arrival in Knoxville on 3 September 1863,USA Gen. Ambrose BURNSIDE has been creating a plan to run the Confederates out of Northeast Tennessee. He sends Gen. Samuel Perry CARTER[brother of bridge burner W.B. Carter] and his cavalry to clear the roads and byways from Virginia. Not content to sit and wait for developments, Burnside personally leads a cavalry division and troops from Gen. Edward FERRERO’s infantry division to assist Carter.

Battles of Blue Springs
Fighting on the Same Ground Twice
On the morning of October 10, 1863, Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s campaign suddenly arrived at Blue Springs (present-day Mosheim) when Union cavalry attacked Confederate Gen. John S. Williams’s troops. By noon, the Confederate lines were stretched to the breaking point. At 5 P.M., Union infantrymen broke through the forward line of rifle pits, but heavy cannon and musket fire from the main Confederate positions drove them back. Three more assaults on the main Confederate line failed when Confederate Infantry and artillery fire shot them to pieces. After dark, the Confederates withdrew. The Federals pursued them in the morning, and later that day they met again in Rheatown. The tired Confederates escaped toward Jonesborough.
Union Gen. Alvan C. Gillem’s cavalry force marching from Bulls Gap met a small Confederate force on the same battlefield on August 23, 1864. The Federals engaged Confederate Col. Henry L. Giltner’s 4th Kentucky Cavalry pickets and drove them back two miles toward the ridge south of Greeneville Road, where they encountered more Confederate troops. Giltner’s men repulsed repeated Union attacks. Then William Brown, a local boy, pointed out a “by road” to Union Col. John K. Miller who used it to reposition his 13th Tennessee Cavalry. His next attack turned the Confederate left flank. A frontal assault then broke the Confederate line and resulted in “a running fight, which was closed by night two miles beyond Greeneville, the enemy halting and endeavoring several times to reform.” Gillem reported Union control of Greene County was again assured, for the time being.
Lloyd’s Official Map of the State of Tennessee, 1863 Courtesy Library of Congress
Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside Courtesy Library of Congress
Gen. Alvan C. Gillem Courtesy Library of Congress
Gen John S. Williams Courtesy Library of Congress
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
W. Marker is in Mosheim, Tennessee, in Greene County.
At or near 6766 West Andrew Johnson Highway, Mosheim TN 37818.

3 OCTOBER 1863
CSA Gen. John WILLIAMS and his cavalry set out to disrupt Union communications, hoping to take t he town of Bull’s Gap on the East Tennessee & Virginia [ET&VA] Railroad. On 3 October, Williams encounters USA Gen. Samuel P. Carter’s Union Cavalry at Blue Springs, Greene County, Northeast Tennesseeabout nine miles from Bull’s Gap. Gen. Carter, unsure of the size of Williams’ force, withdraws.

4 OCTOBER 1863 Burnside’s troops at Knoxville travel by cars on the ET&VA Railroad to Bulls Gap, 56 miles away. It will take a few days to move that many men.

10 OCTOBER 1863: Battle of Blue Springs
10 o’clock a.m.
Burnside’s Union force—the 9th Army Corps with part of the XXIII Army Corps—meet the enemy at BLUE SPRINGS. They launch an attack at the Confederate center at 10 a.m., while cavalry under Col. John W. FOSTER [of Blountville fame] sweeps around Williams’ right flank. Capt. Orlando POE, the Chief Engineer, performs a reconnaissance to find the best place for an infantry attack.

5 o’clock p.m.
Burnside sends in Ferrero and his infantry at 5:00 p.m., breaking into the Confederate line, causing heavy casualties. The Federals order a charge and completely rout the Rebels.

The Confederates withdraw after dark.

The Federals take up the pursuit in the morning.

10 OCTOBER 1863: New York Times article
A Brilliant Action at Bull’s Gap
Knoxville, Tenn., Oct. 10, 1863
Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck. General-in-Chief, Washington:
On the 8th [of October] inst. The enemy held down as far as Blue Springs, and a cavalry brigade of ours held Bull’s Gap, supported by a small body of infantry at Morristown. I, accordingly, dispatched a brigade of cavalry around by Rogersville to intercept the enemy’s retreat, and with a considerable body of infantry and artillery moved to Bull’s Gap. On Saturday, the 10th inst., I advanced a cavalry brigade to Blue Springs, where they found the enemy strongly posted and offering a stubborn resistance. Skirmishing continued until about 5 o’clock, … when I sent in a division of infantry, who charged and cleared the woods, gallantly driving the enemy in confusion until dark.

During the night the enemy retreated precipitately, leaving their dead on the field and most of their wounded in our hands. We pursued in the morning with infantry and cavalry. The intercepting force met them at Henderson’s but owing to some misunderstanding, withdrew and allowed them to pass with only a slight check. The pursuit was continued until evening, when I withdrew most of my infantry and returned to this place. Gen. [James] Shackelford with his cavalry and a brigade of infantry continued the pursuit, the enemy making a stand at every important position; but he had driven them completely from the State, captured the fort at Zollicoffer, and burned the long railroad bridge at that place and five other bridges, and destroyed the locomotives and about thirty-five cars. His advance is now ten miles beyond Bristol.
Our loss at Blue Springs and in the pursuit was about 100 killed and wounded.
The enemy’s loss was considerably greater.
About 100 prisoners were taken.
A. E. Burnside, Major-General  
Published October 17, 1863


10 OCTOBER 1863: Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s description of the Battle of Blue Springs
I left Knoxville on the morning of the 9th [of October] and overtook our forces on the same day at Bull’s Gap. On the following morning the advance was ordered and at Blue Springs, midway between Bull’s Gap and Greeneville, the enemy were found, posted in heavy force and a strong position, between the wagon road and railroad to Greeneville. Our cavalry occupied him with skirmishing until late in the afternoon.

Colonel Foster’s brigade was sent around to the rear of the enemy, with instructions to establish himself on the line over which he would be obliged to retreat, at a point near Rheatown. It was not desirable to press he enemy until Colonel Foster had time to reach this point. I directed Captain Poe (my chief engineer) to make a reconnaissance of the enemy’s position, with a view to making the attack at the proper time.

The ground was selected upon which the attacking force was to be formed, and at half past 3 o’clock, believing sufficient time had been given to Colonel Foster to reach the desired point, I ordered General Potter to move up his command and endeavor to break through the center of the enemy’s line. By 5 p.m. he had formed General Ferrero’s division for the attack.

When the order to advance was given, this division moved forward in the most dashing manner, driving the enemy from his first line.
During the night he retreated and we pursued early in the morning, driving him again beyond the Watauga River, beyond which point our cavalry was directed to hold him. Col. Foster’s brigade, which had been sent to cut off his retreat, met with serious difficulties in way of rough roads, so that he did not reach the point on the enemy’s line of retreat in time to make the necessary preparations to check him until our pursuing forces came up. …
Late Major-General.

10 OCTOBER 1863: Action at Blue Springs
On the morning of the 10th, an advance was made toward Greeneville. The enemy was encountered, posted on the high ground east of Blue Springs, and between the Greeneville road and the ET&VA Railroad, and offered a stubborn resistance to our cavalry, holding them in check for some hours. …

The attack was gallantly made and was eminently successful, the enemy being driven entirely from his position in advance to that occupied by his reserves. It was now quite dark, and everything was prepared to dislodge him from the latter early in the morning, by which time Col. [John W.] Foster was expected to be in the main road east of Greeneville and directly in the enemy’s rear, a position he did reach before daybreak.

The enemy, having had information of this movement, retreated long before daylight from our front, and attacking Foster, succeeded in pushing him from their line of retreat and in making good their escape.
ORLANDO M. POE, Capt., U. S. Engrs.
Chief Engineer, Army of the Ohio.

Map of the Blue Springs battlefield, New York Herald newspaper, 27 October 1863


10 OCTOBER 1863: The fight at Blue Springs
GREENEVILLE, 10 October 1863.
Gen. SAM. JONES, Jonesborough:
We have had a very hard fight to-day, beginning at 10 a. m., and ceasing at dark. The line of skirmishers was 2 miles long, which so extended my lines that the enemy at 5 o’clock, with 2,000 infantry, broke my center and attacked the batteries. They were repulsed with great slaughter. I have no complete returns, but hope my loss will not exceed 100—several valuable officers. The enemy charged along the entire line from right to left, and only succeeded in center by the use of grape and canister. We hold our position. The enemy rests on his. The force is greater than I telegraphed on 8th.
Jno. S. WILLIAMS, Brig.-Gen.
[Jno. was a popular way of spelling ‘John.’ Who knows why?]

J. S. WILLIAMS, Greeneville:
I congratulate you on to-day’s fight. Have you any doubt of your ability to hold your position? Was the fight at Greeneville, or beyond that point? Has Col. Witcher joined you with his command?
SAM. JONES, Maj.-Gen.

Excerpt from the diary of Edward O. Guerrant.
The anticipated advance of the Enemy upon our position was made this morning about 10 O’C[lock]. From 10 A. M. until 5 P. M. the battle continued without any material advantage to either party, our object being only to hold our position against superior numbers & operate a diversion for Genl. [Robert] RANSOM, or rather now to save ourselves, now 75 miles from any base or support.

About 11 A. M. [John] Witcher (immortal Witcher) with his 34th Batt’n. (125 in no.) which came up on us this morning with their old, torn battle flag, fresh from the fields of Maryland & Pennsylvania, made a charge & drove the Enemy. Col. Carter commanded the right wing (1st. Tenn, 16th Ga. Peters Regt & Witcher’s Batt’n  about 800 in number) & Col. H. L. GILTNER commanded our left wing (4th Ky. 10th. Ky. & Mays Regt-about 900 in no) along the ridge we had two howitzers in one battery, two parrot guns in another and Schoolfield’s four little guns in another.

During the day the artillery fought several duels. Sometimes shelled the woods. Shells from the Enemy’s guns struck in front of our battery & ricocheted immediately over it. Other struck the trees by it. (I allude to Loyd’s guns where the General & staff took position.) I have a Minnie ball that struck in [front] of me-another passed between Capt. Jenkins (who heard our cannon at Rheatown 18 miles [away] & camp up about 4 P. M. ) & me.

About 5 P. M. furious assault by 1000 or 1500 infantry, with artillery throwing canister was made upon Mays Regt. commanded by Lt. Col. Ed. TRIMBLE which consisted of not more than 150 or 200 men. After a most gallant resistance, in which fell several of our brave Kentucky boys, this gallant handful of men were compelled to give way, but only to fall back by the flank upon Col. Giltner Regt. about 200 yards. Mays Regt constituted our centre – being on Col. Giltner’s right.

They were driven from the heavily timbered woods where we had out Head Quarters a few days ago. Thus the Enemy had broken our line & separated Col. Carter & Col. Giltner. But both wings held their position, their rear being protected by a farm of open fields commanded by our artillery. But the enemy emboldened by his success in driving back a handful of men had the temerity to attempt a flank movement upon Col. Carter by advancing through these open fields.

The column consisted of some 1000 or 1500 Infantry (some of the Michiganders) and advanced from the woods in splendid style into the open fields and were opened upon by our artillery which sent them heeling it back in style neither so imposing nor splendid. They heeled it to the cover of the woods, & did not attempt another such movement. The fight continued from this until night without any other marked change in our position, the Enemy holding the timber in our centre but unable to use it to advantage. During the day they attempted a flank movement upon both of our flanks, but were checkmated.

Thus ended the Battle of Blue Springs fought on Saturday 10th. Oct. 1863 in Greene County, 2 1/2 miles from Blue Springs & 7 1/2 miles from Greenville. Federal forces, estimated at 5000 commanded by Maj. Genl. Burnside. Confederate forces 1700, commanded by Brig. Genl. Jno. S. Williams.
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant, Confederate staff officer.


11 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Henderson’s Mill
Report of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Ohio.
KNOXVILLE, TENN., October 17, 1863-10 p. m.
On Saturday, the 10th, advanced a cavalry brigade to Blue Springs, where they found the enemy strongly posted and offering a stubborn resistance. Skirmishing continued till the arrival of the infantry, about 5 p. m., when I sent in a division of infantry, who charged and cleared the woods gallantly, and drove the enemy in confusion till dark. During the night the enemy retreated precipitately, leaving their dead on the field and most of their wounded in our hands. We pursued in the morning with infantry with infantry and cavalry. The intercepting force met them at Henderson’s [Mill] but, owing to some misunderstanding, withdrew and allowed them to pass with only a slight check. The pursuit was continued until evening …
A. E. BURNSIDE, Maj.-Gen.


11 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Henderson’s Mill
A Confederate staff officer’s account of the skirmish at Henderson’s Mill
When several miles beyond Greenville on the road to Jonesboro’ Gen. Alfred E. JACKSON’s advance (Genl. Jackson Brigade of 500) constituted our advance Guard, was fired upon just at daylight. It was within two miles of Henderson’s mill-where we were going to Camp, and I was going to the front by order of Genl. Williams to halt the column there. The beautiful morning star, harbinger of coming day, was shining like a diadem on the brow of night – & we were peacefully, tho’ regretfully pursuing our way – when all at once a volley of musketry into the head of the column woke up to the feast of death.

One of Genl. Jackson’s Staff was captured & perhaps a few of his men killed. It was too dark to see more than 100 yards in the heavy timber in which the Enemy were concealed. I had just reached Genl. Jackson who was again advancing his column of infantry to drive them from the woods – supposing they were East Tennessee Bushwhackers  – when a furious volley was again poured into us from behind the trees not 75 yards in front. To prevent being shot from my horse, as Yankees generally shoot too high, I dismounted in an instant, but soon found myself left alone in the road under a heavy fire, all the others having sought the generous protection of the neighboring trees. My horse was wild with excitement – so that I could not mount him until Rufus Todd held him for me.

As soon as our men got shelter, they opened briskly upon the Enemy, & soon our artillery came up & shelled the woods. It was not yet good light. Genl. Williams immediately coming up ordered Jackson forward with Thomas’ Legion (Infantry) and Carter to charge with his brigade of Cavalry. The boys went in with a shout charging gallantly, driving the Yankees from one position to another. The General was in the front cheering the men onward – as he appreciated the critical position in which we were placed.

The Enemy confidently expecting us to remain at Blue Springs, had thrown a heavy cavalry force under Col [James E.] Carter (4 reg’ts of 2500 men – the same who went to Bristol and burnt Blountville,) in our rear to hold us in check until the forces on the other side could come up; therefore we must fight out or be captured: “horse, foot & dragoon,” artillery & transportation, & all.

Our men I say went in gallantly drove the Enemy back, & only once gave up any ground & then a batt’n of Mounted men were driven from the woods, but were soon rallied – (the Genl. assisting) & returned to the fight. The Enemy used their artillery at first, but when we once got them started, they never got time to unlimber again. The fight lasted until about 71/2 [7:30] A.M. & ended by the flight of the Enemy before the impetuous charges of our boys, who never stopped but kept on, never giving the Yankees time to rally & form.

We drove them some three miles when they left the main road at double quick taking a road to the left towards Kingsport, leaving our way open to pursue our falling back. So we were delivered from a Yankee trap.

Thank God for the gallantry of our troops! The losses we sustained I cannot determine. … Our boys were very much elated with their success, & the way the Yankees “skedaddled.” Thus ended the battle of Henderson’s Mill – fought between Greenville & Rheatown, Tenn. On the morning of Sunday the 11th.
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant.


11 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Rheatown
Report of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside,
U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Ohio.
KNOXVILLE, TENN., October 17, 1863 10 p. m. On the following morning the advance was ordered and at Blue Springs, midway between Bull’s Gap and Greeneville the enemy were found, posted in heavy force and a strong position, between the wagon road and railroad to Greeneville. Our cavalry occupied him with skirmishing until late in the afternoon. Col. [John W.] Foster’s brigade was sent around to the rear of the enemy, with instructions to establish himself on the line over which he would be obliged to retreat, at a point near Rheatown. It was not desirable to press the enemy until Col. Foster had time to reach this point. I directed Capt. Poe (my chief engineer) to make a reconnaissance of the enemy’s position, with a view to making the attack at the proper time. The ground was selected upon which the attacking force was to be formed, and at half past 3 o’clock, believing sufficient time had been given to Col. Foster to reach the desired point, I ordered Gen. Potter to move up his command and endeavor to break through the center of the enemy’s line. By 5 p. m. he had formed Gen. Ferrero’s division for the attack. When the order to advance was given, this division moved forward in the most dashing manner, driving the enemy from his first line.
A. E. BURNSIDE, Maj.-Gen.

The town of Rheatown, Tennessee


11 OCTOBER 1863: Battle of Rheatown
Excerpt from the Report of Brigadier-General John S. Williams.
C. S. Army, commanding Cavalry Brigade.
Relating to the skirmish at Rheatown. We moved on to Rheatown, where, by some misunderstanding of orders, the artillery took the wrong road, and some time was consumed in getting it back. While waiting for its return the enemy again made his appearance, which, in the absence of our artillery, produced considerable confusion; but order was soon restored and the enemy checked. The artillery was brought back as soon as possible, and from a good position 2 miles east of Rheatown we again gave the enemy battle, which lasted for more than 3 hours, when gradually fell back to Jonesborough. Agreeably to your instructions, I moved Gen. Jackson’s infantry along the line of the railroad and the cavalry toward Blountville.
Brigadier-General John S. Williams.

11 OCTOBER 1863: A Confederate staff officer’s account of the Skirmish at Rheatown.
Col. Giltner had gone into Camp-Gen’l Jackson had diverged from the main column & was a mile off on the R. R. Col. Carter’s Brig – were sitting on their horses in the road above town. The Enemy had made another flank movement & came upon our left, and had placed their artillery in a gap of the ridge just opposite R-town, & commenced shelling our column. Witcher who was in the rear was cut off & came around South of the town & rejoined his Command.

Our artillery was by a misunderstanding all ordered down to the Rail Road with Genl. Jackson & accidentally escaped capture by the Enemy – and before it could be brought up the Enemy had advanced their sharp shooters within rifle shot of our mounted men & opened upon the columns standing in the road. A portion of Col. Carter’s brigade considering rather their safety than their honor-broke to the rear &caused the terrible military phenomenon of a panic resulting in a stampede. They rushed madly forward, dashing through fences, & passed right through our Head Quarters camp, where I was lying down to get a little rest.

Have rode my gray horse until his back was very sore, I was bridling Capt. Jenkins SORRELL – but had only time to put the bridle on – & mounted him bareback & joined Col Carter & some of his officers in trying to rally his men—& after appealing to their sense of patriotism & pride, & their baser sense of fear of being shot for stampeding, about 300 were stopped, dismounted & sent back to a position to hold the Enemy in check until our other troops could get in position & our wagons move[d] out of the way. I gave my grey horse (Charley) to ‘boy’ Arthur to lead, but the stampeders so frightened him that he jerked away & rushed headlong with the crowd.

Col Giltner’s men were soon put in position on the left, & Jimmie SCHOOLFIELD’s Battery of four little William Guns served by 25 as gallant boys as ever lived;- but Col Carter’s men being compelled to give way on the right compelled the withdrawal of our line to another position more defensible where we could check the advance of the Enemy until our trains could move out of the way. A heavy force of the Enemy’s cavalry upon our left flank also rendered a change of position necessary.

Great numbers of the men straggled to the rear, afflicted with all the “ills that flesh is heir to”-and a great deal more than its honest inheritance. We could muster about 1600 men, one fourth of whom or 400 were horse holders, leaving 1200 for action, not more than 800 or 1000 of whom could at any time be brought into battle. We had assurances that we were fighting from 3000 to 5000 mounted men.

From our position near Rheatown, we withdrew about 11/2 or 2 miles to a commanding eminence called Pugh’s Hill – where we fought another engagement we will call by that name. The third time we have delivered battle today – and this is Sunday. Nobody knew it. It’s sweet & once peaceful features were so disfigured in blood, and its heavenly rest & quiet was broken with the roar of cannon & musketry. Alas! how changed!

It was a beautiful & pleasant day, as well I remember: though we had no time to make observations on the weather. Every soul. With all its energies was bent on blood & battle, & saving ourselves, our artillery & transpiration from the enemy. Our position at Pugh’s Hill was a good one, commanding all approached on the centre but liable to be flanked on the right: and this flanking way off fighting is peculiarly in favor with the Yankees. Our dismounted cavalry—withdrew from their former position to this new one in splendid style, and before the Enemy made their appearance, we had our dispositions made to meet them. Genl. Jackson was cut off from us & it was difficult & dangerous to communicate with him at all.

In this engagement the artillery was well handled upon both sides-one of their shells killing and wounding several of our artillerists & artillery horses; and our fire driving back in confusion both their cavalry & Infantry. After quite a severe engagement, in which bombshells & Minnie balls played quite a serious part, Col Giltner comdg. (the Genl. was sick ) ordered the men to fall back to their horses, which were held in the rear of the position.

The enemy pressed so closely on the rear that the “double quick” movement became the popular one, which very soon ended in a disgraceful stampede – one of the most fearful things I ever witnessed. Hundreds & hundreds of men & horses came rushing past, and no effort of officers could stay the impetuous tide. Officer & men of every corps & company, all mingled & crowded together came a headlong speed down the road, through the fields, over fences, across hills & everywhere. Horses riderless and riders horseless all came in the swelling, seething tornado of human flesh and human fear.

At one time I gave up all for lost – and with Capt. Stanton & Capt. Jenkins made arrangement to save ourselves from capture, if possible, or being ridden down by the tornado of stampeders. The Gen’l, all his officer of the line, & staff officers used every exertion in human power to stop the men, but in vain. The horse holders ran away & left our men to their fate who were on foot. Giltner’s fine regiment was in danger of being sacrificed.

The Enemy were pressing closely upon them in superior numbers & many of their horses had been run off by the stampeders. I suppose there were 500 men rushing headlong towards the rear perfectly panic stricken & demoralized. I am satisfied that if the Yankees had charged our brigade with 200 good cavalry they would have routed it, & almost destroyed it, & taken artillery & all. But fortunately they did not have the pluck or the sagacity to take advantage of our disorganized state, & so by luck we were saved. They did endeavor a charge upon our dismounted men as they were falling back to their horses, but a volley sent them charging back.

Col Giltner’s reg’t being on the extreme right, & furthest away from the horses, experienced the greatest difficulty in getting out, & indeed three of his Captains and 40 or 50 of his men did not succeed in getting to their horses at all, but were cut off from the Enemy, & those not captured were dispersed in the woods. The Col. ordered his horse holder to stand by their charge until his men came up, or the Yankees captured them. He would not leave his men on foot to be rode down or captured by the enemy.

Jim Schoolfield’s battery unlimbered on the roadside & sent a broadside into the Yankee column which checked their advance, & saved many a brave, footsore fellow from capture. The battery & its gallant boys deserve immortal honor. At intervals of every half mile guards were placed to stop all men going to the front, & with drawn pistols threatened to shoot any man who dared to pass. By this means the pace of the fugitives was reduced to a moderate travelling gate, from the ‘240’ style at which they had started, & in this way we pursued our march on through Leesburg to Jonesboro. I came forward to Leesburg to find my horse, that had gotten away, and overtook Arthur leading him just at Leesburg. Since yesterday our men & horses have gone without food or rest night & day & fought four times.

Our losses in this last fight a Pugh’s hill were more serious than at any time today. Giltner alone lost about 50 killed, wounded & missing out of his reg’t – most of whom it is hoped will come up. Three of his captains … were lost. The loss of the Enemy must have been severe, as our men fired deliberately, & sometimes at 50 paces. We learned from a prisoner that they lost 60 this morning at Henderson’s mill. They must have lost more [of] both at Rheatown & Pugh’s Hill. So, without food or rest, we marched 35 miles and fought four times since yesterday morning. I never was so exhausted …
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant

Blue Springs Church and Cemetery
The amputated limbs of the wounded and some of the dead from the Battle of Blue Springs of 10 October 1863 are said to be buried in a mass grave in this cemetery.

14 OCTOBER 1863: Skirmish at Blountville
Confederate forces evacuate Zollicoffer [Bluff City]
The enemy advanced & endeavored to force our position at Blountville, but did not succeed, & turned our right flank, (as usual.)
The movements of the enemy forced Gen’l. Williams to concentrate his forces at Zollicoffer & fall back to Abingdon [VA]. It was supposed the Enemy would gain Bristol before us, The cars at Zollicoffer were loaded with store[s], sick, & wounded, & hastened past Bristol, to prevent capture. The Gen’l & all the troops evacuated Zollicoffer about 10 P. M.
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant, October 14, 1863.

Within days, Williams and his men have retired to Virginia.

Burnside’s troops return by cars to Knoxville on 15 October 1863.

“Battle of Rheatown, Sometimes called the Rheatown Races,” 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, Carter’s Company B, accessed 23 October 2021,

“Battle of Rheatown,” War of the Rebellion, Serial 051, Chapter XLII, The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021,

“Blue Springs,” Battles of the Civil War, War of the Rebellion, The Ohio University, August 11-October 19, 1863, accessed 13 October 2021,

“Blue Springs (October 10, 1863), “ East Tennessee Campaign (September-October 1863), Legends of America, accessed 13 October 2021,

A Confederate staff officer’s account of the Skirmish at Rheatown:

“East Tennessee Campaign,” Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook, Tennessee State Library and Archives, accessed 10 February 2021,

“East Tennessee Campaign,” War of the Rebellion, Serial 051, Chapter XLII,  The Ohio State University, accessed 20 February 2021,

Battle of Blountville: Not just a four-hour romp

In August 1863, USA Gen. Ambrose Burnside organizes his 15,000 troops in Kentucky and marches into Northeast Tennessee. On 3 September 1863, with most of the Confederate troops absent defending Chattanooga, Burnside easily occupies Knoxville, and is received by cheers from the city’s Unionist civilians. Confederate forces have successfully controlled Northeast Tennessee since 26 July 1861.

Major General Ambrose Burnside USA

Protecting the Railroad
The railroad running through Northeast Tennessee—the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad—is the chief means of communication, travel, and shipment of supplies. The bridges, telegraph lines, and tracks of the ET&VA have been in possession of the Confederate forces since July 1861—except for a short period in November 1861 when gangs of Unionists burned two of the railroad bridges on the ET&VA.

Col. John W. Foster USA

Soon after his arrival in Northeast Tennessee in September 1863, Gen. Burnside maps out an aggressive campaign to gain control of the ET&VA railroad. Hoping to also rid the area of Rebels, Burnside sends Union troops to push through to the Virginia border, running off the Southern military along the way. This is the initial step in the Union attempt to force CSA Gen. Samuel Jones and his command to leave Northeast Tennessee.

In mid-September, USA Col. John W. Foster marches his force toward the town of Zollicoffer (now Bluff City) in Northeast Tennessee to engage the troops stationed there under CSA Col. James E. Carter. These troops skirmish for several days along [ET&VA] Railroad between Carter’s Depot [now the town of Watauga] and Zollicoffer [present-day Bluff City]—vying for control of the railroad.

September 20, 1863
Confederate Repulse of Union demonstration in force near Zollicoffer
[now Bluff City]
ZOLLICOFFER, September 20.
The enemy made a demonstration in force on us here to-day, and were repulsed. My cavalry followed them to Blountville, 6 miles from here. Their force engaged to-day are believed to have been not less than 2,000, all mounted, and six pieces of artillery. Five other regiments are reported between Jonesborough and Watauga Bridge, but they had not engaged my force at the latter place late this afternoon.
Zollicoffer is a station on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, 11 miles from Bristol. Jonesborough is 32 miles from Bristol. The distance from Bristol to Knoxville is 130 miles.

21 September 1863
On 21 September 1863 near Shipley’s Ferry crossing on the Watauga River, Union forces receive reinforcements and turn north toward the town of Blountville in Sullivan County.

Unlike most counties in Northeast Tennessee, in June 1861 Sullivan County vote strongly for separation from the Union—1,586 voting for and 627 against. Many call it ‘The Little Confederacy.’ With most of its residents in and around the county seat, Blountville benefits from a major transportation route and a small but educated group of merchants and professionals.

22 September 1863: Battle of Blountville
On the morning of 22 September CSA Col. James E. Carter and his 1st Tennessee Cavalry withdraw from their position on the Watauga River and occupy Blountville.

Battle of Blountville: Confederate Position
[The marker stands] in the former schoolyard of the Masonic Female Institute, where Confederate troops stood as they defended Blountville on September 22, 1863. Col. James E. Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry withdrew that morning of 1863 from the Watauga River to positions … that had already been prepared to block the Union Col. John W. Foster’s cavalry brigade after it crossed the river. Foster took up a position on Cemetery Hill on the western end of town early in the afternoon, and a destructive artillery duel ensued. After four hours of fighting and shelling, the Confederates withdrew to Carter’s Depot on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad a few miles east of here as Federals charged through the town near dusk.
Carter lost a cannon and about fifty men captured in battle. The next day, he evacuated the depot, leaving it in Foster’s hands.
White Side Lodge No. 13 constructed the Masonic Female Institute in 1855 “to promote female education.” Jefferson Academy, the boys’ school, which stood near Cemetery Hill, contributed funds for the construction of the girls’ school. The academy was closed about 1900, and the girls’ school then became the Masonic Institute for both girls and boys until 1919.
Blountville, looking east from near the Union position, with the Masonic Female Institute at upper right, ca. 1900 – Courtesy Sullivan Co. Archives
Masonic Female Institute, 1907 – Courtesy Hunt Library
Marker is on Franklin Drive, 0.1 miles east of Tennessee Route 394, Blountville TN 37617.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

USA Col. John W. Foster and his 2500 men occupy the south bank of the Watauga River; he leads his cavalry brigade across the river at 9 a.m. After a short fight he drives the outnumbered Rebel pickets in on the main Confederate body and sets up his artillery on Cemetery Hill on the west side of town.

Engagement at and burning of Blountville [artillery duel]
BLOUNTSVILLE, TENN., September 22, 1863.
GEN.: We met the enemy at Hall’s Ford, on the Watauga, this morning at 9 o’clock, where our passage over both rivers was disputed by a heavy picket force of cavalry. After considerable skirmishing, the enemy was driven back and near to town, where we found the enemy posted in a chosen position with four pieces of artillery.
It was with difficulty that we could dislodge them after four hours’ fighting. I at last effected it by a charge of the Sixty-fifth Indiana Mounted Infantry, Fifth Indiana Cavalry, and Eighth Tennessee Cavalry, which was made just before dark. Our loss is not heavy, about 6 killed and 14 wounded, mostly of the Sixty-fifth Indiana Volunteers. We captured about 50 prisoners and 1 piece of artillery.
The shells of the enemy set fire to the town, and a great portion of it was consumed. Lieut. Miller, of my staff, will communicate all further desired information of my position and the enemy’s movements, and what is deemed necessary by me.
Very respectfully,

Battle of Blountville: Federal Guns on Cemetery Hill
This is where Union forces stood as they attacked Blountville on September 22, 1863, during a campaign to control the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. On the day of the attack, the Confederates occupied Blountville while the Federal forces held the south bank of the Watauga River.
Union Colonel John W. Foster led his cavalry brigade across the river at 9 A.M., drove off pickets from Confederate Col. James E. Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry, and then occupied Cemetery Hill. Foster shelled Carter’s positions in Blountville … then ordered a charge about sundown that pushed Carter’s regiment from the town.
Foster reported that he suffered six killed and fourteen wounded. The next day, he occupied Carter’s Depot as the Confederates withdrew.
The cemetery here was created before 1824 on land that later belonged to the adjacent Blountville Presbyterian Church. Although churches typically had their own burying grounds, the local Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist churches, which stood near here, all shared this cemetery.
Blountville from Cemetery Hill — Copyright Anita B. Long (2002)
Blountville Presbyterian Church, which burned during the war. It was rebuilt later (shown with a red roof in the painting). Photograph ca. 1900 Courtesy Sullivan Co. Archives
The marker is located in Blountville Cemetery, Blountville TN 37617V
[lower right]
Battle of Blountville Heritage Trial.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

Col. Foster attacks at noon, continuously shelling the town. The two sides fight an artillery duel for four hours. Col. James E. Carter and his men stand defiantly in Foster’s way.

Battle of Blountville: “…the best portion of the town was destroyed”
This is the Sullivan County Courthouse. Its interior was burned during the Union attack on Blountville on September 22, 1863, as Confederate and Federal forces vied for control of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, located a few miles east of here. Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside needed the railroad for a supply line to Knoxville; the Confederates wanted it for a supply line to Virginia. After several days of skirmishing at Blountville and along the railroad at Carter’s Depot and Zollicoffer, the Confederates occupied Blountville while Federal forces held the south bank of the Watauga River.
Union Col. John W. Foster led his cavalry brigade across the river at 9 A.M. on September 22. Confederate Col. James E. Carter’s 1st Tennessee Cavalry defended Blountville. For four hours in the afternoon, as Foster occupied Cemetery Hill, the two sides fought an artillery duel until Foster ordered a charge that drove Carter’s men out of town.
During the fight, exploding shells set fire to the courthouse and other buildings. Foster reported that “the shells of the enemy set fire to the town, and a great portion of it was consumed.” Mrs. Walter E. Allen, however, later wrote that “a shell from the Federal guns entered the courthouse, setting it on fire, and soon all the best portion of the town was destroyed.”
Sullivan County Courthouse, constructed 1854, ca. 1900 photo Courtesy Hunt Library
Sullivan County commissioners, ca. 1900 Courtesy Hunt Library
Marker is at or near this postal address: 3425 Tennessee 126, Blountville TN 37617.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

Sullivan County Court House 
The Court House in Blountville is gutted by a fire that breaks out during the shelling. [It is rebuilt in 1866.] Several other dwellings and buildings are destroyed during the Battle of Blountville. Most reports state that Union shells struck the courthouse, burning its interior contents completely and leaving only the brick exterior walls intact.

Heavy cannonading this evening towards Blountville indicate the progress of the battle. The smoke ascending from the Cannon plainly visible at Squire Rhea’s. Engagement ceased about 6 P. M.
About 7 P. M. some dozen horsemen came by flying from the Yankees, reported that we were “cut to pieces” at Blountville,—town burnt up, most of our men captured, &c. &c. &c. Didn’t believe enough of it to prevent me from sleeping soundly …
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant

The Cannonball House: Narrowly Missed Destruction
[This marker stands] in front of the Miller-Haynes house, known as the Cannonball House because of structural damage it sustained from Union cannon fire during the Battle of Blountville on September 22, 1863. During the artillery exchanges, Confederate forces were largely behind and east of the house, while Col. John W. Foster’s Union forces were positioned west of here at Blountville Cemetery. Several cannonballs struck the house’s western side.
It was fortunate that artillery fire did not destroy the house completely. Kentucky Confederate Edward O. Guerrant wrote in his diary on September 25: “Twelve dwellings, the Court House, Jail & both hotels were burned by the enemy’s shells. About the half (& better half) of the little town was destroyed.” Foster, in contrast, reported on the day of the battle that “the shells of the enemy set fire to the town, and a great portion of it was consumed.”
In 1849, Elbert S. Miller had purchased the house and lot from J. Irwin’s heirs; Miller later sold the home to Matthew T. Haynes, who lived there during the Civil War with his wife Kate Snapp Haynes and other members of the Snapp family. Haynes held the Confederate office of state receiver and was responsible for acquiring the confiscated property of Union sympathizers. Haynes’s brother, Landon Carter Haynes, was one of the region’s most vocal Confederates and represented Tennessee at the Confederate Senate in Richmond.
These photographs show shell damage to exterior clapboard in the rear of the house, now protected by plexiglass, and to an interior door.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

The Cannonball House with its marker in the foreground.
During the Battle of Blountville, this house stood between the lines as fighting swirled around it, but it survived.

Mr. Wm James of Blountville came by with his family & plunder this evening – all in one little two horse wagon. His house was burned & he saved only his wife & children from the flames. Enough for happiness if he be strong and faithful. Twelve dwellings, the Court House, Jail & both hotels were burned by the enemy’s shells. About the half (& better half) of the little town was destroyed. Mr. James says we had about 1000 troops there & the Enemy 5000 (five to one,) but that the best of the fight was with us. It was principally an artillery duel. After fighting for several hours & until it was almost night, Col. Carter’s (comd’g) ammunition was exhausted & he withdrew in good order.
~ Diary of Edward O. Guerrant,
September 22, 1863

Old Deery Inn: Refuge from the Storm
In September 1863, Confederate Gen. Samuel Jones’s command and Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s forces contested control of the [Virginia and Tennessee] East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad a few miles east. On September 22, Union Col. John W. Foster’s brigade engaged the forces of Confederate Col. James E. Carter at Blountville.
When the firing began, the women and children gathered the sick and elderly and sought refuge in the cellars of the most solid buildings; the St. John residence and the Old Deery Inn.
“In the thick of the fight and more dangerously exposed than the soldiers of either side were the fleeing women,” historian Oliver Taylor wrote in 1909. “In the confusion of such a hasty departure distracted mothers became separated from their children; cavalrymen dashed across their path, while bullets and bombs whistled above them. They went through Brown’s meadow and finally found a safe retreat beyond the hills.” Exploding shells set much of the town on fire.
William Deery constructed this trading post and tavern, later known as the Old Derry Inn, early in the 1800s. As Deery prospered, he added to the building, including a three-story hewn stone structure in the rear. After his death about 1845, his widow lived here until the Cate family purchased it after the Civil War.
Although Deery’s children had left Sullivan County years before, they did not escape the war’s effects. Eldest daughter Martha married Col. William Churchwell, who died at Cumberland Gap in 1862. Seraphina, the youngest daughter, married Col. Randal McGavock, a colonel in the 10th Tennessee Infantry Regiment (CSA) who was killed at the Battle of Raymond.
Old Deery Inn, 1927 — Courtesy Hunt Library
The dining room in the stone section of the inn where town residents took refuge during the Battle of Blountville.
(lower right)
Battle of Blountville / Heritage Trail map.
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.

Present-day Old Deery Inn in Blountville, Northeast Tennessee
Many women and children who lived in the nearby fled to the historic Deery Inn for safety during the Battle of Blountville.

Major-General Burnside’s situation report to President Abraham Lincoln
CARTER’S STATION, TENN., September 23, 1863.
His Excellency A. LINCOLN, President United States:
Your dispatch of the 21st is received, and the order shall be obeyed at once. Every available man shall be concentrated at the point you direct, and with as little delay as possible. We hold this road effectually to this point, and have driven the enemy within a few miles of Virginia and probably into Virginia. I am now waiting for reports from the front so that I can definitely report to you the position of our advance.
One of our cavalry brigades had a sharp fight yesterday at Blountville, in which the enemy were beaten and dispersed. I will telegraph the particulars this evening or to-morrow. The main body of the troops are now moving in the direction your order indicates. The bridge at this place is burned, and I suppose the one over the Holston at Union Station [Zollicoffer] is also burned. That is the extreme point that I was ordered by Gen. Halleck to hold.
I leave for Knoxville very soon, and will try to telegraph you from there early tomorrow morning. Nearly 40 miles of the distance has to be made on horseback, owing to the burning of some small bridges between Greeneville and Jonesborough, which I hope to have repaired very soon. I shall leave force enough in this neighborhood to, in all probability, hold this section until the citizens can be armed. The entire country is Union up to the line of the Watauga River. Sevier County is entirely rebellious. …
Our cavalry, under Gen. [James M.] Shackelford, has been continually in contact with the enemy, driving them all the time. Col. Carter’s brigade has been moving along line of railroad, and Col. Foster has been on the flank. He whipped the enemy very handsomely, both at Blountville and Bristol. We have thus far captured but four pieces of artillery and but few prisoners. I hope direct telegraph communication will be opened with you to-morrow.
A. E. BURNSIDE, Maj.-Gen., Comdg.

The accounting
After delaying the Union advance for more than four hours, Col. Carter and his Confederates withdraw to Carter’s Depot on the ET&VA Railroad, a few miles away. Col. Foster loses 27 Union soldiers during the battle. Carter suffers 165 casualties, fifty of his men are taken prisoner, and he loses one artillery piece. The next day, he evacuates the depot, leaving it in Foster’s hands. Though it is considered a minor battle in the overall history of the American Civil War, the battle left a permanent mark on the town and its people.

24 September 1863
Union troops drag out the occupation of Blountville for two days. On 24 September 1863, Union forces move on toward Zollicoffer and the reinforced Confederates who await them. The Confederates attack the advancing Union troops from Hamilton Hill. After several hours of fighting, the Yankees are driven back to Blountville. After a few hours, they head out through Carter’s Depot on their way back to Knoxville.

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“Battle of Blountville: Federal Guns on Cemetery Hill,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 1 October 2021,

“Battle of Blountville: …the best portion of the town was destroyed,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 1 October 2021,

“The Cannonball House: Narrowly Missed Destruction,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 10 October 2021,

“Old Deery Inn: Refuge from the Storm,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 10 October 2021,

“Old Deery Inn,” The Historical Marker Database, Bite-size Bits of Local, National, and Global History, accessed 10 October 2021,

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