East TN during the Civil War, was a main source of basic food supplies for the Confederacy. Since many
of the farmers in our region were not slave owners, and many supported the Union flags, a lot of the
food supply may well have been available to Union Forces. But mainly, if you look at the flow of the
rivers to the south and west, and the railroad connections from Virginia to Chattanooga. A farmer’s
livelihood depended on distribution centers like Knoxville to distribute their goods. i.e green beans,
tomatoes, and corn, and beef. Slavery was not a good economic option for these farmers, located in the
narrow hilly country valleys in East TN. There were some, but not a lot. You might have found a bigger
concentration of slaves in the area of Knoxville, but mostly of the domestic servant variety.
September 10. 1863, the confederate forces stationed in Knoxville had been called to Chattanooga for a
brewing battle. It had been only 9 weeks since the battle of Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg.
This past week the country celebrated the Gettysburg Address, delivered at the same time as the Siege
of Knoxville by General Longstreet’s 17000 or so soldiers. They were wearing summer clothes, and
provisions as promised did not arrive. A major breadbasket of the South had been closed for business
for the Confederate military. From Sweetwater, northeast to Abington the railway was denied to the
Confederacy. It was like plugging a major artery of supplies.
Longstreet was ordered from Virginia, to help Gen. Bragg at Chickamauga. He was relieved after
Chickamauga, to be ordered to recapture Knoxville. He wanted to get back to Virginia away from
General Bragg whom he despised. The Union forces had almost 3 months to prepare Knoxville for the
upcoming battle. The hill we now travel called 17 th Street, was chosen as an anchor defense position.
General Longstreet was suffering from depression not only from the deaths of his children due to illness,
but, the losses his army had suffered and the hunger due to lack of supplies. About 900 casualties were
suffered in the short battle at Fort Sanders. Mostly Confederate men ordered to attack up the hill, and
then ordered to retreat back down the killing grounds of that same hill. All on both sides were later
recognized as American Veterans. You should visit the local grave yards. To learn of the cost and
sacrifice on both sides.
We have had a very warm November this year. In 1863, both sides had to deal with cold weather and
heavy rains. Poor medical relief from injuries, and vicious and brutal treatment of captured wounded,
including putting Union wounded to death with bayonets at Campbell Station.
Imagine the cold rain, heading down the Dixie Highways, pushing a wagon out of a mud hole, wearing
shoes that fell apart in the mud, being ambushed by the outnumbered Union Troops with orders to slow
you down, with hit and run delay tactics?
No matter what side you favored in the war, if you knew the troops were heading your way, you would
hide your horses and food from them.
A cold winter was on the way. BRRRR!
Longstreet wanted to get back to Virginia.