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[171]

Chapter 6: siege of Knoxville.--operations on the coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia.


We left Burnside in Knoxville, closely besieged by Longstreet.1 His Headquarters were at the pleasant brick mansion of Mr. Crozier, on Gay Street, in the central part of the town. During the dark days of the siege il his bearing toward the citizens and his soldiers — kind, generous, and humane — won for him the profound respect of all, even the most rebellious. He visited the families of Dr. Brownlow, Mr. Maynard, Colonel Baxter, Colonel Temple, and other prominent citizens who were then exiles from their homes, and gave them every comfort and encouragement in his power; and at the office of the Knoxville Whig, Brownlow's newspaper, through which that stanch Unionist had so long and effectively fulminated his scathing thunderbolts of wrath against secessionists and rebels, Burnside's orders, and other printing, was done by willing Union hands. In the lurid light of the Civil War, that long, low building, in an obscure alley, looms up into historical importance. Who shall estimate the value of the influence of that sheet, which went out daily from its walls, to the cause of the Union in East Tennessee?

Burnside's Headquarters.

Burnside's forces, as we have observed, were well intrenched, and he had. little to fear, excepting a failure of his supplies. He was cheered with hope, because of his confidence in Grant, that aid would come before they were exhausted. Longstreet, doubting Bragg's ability to cope with his new adversary, anxiously pressed forward the siege, with the mistaken idea that starvation would compel a surrender in

Knoxville Whig office.

a few days. He was diligent in closing every avenue of supply, and in [172] these efforts skirmishes frequently occurred, for sorties were made from the trenches.2 Finally, on the 25th, the day when the Nationals were carrying the Missionaries' Ridge, he threw a considerable force across the Holston, near Armstrong's (his Headquarters),3 to seize the heights, south of the river, that commanded Knoxville. Quite a severe struggle ensued, in which the Confederates were worsted. They succeeded, however, in seizing another knob, lower down, which rises about one hundred and fifty feet above the river, and so planted a battery on it that it commanded Fort Sanders, five hundred yards north of it. This advantage had just been gained, and the besiegers were huzzaing with delight,

The Holston, near Armstrong's.4

when information reached Longstreet of Bragg's defeat at Chattanooga. He well knew that columns from Grant's victorious army would soon be upon his rear, so he determined to take Knoxville by storm before aid could reach Burnside. He was now strengthened by the arrival of troops under Generals Sam. Jones, Carter, “Mudwall” Jackson, and “Cerro GordoWilliams, and he could expect no more. For thirteen days he had been wasting strength in pressing an unsuccessful siege, and from that moment he must grow weaker. Burnside was cheered by the same news that made Longstreet desponding, and he resolved to resist the besiegers to the last extremity.

Such was the situation of affairs, when, at eleven o'clock on Saturday night,

Nov. 28. 1863.
the air cold and raw, the sky black with clouds, and the darkness thick, Longstreet proceeded to attack Fort Sanders, then occupied by the Twenty-ninth Massachusetts, Seventy-ninth New York, two companies of the Second and one of the Twentieth Michigan. The fort was bastioned, and the northwest was the salient of the angle, the point seen in the engraving on the next page. In front of it the woods had been cleared over several acres, sloping gently to a ravine. From [173] thirty to eighty rods in front were rifle-pits and abatis for the shelter and use of the advanced line, should it be driven back; and between these and the fort strong wires were stretched from stump to stump, a foot above the

View from Fort Sander.5

ground, in an entangling net-work that would trip and confuse a storming party. The armament of the fort consisted of four 20-pounder Parrott guns, forming the battery of Lieutenant Benjamin, Burnside's chief of artillery; four light 12-pounders, forming Buckley's battery, and two three-inch guns.

All that was done by Longstreet on the night of the attack was to drive in the National advance, and seize and hold the rifle-pits. Just after six o'clock the next morning

Nov. 29, 1863.
he opened a furious cannonade from his batteries in advance of Armstrong's. This was answered by Roemer's battery, on College Hill, and was soon followed by a tremendous yell from the Confederates, as they rushed forward at the double-quick to storm the fort.6 These were picked men, the flower of Longstreet's army; and, in obedience to orders, one brigade pressed forward to the close assault, two brigades supporting it, while two others watched the National line, and kept up a continual fire. The tumult was awful for a few minutes, for it was composed of the yells of voices, the rattle of musketry, the thunder of cannon, and the screams of shells. The charging party moved swiftly forward to the abatis, which somewhat confused their line. The wire network was a worse obstacle, and whole companies were prostrated by it. While they were thus bewildered, the double-shotted guns of

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