A refresher mini-course on The Battle of Campbell’s Station leading up to Nov. 19 ‘160’ commemoration

Bill Rhodes, vice chair of Farragut Museum Committee, gives a thumbnail sketch of The Battle of Campbell’s Station from Nov. 16, 1863 — with a special commemoration just days away that is open to the public free of charge.

“In observance of the 160th Anniversary of this battle, the Farragut Museum will honor this important event in our Town’s history as well as its participants,” Rhodes stated in a press release about the event, starting at 2 p.m, Sunday, Nov. 19, in Farragut Community Center. “It will feature a video presentation on the course and significance of the battle, pictorial displays and a flag ceremony honoring the now reunited Northern and Southern states.”

The Battle of Campbell’s Station

On Nov. 16, 1863, thousands of Union and Confederate troops met in what is now known as the Town of Farragut.

The troops engaged at the Battle of Campbell’s Station were led by two of the more famous generals of the Civil War, Ambrose Burnside for the Union troops and James Longstreet for the Confederacy. An 1847 graduate of West Point, Burnside was a friend of Abraham Lincoln from pre-Civil War days. By the summer of 1863, he was in command of the Union Army of the Ohio, then based in Kentucky.

Following the Confederate evacuation of Knoxville in July 1863, Burnside moved his men to Knoxville in August to be greeted by throngs of happy East Tennesseans. President Lincoln had been urged many times to send U.S. troops to loyalist-dominated East Tennessee since the beginning of the Civil War.

Burnside’s successful delaying action against the advancing Confederates at The Battle of Campbell’s Station enabled completion of the Knoxville fortifications in time to repulse the Confederate attacks in late November and save the city for the Union. Post-war, Burnside was a senator and three-time governor of Rhode Island.

The Confederates at the Battle of Campbell’s Station were commanded by Gen. James Longstreet, an 1842 West Point graduate regarded throughout history as Robert E. Lee’s right-hand man,

Although he is usually associated with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, Longsteet’s corps was on loan to the Confederate Army of Tennessee then besieging Chattanooga.

They were returning to Virginia when they were tasked with retaking Knoxville. As they trekked through East Tennessee, they engaged the Confederates at Philadelphia (Loudon County) and Lenoir City before marching on Campbell’s Station. His nearly 12,000 troops met Burnside’s 6,000 men on Nov. 16, 1863.

Repeated Confederate attacks were halted or slowed until Burnside retired to Knoxville in the late afternoon. Taking time to reorganize for the pursuit of Burnside, Longstreet’s advance was further slowed by many days of rain and snow.

This delay proved fatal to Longstreet’s attack on Fort Sanders and other Knoxville fortifications.