As Civil War campaigns went, the campaign in eastern Tennessee during the fall of 1863 was something of a sideshow, but an important sideshow with strategic implications for both sides. Union control of Knoxville, Tennessee, interdicted the direct rail link between Virginia and Chattanooga; the Confederate objective was to regain control. This would not only reopen this important rail line, but would regain control of eastern Tennessee and the divided sympathies of eastern Tennesseans. Moreover, it might be used as a springboard for another stab into Kentucky. And while both sides’ objectives were real enough, the campaign did not help the reputation of either side’s commander. Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s reputation and subsequent assignments were not enhanced by his role (he was succored from besiegement in Knoxville by Brigadier General Sherman’s relief force); Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s lack of success led him to rejoin General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia from which he had been detached to Tennessee in the first place. To the local citizenry as well as to those engaged, of course, the campaign was something much more, and to those interested in the Civil War, it is an interesting campaign in its own right – a study in maneuver, command, and rescue, and providing important insight to the generalship of Generals Burnside and Longstreet.
In the first of three presentations hosted by the Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table on the campaigns of eastern Tennessee, Mr. James Ogden will describe the origin of the idea of a move from Confederate General Braxton Bragg's lines around Chattanooga toward Knoxville, what General Bragg was thinking, his first two initiations of the effort, the reassignment of the concept to General Longstreet, his mindset, the initiation of his move, and his logistical troubles. Mr. Ogden will take General Longstreet to Sweetwater and his preparation to then move on Loudon. The action will be picked up at the Round Table’s March meeting by another speaker, and the series will be rounded out in September by a third speaker.
Mr. Ogden is Chief Historian of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga Nation Military Park. He grew up in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, an area steeped in Colonial history, but was drawn by family history to the Civil War. He went to work for the National Park Service in 1982 as a law enforcement ranger at Russell Cave National Monument, near Bridgeport, Alabama (administered by Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park). He has worked for the National Park Service ever since, with duties ranging from enforcing laws against robbers who steal relics from the hallowed battlegrounds, to being a staff resource — someone who answers more in-depth inquiries related to the park and its history — to leading tours of the battlefield.