Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Campbell Station

"On the 13th of November it was ascertained that the enemy had constructed a pontoon bridge at Hutf's Ferry, near Loudon, and were crossing in force to the northern bank of the Tennessee. At the same time General Wheeler, with nearly the whole of his four brigades of cavalry, made a rapid night march and crossed the Little Tennessee with a view to cutting off Sanders's command, and occupying the heights opposite Knoxville, or as stated by Longstreet, 'failing in this to threaten the enemy at Knoxville so as to prevent his concentrating against us before we reached Knoxville.' Wheeler was foiled in this attempt and soon withdrew to the north bank of the river, which he crossed at Louisville. He rejoined Longstreet on the 17th of November, after the latter had fought the battle of Campbell's Station.

Upon learning of Longstreet's movement, General Burnside took personal command of the troops available to oppose him. The operations of our forces during the next few days had for their object to delay the advance of the enemy to enable us to get our trains into Knoxville, and to forward the defensive works at that place, where it had been determined to make a stand Longstreet advanced from Loudon in two columns. McLaws's division taking the left road, leading to Campbell's Station, and Hood's division (commanded by Jenkins), the one to the right, following the line of the railroad to Lenoir's. The latter soon came in contact with the Federal skirmishers and drove them slowly back but failed to reach Lenoir's that day. Every effort was made during the night to ascertain Burnside's movements, but his bold and vigilant rear guard succeeded in completely concealing them. By daybreak the whole force was on the road, and when the Confederates advanced they found Lenoir's deserted.

The road upon which Burnside was moving, followed by Jenkins, intersects that along which McLaws was advancing, about a mile south west of Campbell's Station. It was therefore essential to the safety of his train, if not of his entire command, that Burnside should reach the junction before McLaws. Just before daylight on the 16th of November, Hartranft's division took the advance of Burnside's column from Lenoir's and pushed forward as rapidly as the roads permitted, followed by the trains and by the other troops. McLaws, with full knowledge of the importance of seizing the intersection of the roads, was making every endeavor to get possession before the arrival of Burnside. He was opposed by a small force, but his march like Hartranft's, was impeded by the mud resulting from heavy rains. It thus became a race for the position. Hartranft won by perhaps half an hour, and turning west on the Kingston road, quickly deployed his division in such manner as to confront McLaws, and at the same time cover the London road along which our trains were moving.

During the movement from Lenoir's, Burnside's rear guard, composed of Colonel William Humphrey's brigade, had several sharp encounters with Jenkins's advance, in which Humphrey handled his forces so well as to excite the admiration of both friends and foes, always standing long enough, but never too long.

Scarcely had Hartranft's dispositions been made when McLaws appeared and attacked, but Hartrauft steadfastly held his ground until the remainder of our troops and all our trains had safely passed. The trains continued on the road to Knoxville, while the troops were formed in line of battle about half a mile beyond the junction, with Ferrero's division on the right, and White's in prolongation to the left, whereupon Hartranft withdrew from his advanced position and took his place in line on the left of White. A small cavalry force scouted the roads on each flank of the line. About noon Longstreet unsuccessfully attacked our right, and afterward our left center. Later, taking advantage of a wooded ridge to conceal the march, he attempted to turn our left flank with three brigades of Jenkins's division, but our scouts soon discovered and reported the movement. Burnside had determined to retire to a new position about two thirds of a mile to his rear, and this development but slightly hastened his withdrawal from the first line. The difficult and hazardous undertaking was successfully accomplished in the face of the enemy. All who saw it say that the troops moved with the greatest coolness, deliberation, and precision under a heavy and continuous fire.
McLaws's division promptly advanced to attack the new position, while Jenkins continued his turning movement, but the difliculties of the ground delayed him until nightfall and stopped his further progress. McLaws attacked and failed to make an impression, and at the close of the action Burnside remained in possession of his own ground until after dark, and then continued his movement to Knoxville, the head of his column appearing there about daybreak next morning November 17th. He had gained his object and therefore was fairly entitled to claim a victory."
Burnside placed his whole loss in this important affair of Campbell's Station at about 300, Jenkins reported his as 174. It is probable that the losses on both sides, including McLaws's, were about equal.
(Source: Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: Being for the Most ..., Volume 3, Part 2, edited by Robert Underwood Johnson, Clarence Clough Buel)

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