Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 15, 1863 (Tuesday): Grant Steels Burnside to the Task at Hand

US Engineers Babcock at Poe at Fort Sanders In Knoxville

November 15, 1863.
     I do not know how to impress on you the necessity of holding on to East Tennessee in strong enough terms. According to the dispatches of Mr. Dana and Colonel Wilson, it would seem that you should, if pressed to do it, hold on to Knoxville and that portion of the valley which you will necessarily possess. Holding to that point, should Longstreet move his whole force across the Little Tennessee, an effort should be made to cut his pontoons on that stream, even if it sacrificed half of the cavalry of the Ohio Army. By holding on and placing Longstreet between the Little Tennessee and Knoxville, he should not be allowed to escape with an army capable of doing anything this winter. I can hardly conceive of the necessity of retreating from East Tennessee. If I did so at all it would be after losing most of the army, and then necessity would suggest the route. I will not attempt to lay out a line of retreat. Kingston, looking at the map, I thought of more importance than any one point in East Tennessee. But my attention being called more closely to it, I can see that it might be passed by, and Knoxville and the rich valley about it possessed, ignoring that place entirely. I should not think it advisable to concentrate a force near Little Tennessee to resist the crossing, if it would be in danger of capture, but I would harass and embarrass progress in every way possible, reflecting on the fact that the Army of the Ohio is not the only army to resist the onward progress of the enemy.

     U. S. GRANT,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 31, Part 2, Page 30.

Bragg had detached Longstreet to make an attack on Burnside at Knoxville.  Grant hoped to forestall that by bringing up Sherman's troops to Chattanooga and using them in an effort to take Missionary Ridge.  By doing so he hoped to have Longstreet recalled, as there was fear in Washington (and with Burnside) that he was in a precarious position.  East Tennessee was always a focal point of the Lincoln administration, and Grant understood the importance of maintaining Union forces in the region.


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