Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 22, 1863 (Sunday): Moment of Decision In Tennessee

Defenses of Knoxville

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE, Missionary Ridge, November 22, 1863.
Lieutenant-General LONGSTREET:
    GENERAL: Your dispatch of this morning and your letter of 18th induce me to send General Leadbetter to confer with you, and to express my views more in full than can well be done by telegram or letter. Nearly 11,000 re-enforcements are now moving to your assistance; but if practicable to end your work with Burnside promptly and effectively, it should be done now. I fear he has already grown much stronger than when you drove him to cover. General Jones is supposed to be pressing down to your assistance.
    As the enemy may attempt to drive you from your position by sending troops up the Tennessee or Sequatchie Valley, or even by McMinnville, you should keep yourself well guarded in those directions and well informed. Should he gain your rear between Loudon and Knoxville in too great force to be defeated, you can retire by crossing above Loudon or Concord. You should, accordingly, keep a route open in that direction.
    At your distance it is impossible for me to decide the details of your movements, but they should be such as to close up your expedition promptly. From the great strength of the enemy here you will see the importance of the return of General Cleburne's force as soon as possible. Write immediately and give me your decision as to future operations, and in future report daily.
     I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 31, Part 3, Page 736.

Bragg was faced with a force under Grant which had just received heavy reinforcements under Sherman.  Although Bragg was besieging Chattanooga and Longstreet Knoxville, the fulcrum could shift quickly and either of the two could go from being the aggressor to being cutoff.  If Longstreet was to act he would need to do so before the need arose to send all or part of his force back to Bragg.  But Longstreet did not believe the threat to Bragg or himself to be pressing, and delayed attacking. Time was on the Union side, as every day the threat to Bragg in Chattanooga, and thus the need to recall Longstreet there, was growing.

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