Saturday, January 4, 2014

November 29, 1863

November 29, 1863

---Battle of Fort Sanders, Tennessee:  This is the apex event of the Knoxville Campaign, as Longstreet finally puts his troops in position to strike at the most accessible part of the Federal fortifications.  

Federal defenses at Knoxville, Tennessee
 In spite of heavy rains, Longstreet orders the attack to proceed.  Before dawn, Gen. Lafayette McLaws pushes three brigades forward, and finds strongly fortified walls, abates, and a trench blocking their progress, and even a surplus of telegraph wire that has been strung at knee-height.  Inside the steep-walled fort are 12 cannon and 440 troops: the 79th New York Infantry Regiment.  Having been tipped off by Longstreet’s odd decision to deploy skirmishers the night before, the Federals are ready.  
A rather idealized rendering of the Battle of Fort Sanders

 As the Rebels come up, they are slowed by the obstructions.  Dealing with the wire in the murky dawn light, many Rebels are shot while trying to get free.  As they advance into the storm of rifle and cannon fire, they reach the wall, but have no way to dig footholds in the frozen earth and scale it, except by climbing up on each others’ shoulders.   

Federals throw shells and grenades down on the Rebels, along with a blistering musket fire.  In spite of the odds, three Southern regiments---the 16th Georgia, and the 13th and 17th Misissippi---manage to plant their flags on the walls briefly.  Longstreet finally calls off the attack after only 20 minutes, and as McLaws’ men withdraw, the Yankees capture 200 of them in the ditch.  Union Victory.

U.S.  13                         
C.S.  813 (200 captured, 400 wounded, and the rest killed outright)
Modern-day Reenactors fight the Battle of Fort Sanders again

On this same day, Gen. William T. Sherman and his corps leave Chattanooga on the quick march to relieve Burnside in Knoxville.

---Wisconsin artilleryman Jenkin Lloyd Jones, in bivouac outside of Chattanooga, worries about being able to write home, and of keeping warm:

Near Chattanooga, Sunday, Nov. 29. Slept very cold, or rather shivered through the night with little sleep. This morning it is still very cold. Froze quite hard last night. Harnessed the team and “snaked” some firewood, banked our tent, etc. Gathered leaves in them so we were a little better prepared for it. Tried to write home, but my fingers were so numb that I gave it up much to my dissatisfaction, as I know they are anxious for my having not written any since the battle.

---Kate Cumming, Confederate nurse in Georgia, indulges herself some political, racial, and theological reflections in her journal entry:

When Lincoln has failed to get men from his own land, he has used every means at his command to recruit in foreign countries. And, notwithstanding Lord Lyons’s punctilio about international law, thousands of men have been recruited on British soil.

They are men deluded in every possible way.

Lincoln may get men to fill his last call, and yet, if the South is only true to herself, she can never be conquered. “The battle is not always to the strong.”

I look around me sometimes, and sec so many good, intelligent men, and think what a sad thing it would be were we subjugated. I believe such a thing is a moral impossibility, and can never happen.

I firmly believe there is not a state in the Confederacy that will not be scourged by the invader, for the sins we have committed in our prosperity, forgetting the Most High, who is the giver of all good. True, the enemy have sinned as well as we, which sins they will have to answer for, if not to-day, some other. . . . and if Great Britain is base enough to keep back from giving us aid, from the motive imputed to her, her day of reckoning will surely come. I have thought that she did not give us aid because she could not consistently be an abettor of slavery. But I have given up that notion, for I know that the Britons are endowed with judgment enough to see through the mask worn by the abolitionists, and to know that we, not they, are the true friend of the negro.

Mr. Lindsay, M. P., made a speech lately in Middlesex, England, in which he says he has conversed with Dr. Livingston on the condition of the negro in Africa, and Dr. L. had told him it was not possible to conceive any thing like the degradation of the race in that country.

If people would only think, they would see, even taking Mrs. Stowe’s book for their standard, that there are no negroes on the face of the earth as happy as those who are slaves in this country. Mrs. S. drew a true picture when she drew Uncle Tom, for we have many such among us; and from all we can learn such characters are rare in the North and other countries where the negro race is. . . .

---Near Mine Run, Virginia, heavy rains are followed by freezing temperatures, as Gen. Meade shifts his forces to find a weak spot in Lee’s new line.  Gen. Warren takes most of the day to put his corps into position, and cannot find a way to make the attack, over 1,000 yards of open ground, without incurring huge losses.  French, Newton, and other generals agree.  Nevertheless, Meade orders an assault on Lee’s left flank for the morning.

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