Because of its large loyalist population, the mountainous area of East Tennessee had long been an objective for the Federal armies. In mid-August, 1863, Major General Ambrose Burnside began an advance from Kentucky toward Knoxville, East Tennessee's most important city. His opponent was Confederate Major General Simon Buckner, who garrisoned East Tennessee with a few scattered units. When the simultaneous advance by the Federal Army of the Cumberland toward Chattanooga threatened General Bragg's army, Buckner's small force was consolidated and sent to its aid. The Confe-drate withdrawal permitted Burnside to enter Knoxville on September 2.
By taking Knoxville, Burnside severed the direct rail route between Bragg's army at Chattanooga, and Virginia. Thereafter, the Federals used Knoxville as a base from which to expand their control into all parts of East Tennessee. Most significantly, they forced the surrender of the 2,500-man Confederate garrison at Cumberland Gap on September 9. By the end of the month, Burn-side's command had grown to two army corps, the IX and XXIII, and had advanced as far as Jonesboro and Loudon, Tennessee.
Following the fiasco at Wauhatchie in late October, on November 4 Bragg permitted James Longstreet to leave the siege lines at Chattanooga and take two divisions northward to deal with Burnside. In the face of Longstreet's advance, Burnside fell back gradually until he entered the defenses of Knoxville on November 18. Unable to mount a formal siege because of inadequate numbers, Longstreet resolved to carry the city by direct assault. Waiting more than a week for reinforcements from Bragg, he finally attacked a salient knowm as Fort Sanders on November 29. The result was a complete and bloody repulse, with the Confederate loss of 813 men far exceeding the Federal total of 100.
By this time Bragg had been defeated at Missionary Ridge, and large Federal reinforcements under General Sherman were en route to relieve Burnside. Before they could arrive, Longstreet on December 4 withdrew eastward1 into the mountains and went into winter quarters. There was no significant--Federal pur- — suit, and Longstreet's continued presence in the area caused the Federals to garrison East Tennessee heavily until the following spring.
©Before Federal reinforcements can arrive Longstreet withdraws eastward to winter quarters
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