Federal calvary under Gen. S.D. Sturgis established a line just
east of Mossy Creek. At 9:00AM, Confederate Gen. W.T. Martin assembled 2000
dismounted calvary and eight cannons at Talbott’s Railroad Station, three
miles east. They advanced along the railroad driving the Federal outposts.
After seven hours of severe fighting, Sturgis’ Calvary, with seven cannons
and reinforcements by an infantry brigade from 23rd Corps repulsed the
Confederates. By 4:00PM the fight ended near where it began. It is estimated
that the U.S. loss was 109 while the Confederates loss was 400.
Federal calvary under Gen. S.D. Sturgis established a line just
On January 28, 1864, as Union Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis’s cavalry pursued Confederate cavalry along the road leading to Cowan’s Ferry on the French Broad River, they suddenly encountered strong opposition here at Blant’s Hill. Earlier, Confederate Col. George G. Dibrell’s 8th Tennessee Cavalry had dismounted here to occupy the heavily timbered hill and construct breastworks and rifle pits.
Although outnumbered, the stubborn Confederate resistance behind formidable defenses kept at bay the leading Union forces under Col. Frank L. Wolford and Col. Oscar H. LaGrange. The rifle fire was so intense that one participant described the scene as “flying bullets so thick that their passage through the air sounded like a swarm of bees.”
Unable to advance at Blant’s Hill and with Confederate Gen. Bushrod R. Johnson’s infantry crossing the river behind him, Sturgis broke off the fight and withdrew his forces forty miles toward Maryville to obtain food for his men and horses. This was the last attempt he would make to drive Gen. James Longstreet’s army from East Tennessee. From then on, Confederate soldiers called the place “Dibrell’s Hill.” The Union loss was estimated at 300 with Confederate losses reported as minimal.
“The enemy, advised of the approach of infantry, made his final charge and retired south towards Marysville. In his last effort one of his most reckless troopers rode in upon head-quarters, but Colonel Fairfax put spurs into his horse, dashed up against him, had his pistol at his head and called ‘surrender’ before the man could level his gun. The trooper was agreeably surprised to find it no worse. The enemy’s move to Maryville left us in possession of the foraging grounds.” ~ Gen. James Longstreet
Two days after Union Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis’s cavalry divisions occupied Dandridge on January 14, 1864, he ordered his division commanders to reconnoiter and secure the countryside at Long Creek on Chucky Road and here at Kimbrough’s Crossroads. Meanwhile, Confederate Gen. James Longstreet likewise had ordered cavalry and infantry divisions to reconnoiter toward the Federals.
As Col. Israel Garrard, 7th Ohio Cavalry, led his division down the road in front of you past this point at Ebenezer Church, he suddenly encountered Confederate Gen. Micah Jenkins’s infantry division on the Morristown Road at Kimbrough’s Crossroads. After several minutes of intense fighting, the Federals counterattacked, but Confederate artillery halted the advance. When additional Confederate infantry reinforced Jenkins, Sturgis ordered Garrard to fall back to Dandridge. The next day, January 17, the same units fought another action there at the town.
Confederate Pvt. Francis M. Kelley, 59th Alabama Infantry, was shot early in the fight and died a short time later. His brother-in-law Lieutenant William McGrady wrote home to Kelley’s wife and told her of his death: “Caroline I can’t describe my feeling when I found Marion lying cold. Weep not after him for I trust he is a great bit better off than we are. He is done with this troublesome world.” Kelley is buried in the Ebenezer Church cemetery.
“I received a dispatch from Colonel Garrard stating that he had come in contact with a large force of the enemy, and was being driven back. I immediately commenced forming my command in order to receive the enemy and cover the retreat of Colonel Garrard.” — Col. Archibald P. Campbell
This article is third in a series of Tennessee Civil War Trails: Jefferson County. The first article can be found here: Battle of Hay’s Ferry. The second article can be found here: Mossy Creek Engagement.
Downtown Dandridge was a chaotic place on January 17, 1864, as it appeared that a full-scale battle was about to develop. Union Gen. John G. Parke, commanding 26,000 soldiers and 34 artillery pieces here, defended the town against Confederate Gen. James Longstreet’s 20,000 men and 20 guns, advancing from the east.
Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan’s cavalrymen crossed the French Broad River on a pontoon bridge while Col. Moore’s Ohio infantry had been sent east of town to join Gen. Frank Wolford’s cavalry. Capt. Eli Lilly’s artillery was placed on a Dandridge hill to protect Federal positions.
Longstreet’s main force approached cautiously on three converging roads, with Gen. Micah Jenkins’s sharpshooters in the lead but facing increasing resistance. As Gen. John T. Morgan’s and Col. Thomas Harrison’s cavalry covered the flanks, the main force of infantry and artillery under Gen. William T. Martin moved down Chucky Road to within two miles of Dandridge.
Late in the day, in the parlor of the Bradford-Hynds House to your right, Parke and his commanders met to confer. They assumed that Longstreet had been reinforced, and decided against a major battle. With record cold temperatures and signs of impending precipitation, the generals agreed to withdraw overnight to Strawberry Plains near Knoxville.
Discovering the Union retreat the next morning, Longstreet and his general officers gathered in this same house to plan a pursuit. There they found a whisky flask that Gen. Gordon Granger left behind and toasted the Union officer for having forgotten it.
This article is the second in the series of Tennessee Civil War Trails: Jefferson County. The first article can be found here: Battle of Hay’s Ferry.
Martin struck late in the morning, bending but not breaking the Union line because of the effectiveness of Capt. Eli Lilly’s 18th Indiana Artillery, which was positioned a few yards from here across the road.
Lilly, who considered this the battery’s most glorious and successful action, soon faced hard times. A few months later, he transferred to a cavalry unit that surrendered to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest in Middle Tennessee. He remained a prisoner for the balance of the war. After the war, however, Lilly’s fortunes improved: in 1876, his small drug store in Indianapolis began to evolve into the Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company.
Another Union officer, Capt. Elbert J. Cannon, 1st Tennessee Cavalry, led a daring saber charge against the 11th Tennessee Cavalry (CSA). Some of the Confederates had dismounted and fired their carbines from kneeling positions. Both Cannon and his horse were struck and they fell to the ground as the charge thundered by into the woods. Two Southern soldiers found him, barely alive, and left him to be retrieved by his own men. They also informed his mother, who lived near the Confederate camp. She was escorted through the lines and remained at her son’s side until he died on January 1, 1864. Cannon is buried a few yards west of here in Branner Cemetery.
David “Davy” Crockett (1786-1836) hunter, scout, soldier, humorist, and Congressman was one of the most famous frontiersmen in United States history. In 1793 at age seven he moved into Jefferson County, Tennessee, with his family where he lived until 1812.
On Thursday, August 14, 1806 David married Polly Finley at the Finley home in Finley’s Gap of Bays Mountain in Jefferson County two days after taking out the above marriage bond. David met Polly at a “reaping” party in the spring of 1806 and after he determined to marry her he contracted with a son of his friend Quaker John Cannaday to work six months for a horse with which to begin supporting his would-be family. He had worked for just over three months when he decided he could wait no longer. He traded in his first rifle, which he called “a capital one” in his autobiography of 1833, with the work completed in early August so that he could be married sooner.
David and Polly lived next to the Finely’s at Finley’s Gap from the wedding until 1812 when they moved to Middle Tennessee. David developed many friends in this area which covered the Mt. Horeb, Collier’s Crossroads, and the Headwaters of Long Creek neighborhoods. The Blackburns, Rankins, Nicholsons, McCuistions, Mansfields, Bettis, Loves, Bradshaws, Corbetts, and others were neighbors and friends of David and Polly Crockett. While living at Finley’s Gap, David and Polly had two sons the elder John Wesley Crockett, would follow David to Congress.
by Joe Swann
Battle of Hay’s Ferry
Fighting for Food – December 24, 1863
In November 1863, Confederate Gen. James Longstreet led a force from Chattanooga to attack Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s army at Knoxville. The campaign failed, and in December Longstreet’s men marched east along the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad to winter quarters at Russellville, where they remained until March 1864. Numerous small engagements between Longstreet’s and Burnside’s armies occurred during the winter.