Civil War publications sponsoring Battle of Fort Sanders
As they left the cover of the hillside, every soldier in the Confederate line could see what was being asked of him. There would be no counter marches, flanking maneuvers, or ploys. Just take the fort.
It took Gen. James Longstreet more than a week to decide a straight-on assault by approximately 3,000 of his finest would overwhelm the firepower in the fort. With an anticipated, but deemed acceptable casualty count, the task did not seem unattainable.
In reality, the truth of what would determine the outcome was hidden from view.
And that is exactly the same view Confederate re-enactors share when they participate in the 150th Anniversary of The Battle of Fort Sanders on Oct. 10 – 13, near Knoxville. The event is sponsored by the Civil War Courier, the Camp Chase Gazette and the Citizens’ Companion.
There is not a contrivance of the 21st century anywhere in sight for the Confederate attackers. This view is straight out of 1863 and one of the reasons the Battle of Fort Sanders is a unique sesquicentennial event this year.
The Battle of Fort Sanders in 1863 was filled with names that are well-known in Civil War re-enactment circles. It was James Longstreet, in his first independent command, taking on Ambrose Burnside whose reputation was sullied at the debacle called Fredericksburg.
Longstreet’s first opportunity to destroy at least part of Burnside’s army came at a small settlement known as Campbell Station.
Grant, now in charge at Chattanooga, had urged Burnside to confront Longstreet away from Knoxville, and draw him farther into East Tennessee in order to prevent his quick return to Chattanooga. Confederate forces outnumbered the Union forces by about 2 to 1, and began to overtake the Federals who were now racing to get to their defenses in Knoxville. It soon became clear that Burnside would have to turn and fight.
The re-enactment of the Battle of Campbell Station is the opening act for the re-enactment days of Saturday and Sunday, Oct.12 and 13.
The fight involves cavalry, infantry, flying artillery, and supply wagons.
It is one frantic chess move upon another where the biggest challenge for all the commanders is keeping the battle in their front.
All of this action takes place on the rolling hills of the Clapp family farm in the middle of the most beautiful season in East Tennessee.
The peaks of Clinch Mountain to the north and House Mountain to the south frame the action.
After the Campbell Station fight, troops quickly reform and prepare for the grand finale for the day, the assault on Fort Sanders. This is easily the most spectacular 20 minutes on any re-enactor’s bucket list for the Sesquicentennial. The attack on the fort is preceded by an artillery exchange. When the charge takes place, ground charges are planned to accompany the attackers on their route. The world changes for the Confederates forces when they encounter the ditch that surrounds the earthwork.
“This is the 150th anniversary re-enactment and the last one on this site,” says Smiley Clapp, “We want to finish with the most impressive event we can muster.”
The fort was built on Clapp’s property and held its first re-enactment in 2008.
The farm is located in Corryton, Tennessee just 10 miles from the Knoxville city limits.
Friday afternoon, Oct.11, will be the devoted to the commemoration of the battle with the site opened up free to the public. A ceremony with elected officials in attendance, and an appearance by descendants of General Longstreet will be supported musically by the period instruments and players of the Olde Towne Brass from Huntsville Alabama.
In addition to participating in the ceremony, Longstreet descendant Dan Patterson will participate as a private in the host Confederate Unit, the 63rd Tennessee.
The evening after Saturday’s re-enactment will feature a ball under the large event tent with accompaniment by the Olde Towne Brass. Regal Cinemas is providing a tent for presentation of Civil War movies during the evening hours, and a night-fire exhibition is planned to begin shortly after the ball.
Friday the site is open, and free to the public beginning at 1 p.m.
Admission for the weekend re-enactment is $8 for adults, free for children 6 and under and $30 for families.
-From Staff Reports