Fort Sanders, TN

[Assault on Fort Sanders- Kurz & Allison - Courtesy of Wikipedia ]

Date(s): November 29, 1863

Location: Battlefield Unavailable - Lost Integrity

Campaign(s): Longstreet's Knoxville Campaign [November-December 1863]

Battles in Campaign:


  • Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet was trying to take Knoxville, TN from Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside.

  • Longstreet decided that Fort Sanders was the only vulnerable point to penetrate the Union fortifications around the city and end the week long siege. 


  • Union: Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside

  • Confederate: Lt. Gen. James Longstreet

Principal Forces:

  • Union: Department of the Ohio

  • Confederate: Confederate Forces in East Tennessee


  • Longstreet believed a dawn attack could overwhelm Fort Sanders.

  • He assembled a three brigade storming force below the fortifications.

  • Following a brief artillery barrage on the fortís interior, the three brigades charged.

  • Union wire entanglements composed of telegraph wire stretched between tree stumps delayed the attack, but the fortís outer ditch stopped the Confederates.

  • The ditch was twelve feet wide and from four to ten feet deep with vertical sides and the fortís exterior slope was almost vertical.

  • Crossing the ditch was nearly impossible, especially under withering defensive fire from musketry and canister. 

  • Confederate officers led their men into the ditch, but, without scaling ladders, only a few emerged on the scarp side.

  • Those who made it out of the ditch and entered the fort were wounded, killed, or captured.

  • The attack only lasted twenty minutes.

  • Longstreet undertook his Knoxville expedition to divert Union troops from Chattanooga and to get away from Gen. Braxton Bragg, with whom he was engaged in a bitter feud.

  • His failure to take Fort Sanders was the decisive battle of the Knoxville Campaign.

  • The Confederate defeat combined with the loss of Chattanooga on November 25th, put much of East Tennessee under Union control.

Slide Presentation: None [Battlefield Lost Integrity]

Classification1: B


  • Union: 100

  • Confederate: 780

Results: Union Victory

Battlefield Websites:

Lodging and Restaurants: Tennessee Tourism

Recommended Resources:

1 Classification:

  • A - having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war

  • B - having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign

  • C - having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign

  • D - having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives

2 Casualties are someone killed, injured, wounded, captured or missing.

Revised 04/06/2013