The Civil War in Loudon County
|The first item I need to
explain is that there was no Loudon County at the time of the civil
war. Loudon County was not formed until 1871, six years after the
The area we now know as Loudon County was made up of Roane, Blount and Monroe counties during the time of the civil war. This area of east Tennessee consisted mostly of poor farmers. As with much of Tennessee, our area was sharply divided in their allegiance during the war. East Tennessee, including Loudon County, was mostly of very little military importance to the north or the south, except for one critical item, the railroad. The railroad that runs through Loudon County now is still basically in the same place it was at the time of the war. What made the railroad so important was that it connected the upper part of the confederacy to the lower part of the confederacy. The railroads in that day and age were the main means of communication and transportation.
From the start of the war in 1861 to the early part of 1863, very little military activity took place in the Loudon County area. There were a few small skirmishes and some small confederate camps, mostly located in the city of Loudon. One important event that did take place was a Yankee raid through the Loudon County area in early 1863. The now famous General William P. Sanders with several hundred troops left Kentucky to make a raid through east Tennessee. His first point of attack was to be the railroad bridge over the Tennessee River in Loudon. Sanders and his men arriving at the bridge and finding it too well defended by the confederates decided to head north and make a raid on the small little village of Lenoirs (Lenoir City). Arriving at Lenoirs, the Yankees found very little opposition and immediately took control of all the facilities in and around Lenoirs. The Yankees did capture much needed guns, ammunition and food supplies and then set about burning down the buildings around Lenoirs. One story goes, and it is supposed to be true, that orders were given to burn down the cotton mill. Mr. Lenoir then went to the soldiers sent to burn the mill and begin giving the secret masonic handshake. When the soldiers realized he was a brother mason, they decided not to burn down the cotton mill. After leaving Lenoirs, the Yankee soldiers proceeded northward to Knoxville. Traveling up the valley through the Martel Community into Knox County, they would stop every mile or two and tear up a section of the railroad. Eventually they reached Knoxville and staged a small raid. Then they returned to Kentucky. Later in the war, General Sanders was killed in Knoxville. The main fortifications at Knoxville known as Fort Loudon was renamed in honor of General Sanders. You may recognize the area. It's now known as Fort Sanders.
In the fall in 1863, the war began to heat up in the Loudon County area. The Yankees decided it would be very important to seize the railroad from Chattanooga to Knoxville. In September of 1863, the US 23rd Corp commanded by General Ambrose Burnside, entered Knoxville with about 15,000 Union troops. The Yankees immediately begin to take control of the area, including Sweetwater, Loudon, Kingston, Lenoirs, Knoxville, Maryville and other surrounding east Tennessee towns. At the time east Tennessee fell to the Yankees, Confederates were in control of the Chattanooga area. The Confederates being unhappy with the Yankees taking control of the upper east Tennessee area, decided to dispatch an attachment of the Confederate army to take back east Tennessee. General James Longstreet with about 12 or 13,000 Confederate troops from the Chattanooga were dispatched to retake the upper east Tennessee valley from the Yankees. This now set the stage for the heaviest military activity to take place in Loudon County during the civil war.
In the fall of 1863 Longstreet and his troops departed Chattanooga to take back East Tennessee. The first problems encountered was transportation. The rail road from Chattanooga was in a great state of disrepair and very few train cars and locomotives were available. Most of the troops were forced to make the march on foot while the train was used to transport the equipment and weaponry necessary for war. Some of the troops were able to ride the trains as far as Sweetwater. As the Confederates made their way north toward their ultimate target of Knoxville, the Union troops decided it would be prudent to withdraw their forces to the north side of the Tennessee river and cede the land south of the river to the on coming confederates. Even though lacking in proper transportation the confederates were able to move so quickly up the Tennessee valley as to be able to surprise a large contingency of Union soldiers stationed at Philadelphia. At the end of an all day battle the confederates had completely routed the union troops, capturing hundreds of prisoners and all of their supplies and equipment including many small arms weapons and a number of cannon.
(More to come...)