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were possible, took place. The former scenes were reënacted, with yells and shouts and most infernal tumult. The storming party again filled the ditch, and some, more daring than their companions, climbed the parapet and succeeded in placing three of the enemy's flags there. It was a short lived triumph. The fags were quickly torn away. The foe met with a terrible resistance. Muskets were clubbed—bayonets, sabres, and even axes were employed in the dreadful work. A more determined valor has not been displayed on either side during the war than this fight in the trenches and in front of Fort Sanders. Mortal men could endure it but a brief period. The second assault was no more fortunate than the first. The enemy's column faltered, hesitated, stopped, was hopelessly broken, and at last retired in great confusion. One company of the 20th Michigan from the right, and one company of the 29th Massachusetts from the left, advanced into the ditch and captured two hundred prisoners and two flags. General Longstreet had attempted too much. He had sent his chosen men to useless slaughter. He was told, in fire and blood, that Knoxville could not be taken. He drew off his forces from the scene of his defeat. General Burnside, with characteristic humanity, immediately after the fight, directed General Potter to send a flag of truce, offering the enemy the privilege of removing the wounded and dead from the scene of the conflict. The permission was courteously acknowledged, the slightly wounded and others wounded and captured in previous engagements were exchanged, the dead were taken away and buried, and, before night, Fort Sanders had resumed its wonted aspect. The enemy's loss in this assault 'was nearly or quite one thousand four hundred in killed, wounded and prisoners, of whom three hundred unhurt fell into our hands. Our loss in the fort was eight killed, five. wounded, and about thirty captured.*
* No less than ninety-six dead bodies were found in the ditch and within three or four yards of it. One regiment that was totally annihilated, and whose flag fell into our hands, was ascertained to be the 17th Mississippi, which had opposed the crossing at Fredericksburg.
A simultaneous attack was made by one brigade of the enemy upon our forces under General Shackleford upon the south side of the river, which was attended with some slight advantage to the enemy at first, but was finally repulsed with severe loss.
This action and its results were particularly creditable to the troops engaged, to Lieutenant Benjamin, who was in immediate command of the artillery, and to General Ferrero, who commanded that portion of our defensive line. Lieutenant Benjamin had prepared and armed the earthwork with great care, and had taken every precaution against surprise. The fort stood at the angle of our line to the southwest of the town, about a mile out and north of the main Kingston road. It was armed with four 20-pound Parrotts, four light 12-pounders, and two 3-inch guns, and well fitted with traverses. A hill a short distance from the work to the south was armed with two guns from Captain Buckley's battery. The northwest bastion was the salient. The fort was open in the rear and flanked by rifle pits. The parapet was partially covered with brush, for purposes of concealment, and the embrasures were arranged in such a way as to enable our officers, by removing a few shovelfuls of earth, to train the guns upon the approaches to the northwest bastion, which became the enemy's point of attack. The enemy ran a parallel about three hundred yards distant from the bastion, about half enveloping it. He also posted batteries, varying from seven 'hundred to fifteen hundred yards' distance from the fort, upon its different fronts :—on the west, one battery of six 12-pounders and another of one 20-pound Parrott; on the north, one battery of two 20-pound Parrotts and two 3-inch guns, and two batteries of two guns each ; across the Holston one battery of six guns.
The prisoners taken belonged to eleven different regiments, with an estimated strength of from two hundred to four hundred each. The officers reported that there were two brigades to watch and fire upon our lines, one brigade to assault, and two more to support the attack. Two brigades actually reached
the ditch. Our own men in the fort had been carefully drilled for their part. Each man had his proper post, ate and slept at it, so as to be ready at the instant of alarm. At night, one man in four was always awake. On the reception of an alarm from the outer picket, every man on watch immediately awakened his three comrades, who silently and at once took their assigned positions at the parapet.* The result justified these extraordinary precautions, and was an honorable testimony to the fidelity of the officer in command.
The enemy's forces in this action consisted of “three brigades of McLaw's division; that of General Wolford, the 16th, 18th and 24th Georgia regiments and Cobb's and Phillips's Georgia Legions; that of General Humphrey, the 13th, 17th, 21st, 220 and 23d Mississippi regiments; and a brigade composed of Generals Anderson's and Bryant's brigades, embracing, among others, the Palmetto State Guard, the 15th South Carolina regiment, and the 51st, 534 and 59th Georgia regiments.”+ Our own troops were reënforced by five companies of the 29th Massachusetts, two companies of the 20th Michigan regiments, and a brigade of General Hascall's division of the twenty-third corps.
* Lieutenant Benjamin's Report.
AFTER THE SIEGE.
HE attack on Fort Sanders was the last important event
of the siege of Knoxville. General Grant, on the 28th, ordered General Sherman to march, with a force of twenty-five thousand men, to proceed with all possible despatch to the relief of General Burnside. General Sherman marched
the south side of the Tennessee river, to take General Longstreet in the rear.
General Thomas, on the 26th, directed General Elliot, with his cavalry division, to proceed from Alexandria to Knoxville to aid in the relief of that place. These welcome reënforcements were within two or three marches of Knoxville on the 4th of December. On the morning of the 5th, our pickets reported that the enemy had retired, and that the siege of Knoxville was raised. On the same day, General Sherman, with his own corps and that of General Granger and a part of General Howard's, arrived at Marysville and despatched an aide-de-camp with the following hearty message: “I am here, and can bring twenty-five thousand men into Knoxville to-morrow; but Longstreet having retreated, I feel disposed to stop, for a stern chase is a long one. But I will do all that is possible. Without you specify that you want troops, I will let mine rest to-morrow and ride in to see you. Send my aide, Captain Audenried, out with your letters to-night. We are all hearty but tired. Accept my congratulations at your successful defence and your patient endurance.”
General Sherman arrived at Knoxville on the 6th, and had a personal conference with General Burnside in regard to the situation. General Burnside was of the opinion that General
Granger's command was sufficient for all necessary operations. On the 7th, General Burnside wrote to General Sherman, acknowledging in the most grateful terms, the great services of his brother officer in relieving the besieged forces at Knoxvillo. “I desire,” he said, “to express to you and your command my most hearty thanks and gratitude for your promptness in coming to our relief during the siege of Knoxville, and I satisfied that your approach served to raise the siege. The emergency having passed, I do not deem, for the present, any other portion of your command than the corps of General Granger necessary for operations in this section ; and, inasmuch as General Grant has weakened the forces immediately with him in order to relieve us, thereby rendering portions of General Thomas's less secure, I think it advisable that all the troops now here, except those commanded by General Granger, should return at once to within supporting distance of the forces operating against General Bragg's army. In behalf of my command, I again desire to thank you and your command for the kindness you have done us."
General Longstreet slowly retreated up the north bank of the Holston like a lion at bay. General Sherman was too far in the rear.
General Burnside had no men or animals available for rapid pursuit, with the exception of a few cavalry for observation. A portion of the troops, however, marched out ag far as Rutledge, but the enemy was in too strong force to warrant an attack. The only force which could in an effective manner impede the retreating foe, was a small body of troops from the neighborhood of Tazewell and Cumberland Gap, under General Foster. This force, outnumbered as it doubtless was by two or three to one, could do little more than threaten the enemy's line of retreat. Still our troops were full of daring, and marched up boldly against the retiring foe. They attacked him at Blain's Cross Roads, at Bean's Station, and in the passes of the Clinch Mountains, and succeeded in inflicting upon him some injury. General Longstreet, however, did not leave East Tennessee entirely until the following spring, when he rejoined