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dated at Knoxville, December 11th, and was as follows:
"On severing the tie which has united him to this gallant
"To the citizen soldiers of East Tennessee, who proved their loyalty in the trenches of Knoxville, he tenders his warmest thanks.
"With the highest confidence in the patriotism and skill of the distinguished officer who succeeds him, with whom he has been long and intimately connected in the field, and who will be welcomed as their leader by those who served with him in the memorable campaign in North Carolina, and by all as one identified with some of the most brilliant events of the war, he transfers to him the command, assured that under his guidance the bright record of the Army of the Ohio will never grow dim."
General Foster gracefully responded: "In compliance with the orders of the War Department, Major General John G. Foster assumes the command of the Army of the Ohio.
"He accepts with pride a position which his predecessor has rendered illustrious.
"After a long period of unbroken friendship, strengthened by the intimate relations of active service with him in a campaign which is prominent in the history of the war, he can add
to the general voice his tribute to the high worth and stainless name of the recent commander of the Army of the Ohio. The work he has so ably planned and vigorously conducted, it will be the aim of the commanding general to complete.
"For the future of this command he has no fears. The results of their past are around them, and confident with these high evidences of what he may expect from their courage and their patriotism, he assures them that to the fulfilment of their mission his utmost efforts shall not be wanting."
General Burnside left Knoxville on the 14th, and arrived at his home in Providence on the 23d. While on his way, he stopped at Cincinnati for a day or two, and in the course of a public address in that city, he modestly disclaimed the honors which were offered him, declaring that they "belonged to his under officers and the men in the ranks." Major Burrage gratefully acknowledges the kindness of these words, and declares that it will ever be the pride of these officers and men to say: "We fought with Burnside at Campbell's Station and in the trenches at Knoxville." The Congress of the United States passed, and on the 28th of January, 1864, the President approved a resolution providing "that the thanks of Congress be, and they hereby are, presented to Major General Ambrose E. Burnside and through him to the officers and men who have fought under his command, for their gallantry, good conduct, and soldierlike endurance."
The deliverance of East Tennessee and its subsequent preservation from the hands of the enemy, were considered of so great importance by the President as to receive from him, not only his personal thanks, but also an official public recognition. On the 7th of December, he issued a proclamation referring, in congratulatory terms, to the fact that the enemy had retreated from before Knoxville, "under circumstances rendering it probable that the Union forces cannot hereafter be dislodged from that important position," and recommending that "all loyal people do, on receipt of this information, assemble at their places of worship, and render special homage and gratitude to
Almighty God for this great advancement of the national cause." The intelligence was received in all sections with the liveliest gratification. It was generally understood that the blow given to the insurgent cause was especially severe and damaging in its effects. General Lee so regarded it, and at one time was seriously inclined to strengthen General Longstreet, and make a grand combined effort to wrest this region from our grasp. But the advent of General Grant upon the scene of operations at the East convinced him that all his strength would be required in that quarter, and the rebel forces reluctantly turned their steps away from East Tennessee.
General Longstreet, however, caused our troops considerable annoyance during the winter. He retreated beyond our line of communication with Cumberland Gap, but established himself in the neighborhood of Rogersville and Morristown. Thence he occasionally sent out detachments of his force, and attempted to embarrass our troops in the matter of supplies. At one time in January, 1864, a portion of his army approached Knoxville and gave rise to certain apprehensions that another siege was contemplated. "Well informed refugees reported that large reënforcements had been sent from General Lee's army in Virginia, and that a great battle was imminent. The emergency, if it ever really existed, soon passed, without a decisive engagement. A few lively skirmishes relieved the tedium of winter quarters.
General Willcox rejoined the Ninth Corps on the 17th of January, and relieved General Potter. On the 21st, a very brisk engagement took place at Strawberry Plains. The purpose of the movement was the destruction of the bridge near that point across the Holston river. The Corps moved from Blain's Cross Roads on the 16th, and encamped near the bridge. On the 20th, the enemy made a dash upon our pickets, but was speedily repulsed. The bridge was destroyed on the night of the 20th, and the next morning our forces formed in line of battle. Colonel Morrison's brigade of the first division was in front, with Gittings's battery of artillery. Colonel E.
W. Pierce's brigade guarded the fords two miles below, Colonel Collins's brigade of the second division was held in reserve. The enemy appeared at eleven o'clock A. M., on the south bank of the river, and placing a battery of six guns in position, opened fire upon our lines. Our own artillery promptly responded, and an artillery duel ensued, continuing for four hours, after which the enemy retired. But little loss was suffered on either side. The bridge was destroyed, and on the next day the Corps marched to Knoxville, followed by the enemy's cavalry at a very respectful distance, which was increased on the advance of the 27th Michigan regiment. On the 26th, General Willcox was relieved by General Parke, who had returned to Knoxville from leave of absence. General Willcox took command of the second division, which was posted at Lyon's Mill, below Knoxville. This division accompanied General Schofield in his advance upon Morristown in the latter part of February.
The conclusion of the siege of Knoxville may fairly be taken as the termination of the active campaign of the Corps in East Tennessee. There was but little additional fighting, but there was much hard service in watching the enemy and preventing him from making inroads upon our lines. Supplies of clothing and food were somewhat scanty, and the troops in some instances suffered severely in consequence. Mention is made, in some reports from that quarter, of the almost utter destitution to which the men were reduced. Six spoonfuls of flour and the scattered corn that could be picked up from under the feet of the animals, were all that could be procured for a week's rations. "One table spoonful of coffee was issued once in from three to five days. The men were unable to subsist upon such allowance, and each morning there could have been seen parties of two and three in search of food. Some of the loyal Tennesseeans would meet them with smiles; and upon being asked for bread, they would reply in their peculiar vernacular, that 'they were plumb out,' and had not 'a dust of meal in the house.'
Many of the men were barefooted, and raw hide was issued to be made into moccasins."*
Such were the circumstances amid which the movement for the redemption of the loyal people of Tennessee was consummated. The soldiers of the Ninth Corps exhibited as heroic a spirit in the endurance of hardships as in the achievement of victories. As no foes could appall them, so no privations could subdue. With cheerful and even eager alacrity, they were willing to take up new duties and bear new pains in behalf of the country for which they fought and suffered. They proved to the enemy that they could not be conquered, and he was forced to be content with the loss of the important section which they had wrested from his grasp. The Ninth Corps was soon to return to the East and participate in movements of a more startling and conspicuous nature. But it may safely be recorded, that, of the important operations of 1863, the DELIVERANCE OF EAST TENNESSEE deserves to hold an equal rank with the victory which turned the tide of invasion from Pennsylvania, and is not far behind the magnificent triumph which gave the Mississippi once more to the Republic!
* Letter from an officer in the 29th Massachusetts, in "Massachusetts in the Rebellion," p. 330.