Charleston on the Hiwassee

Charleston on the Hiwassee (HM1BAU)

Location: Charleston, TN 37310 Bradley County
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Country: United States of America
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N 35° 17.006', W 84° 45.469'

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A Strategic Crossing

Charleston, formerly Fort Cass during the "Trail of Tears" (Indian removal of 1838), was strategically important in the military struggle for East Tennessee. The East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad bridge here, the line's only crossing on the Hiwassee River, made it a tempting target. Union loyalists burned it on November 8, 1861, and Union and Confederate forces later damaged it numerous times after it was rebuilt. The 1861 bridge burnings prompted Confederate authorities to tighten their military control over East Tennessee. When retreating Confederate troops damaged the bridge in November 1863, Union Gen. William T. Sherman was compelled to spend the evening of November 30 in Charleston. Here he received orders from Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to take command of a column marching to relieve Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside during the Siege of Knoxville.

The Hiwassee Bridge crossing was not only significant as the connection between Chattanooga and Knoxville, but also played a role in defending Charleston. Desperate for supplies in the aftermath of the Battle of Missionary Ridge, two of Confederate Gen. Joseph Wheeler's cavalry divisions raided a Union wagon train of Col. Bernard Laibold on December 28, 1863.The 300 wagons were crossing the Hiwassee en route from Chattanooga to Knoxville. As Laibold's infantry defended the train, Union Col. Eli Long's cavalry brigade crossed the river and charged the Confederates. Routed, the Confederates retreated to Dalton, Georgia. The Charleston Cumberland Presbyterian Church was used as a hospital to treat the wounded. The Union army occupied Charleston for the rest of the war and built two blockhouses on each side of the river to protect the bridge.

"I have given the rebel General (Joseph) Wheeler a sound thrashing this morning." —Col. Bernard Laibold, 2nd Missouri Infantry

Civil War Atlas, 1891
Col. Eli Long Courtesy Library of Congress
Gen. Joseph Wheeler Courtesy Library of Congress
Civil War Atlas, 1891
Series This marker is part of the Tennessee: Tennessee Civil War Trails series
Placed ByTennessee Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, September 28th, 2014 at 10:34am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 703912 N 3906780
Decimal Degrees35.28343333, -84.75781667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 35° 17.006', W 84° 45.469'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds35° 17' 0.36" N, 84° 45' 28.14" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)423
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 106 Wool St NE, Charleston TN 37310, US
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