In November 1863, Confederate Gen. James Longstreet led a force from Chattanooga to attack Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside' s army at Knoxville. The campaign failed, and in December Longstreet's men marched east along the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad to winter quarters at Russellville, where they remained until March 1864. Numerous small engagements between Longstreet's and Burnside's armies occurred during the winter.
Downtown Dandridge was a chaotic place on January 17, 1864, as it appeared that a full-scale battle was about to develop. Union Gen. John G. Parke, commanding 26,000 soldiers and 34 artillery pieces here, defended the town against Confederate Gen. James Longstreet's 20,000 men and 20 guns, advancing from the east. Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's cavalrymen were attempting to build a pontoon bridge across the French Broad River, while Col. Moore's Ohio infantry had been sent east of town to join Gen. Frank Wolford's cavalry. Capt. Eli Lilly's artillery was placed on a Dandridge hill to protect Federal positions.
Longstreet's main force approached the town cautiously on three converging roads, with Gen. Micah Jenkins' sharpshooters in the lead but facing increasing resistance. As Gen. John T. Morgan's and Col. Thomas Harrison's cavalry covered the flanks, the main force of infantry an artillery under Gen. William T. Martin moved down Chucky Road to within two miles of Dandridge.
Late in the day, in the parlor of the Bradford-Hynds House to your right, Parke and his commanders met to confer. They assumed that Longstreet had been reinforced and decided against a major battle. With record cold temperatures and signs of impending precipitation, the generals agreed to withdraw overnight to Strawberry Plains near Knoxville.
Discovering the Union retreat the next morning, Longstreet and his general officers gathered in this same house to plan a pursuit. There they found a whisky flask that Gen. Gordon Granger left behind and toasted the Union officer for having forgotten it.
Troop positions on morning of January 17 - Courtesy David C. Smith
Bradford-Hynds House - Courtesy David C. Smith
Gen. James Longstreet Courtesy Library of Congress
Gen. John G. Parke Courtesy Library of Congress