Battlefield Visits: Road Trip to Chattanooga, Part 1: The Drive to Tennessee

From my travels, May 26 and 27, 2019.

I had taken a week of vacation to go visit some family in Tennessee, and of course my favorite thing to do on a trip is visit battlefields – especially ones that I hadn’t visited before. For this trip, the main focus would be to attempt to see all the battlefields of the Atlanta Campaign, and while I was driving, to stop at a few fields that I had missed before in Virginia and eastern Tennessee. This “part 1” post covers my drive from the Baltimore area to Chattanooga.

Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain – Civil War Battlefield #103

Located just north of Dublin, VA. There is a small pull-off along the west side of VA-100 that has a few monuments and markers. The field here is quite pretty – with rolling terrain and fields leading all the way up to the mountains.

The view of the field from right off VA-100. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The view of the field from right off VA-100. – Photo by the author

Confederates were overwhelmed in this fight, and the Union troops succeeded in destroying their target: a railroad bridge carrying the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad. A relatively small engagement, the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain is most notable for who participated. On the Confederate side, Brig. Gen. Albert Jenkins was mortally wounded here and captured by Union forces. He would die from his wounds less than 2 weeks later. Patrick Cleburne’s brother, Capt. Christopher Cleburne, was also mortally wounded and buried on the field.

The grave of Capt. Christopher Cleburne. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
The grave of Capt. Christopher Cleburne. – Photo by the author

The Union force here included the 23rd OH, at the time mustering future President William McKinley among its ranks, as part of a brigade commanded by future President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Battle of Marion – Civil War Battlefield #104

This is another small battle that was part of the Saltville Campaign. Union forces were targeting industrial targets in southwestern Virginia including saltworks, lead mines, and of course the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad.

A very small Confederate force under the command of Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge fought a holding action for two days against a Union force while facing more than 4-to-1 odds. Eventually, they were undone by a lack of ammunition and were able to retreat through the mountains as night fell. Union troops occupied the area and caused quite a panic among the citizens.

There is a small wayside that does a good job explaining the action and some human interest stories related to the fighting. It is located in a small pull-off along US-11 east of town where it crosses the Holston River.

I continued on my way and made it as far as Knoxville, TN before finding a hotel for the night.

Battle of Campbell Station – Civil War Battlefield #105

In the morning, I made my way down the road to visit the site of the Battle of Campbell’s Station. This battlefield is sadly not very well-preserved nor interpreted.

There is a wayside in Founder’s Park that talks about the battle. It seems like it was a pretty minor holding action to keep the Confederates at-bay as the Union forces filed into the defenses of Knoxville.

Of note for a Civil War nerd: the town of Campbell’s Station is now known as Farragut, TN. This is because famed Admiral David Glasgow Farragut was born nearby.

Battle of Fort Sanders – Civil War Battlefield #106

Circling back a bit, I was able to find the site of the Battle of Fort Sanders.

Nothing exists of the fort today – in fact it was basically on the site of the modern Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville. There are a few markers about the fort and battle just east of the hospital campus along S 17th Street. The area is now rather built-up and primarily residential, but it is easy to see how holding the top of this ridge would have been fairly dominating.

Looking to the north from the top of the ridge near Fort Sanders. The Confederates would have been attacking toward the camera here. - <i>Photo by the author</i>
Looking to the north from the top of the ridge near Fort Sanders. The Confederates would have been attacking toward the camera here. – Photo by the author

Confederate troops under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet attempted a bayonet charge against the Union defenses here and were repulsed with heavy losses. Knoxville would remain under Federal control.

With these visits concluded, there were only a few more hours in the car until I would arrive in Chattanooga to start the real fun.

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