Friday, October 16, 2020

Booknotes: Rediscovering Fort Sanders

New Arrival:
Rediscovering Fort Sanders: The American Civil War and Its Impact on Knoxville's Cultural Landscape by Terry Faulkner and Charles H. Faulkner (UT Press, 2020).

From the description: "In the fall of 1863, Knoxville came under Union occupation, and troops went immediately to work to strengthen existing defenses and construct new ones. The most important of these was the earthwork atop a hill west of the city that came to be known as Fort Sanders. The fort would be the site of a critical battle on November 29, in which General James Longstreet’s Southern forces mounted a bold but ill-conceived assault that lasted only twenty minutes yet resulted in over eight hundred Rebel casualties. The completion of the fort under General Davis Tilson would safeguard Knoxville from further attack for the rest of the war."

An argument could be made that Ambrose Burnside's 1863 Knoxville campaign is the largest remaining gap in the military history of the Civil War in East Tennessee. That initial operation gets only cursory coverage in Rediscovering Fort Sanders, with the book's greater focus placed on the city defenses constructed under the watchful eye of Union Army engineer extraordinaire Orlando Poe, the Battle of Knoxville itself, and also the "continuing construction of Fort Sanders, the failed attempts to preserve the postwar fort, and the events which led to its almost total destruction." During their research, authors Terry and Charles Faulkner made "two major discoveries: the fort was actually located a block farther to the west then previously recognized, and there are still identifiable remnants of the fortification where none were believed to exist." Their Fort Sanders work is visually reinforced in the book through numerous maps, topographical overlays, and photographs.

More from the description: "More than just a chronicle of a significant chapter in Civil War and postwar history, this book will inspire others to continue the effort to ensure that the site and remains of Fort Sanders are preserved and properly commemorated for future generations." Let's hope so.


  1. Drew: I'd be interested in why you appear to consider Hess's book on the campaign not a significant contribution. (aside from the usual skeletal maps issue).

    1. I'm referring to Burnside's operation from Kentucky to his capture of Knoxville. I see that as Burnside's Knoxville Campaign and one covered in Hess's book Bragg/Longstreet's Knoxville Campaign.


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