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Two Men and A People: The Struggle for Knoxville and East Tennessee

Two opposing generals and the people of East Tennessee met in the fall of 1863. For James Longstreet, the commander of the Confederate forces, the campaign for Knoxville and East Tennessee marked the nadir of his military career, which climaxed in December 1863, with him submitting a letter of resignation as commander of the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

For Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Federal forces, the campaign demonstrated his leadership and tactical ability following his December 1862 debacle as commander of the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

For the region of East Tennessee and Knoxville, the campaign enabled the people to reach the pinnacle they had aspired to since their settlement of the region. They had escaped economic and religious oppression in Europe, negotiated and fought with the Cherokee Indian Nation, created the State of Franklin (which was denied statehood), saw its political power vanish to Middle Tennessee, and was limited in its economic development by the region's landscape.

--Gregory H. Blake



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