A Flank Attack
—Stoneman's Raid —
On December 10, 1864, Union Gen. George Stoneman led 5,700 horse artillerists and cavalrymen east from Knoxville, Tennessee, to destroy iron-, lead-, and saltworks in Virginia that were essential to the Confederate war effort.
After actions at Kingsport and Bristol, Stoneman struck at Marion, Wytheville, and Austinville, then destroyed the saltworks at Saltville. Stoneman returned to Tennessee on January 1, 1865, having laid waste to every factory, railroad, depot, and warehouse in his path.
On the morning of December 13, 1864, after
riding for three days in frigid, winter weather,
Union Gen. George Stoneman's forces under
Gens. Stephen G. Burbridge and Alvan C. Gillem
arrived on the western bank of the Holston River.
They massed across the river to your right in
the fields surrounding the Rotherwood mansion.
You are standing where Confederate Col. Richard
C. Morgan, commanding 300 men of Gen. Basil
W. Duke's brigade, stood on the eastern bank to
defend Kingsport. The old Ross Bridge that
crossed the Holston and connected the two banks
was in disrepair and could not support foot traffic.
As a result, the well-positioned Confederate troops were confident in spite of being overwhelmingly outnumbered,
and they thought that a Union attack was unlikely.
While part of the Federal force
remained in front,
Col. Samuel Patton led two regiments roughly
three miles up the western bank to Cloud's Ford,
where they crossed the river. They then made
their way down the eastern bank behind you
and surprised the Confederates with
a flank attack, capturing Morgan and
driving his command toward
Bristol. The Federal forces
soon set off in pursuit.
"At daylight on the 13th we found Duke's
brigade, under Col. Dick Morgan, posted to
oppose our crossing the Holston. I sent two
regiments of my command to support General
[Alvan C.] Gillem, who, after a short
engagement, flanked the enemy on the left
by crossing a ford two miles up the stream,
and charging him in rear and routed his
forces, killing and wounding 15 and capturing 85 prisoners, with a train of 13 wagons."
Gen. Stephen G. Burbridge, Jan. 3, 1865
Bottom left: Rotherwood - City of Kingsport
Top middle: Gen. Georger Stoneman, Gen. Alvan C. Gillem, Col. Richard C. Morgan
Bottom right map: Route of Stoneman's Raid in Tennessee and Virginia, December 1864