Battle of Bean's Station, 14 December 1863

A minor battle during the American Civil War. A Confederate army under General Longstreet had attempted to recapture Knoxville, Tennessee, originally captured by Union forces on 3 September 1863. After a failed assault (battle of Knoxville, 29 November 1863), news arrived of the defeat of the Confederate army besieging Chattanooga (battle of Missionary Ridge, 25 November 1863) and of the approach of a relief column under General Sherman.

Longstreet remained outside Knoxville until the night of 4 December. That night they marched to Blain's Crossroads, eighteen miles to the east. The successful Union commander at Knoxville, General Burnside, had been officially replaced before the siege, but his replacement, Major-General John G. Foster, had been stuck outside the town during the siege. On 10 December he arrived and took command (Burnside was soon back in active service once the details of events at Knoxville were known).

Longstreet was still a threat. Burnside had sent forces to watch his retreat. On 10 December General Shackelford, commanding the Union cavalry, was already at Bean's Station leading the advance of a force under General Parke. Longstreet spotted an opportunity to defeat part of the Union army, and began to move back down the Holston valley. On 13 December Shackelford wrote back to General Parke, suggesting that the infantry be marched up to support him. Parke agreed, and ordered a detachment of infantry to march to Shackelford's support on the following morning.

The next day the fighting began at about 2 p.m. when the Confederate cavalry encountered the Union pickets about three miles east of Bean's Station. This soon developed in a general engagement, with Brigadier General A. Gracie's brigade in the forefront on the Confederate side. The Union cavalry was slowly forced back. McLaw's division managed to get around the Union left flank, and as darkness fell the Confederate forces were in occupation of Bean's Station. The fighting had been fierce, with around 700 Union and 900 Confederate killed and wounded.

An attempt to cut off the retreating Union army failed when it encountered Parke's infantry. Bean's Station marked the end of the fighting in the Knoxville Campaign. Despite being a Confederate victory it had little long term effect. Longstreet had had a change to attack an isolated Union detachment, but would have needed significant reinforcements to go back on to the offensive. Instead, as the winter set in the fighting in east Tennessee stopped. The next spring Longstreet's men returned to the Army of Northern Virginia.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 August 2000), Battle of Bean's Station, 14 December 1863 ,

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