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KNOXVILLE — Just before dawn on Nov. 29, 1863, Confederate Gen. James Longstreet launched a full-scale infantry attack on Fort Sanders in Knoxville. The Union army prevailed, securing the key strategic position and weakening the Confederacy’s hold in East Tennessee.

The victory for the Union and costly loss for the Confederates is documented in a new permanent exhibit at the Frank H. McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee, located only a few blocks from the site of Fort Sanders.

“The Battle of Fort Sanders: November 29, 1863” opens Saturday, Aug. 11. Union and Confederate re-enactors will provide a living history experience to visitors on opening day.

The exhibit includes these highlights:

-A 30-minute film entitled “Its Memory Alone Remains” by Steve Dean, retired executive producer of the Heartland Series, and narrated by actor John Cullum. It will be shown Aug. 11 on the hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and shown Aug. 12 on the half hour between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. After the opening, the film will be shown on weekends on a schedule to be announced.

-Nationally renowned artist Greg Harlin has been commissioned to do the first major painting of the battle in more than 100 years.

-A three-dimensional relief map of the fort based on a map of Knoxville prepared by Capt. Orlando Poe, who designed the fort.

-A 360-degree photographic record showing the city of Knoxville in 1864.

-Weapons, ordnance, clothing and other items, including a drum from Longstreet’s army. The museum and university have the papers, uniform, personal items and account of the battle of Cpl. John Watkins, an artillerist from Ohio.

-A presentation sword of Gen. Orville Babcock, who became aide to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and witnessed the surrender at Appomattox.

About Fort Sanders and the Battle

Knoxville, located on river and railway routes, was occupied by both the Confederate and Union armies during the Civil War. When the Confederates left in September 1863 to aid Gen. Braxton Bragg in Chattanooga, Gen. Ambrose Burnside rode into town unopposed. Longstreet returned later that fall to Knoxville, and Burnside erected Fort Sanders near what is now the intersection of Laurel Avenue and 17th Street.

Fort Sanders was named in honor of Union Gen. William P. Sanders, who died while resisting Longstreet’s advance. The fort was innovative in its engineering and included the first documented use of wires on the battlefield to impede advancing troops. After 20 minutes of battle, there were 813 Confederate casualties but only 13 Union losses.

The exhibit is curated by Dr. Joan Markel, museum educator, and produced by the museum’s exhibition and education departments. Exhibit sponsors are Mildred Haines and William Morris Endowment in the College of Arts and Sciences, Lucille S. Thompson Family Foundation, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, Linda and Pete Claussen, City of Knoxville, The Trust Company and Blalock Construction Co.

About McClung Museum

The McClung Museum, located in Circle Park, is free and open to the public. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums and a member of Smithsonian Institution Affiliation Program, McClung Museum features a world-class archaeology collection of more than 65 years of research by the University of Tennessee. “Archaeology and the Native Peoples of Tennessee” traces more than 12,000 years of Native American history in the state.

Other permanent exhibits include “Geology and the Fossil History of Tennessee,” “Ancient Egypt,” “Decorative Arts” and “Freshwater Mussels.”

“Hatching the Past: Dinosaur Eggs, Nests and Young,” is a very popular temporary exhibit running from May 26 to Aug. 26.

For more information, visit


Vera Ellen Bremseth, McClung Museum, director of marketing, (865) 974-2144.

Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179,