A Fine Opportunity Lost: Longstreet’s East Tennessee Campaign, November 1863 – April 1864

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Ed Lowe (Col., Ret.)
Pub Date:
July 2023
Trade paper, 6 x 9
75 images, 10 maps, 192 pp
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About the Book

Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s deployment to East Tennessee promised a chance to shine. The commander of the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia had long been overshadowed by his commander, Robert E. Lee, and the now-martyred Second Corp commander, Stonewall Jackson. Lee had nonetheless leaned heavily on Longstreet, whom he called his “Old Warhorse.” Reassigned to the Western Theater because of sliding fortunes there, the Old Warhorse hoped to run free with—finally—an independent command of his own. This experience is depicted in A Fine Opportunity Lost: Longstreet’s East Tennessee Campaign, November 1863 – April 1864 by Ed Lowe (Col., Ret.)

For his Union opponent, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, East Tennessee offered an opportunity for redemption. Burnside’s early war success had been overshadowed by his disastrous turn at the head of the Army of the Potomac, where he suffered a dramatically lopsided loss at the battle of Fredericksburg followed by the humiliation of “The Mud March.”

Removed from army command and shuffled to a less prominent theater, Burnside suddenly found his quiet corner of the war getting noisy and worrisome. The mid-September loss by the Union Army of the Cumberland at the battle of Chickamauga left it besieged in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That, in turn, opened the door to Union-leaning East Tennessee and imperiled Burnside’s isolated force around Knoxville, the region’s most important city. A strong move by Confederates would create political turmoil for Federal forces and cut off Burnside’s ability to come to Chattanooga’s aid.

Into that breach marched Longstreet, fresh off his tide-turning role in the Confederate victory at Chickamauga. The Old Warhorse finally had the independent command he had longed for and an opportunity to capitalize on the momentum he had helped create.

Longstreet’s First Corps and Burnside’s IX Corps had shared battlefields at Second Manassas, South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Unexpectedly, these two old foes from the Eastern Theater now found themselves transplanted in the Western—familiar adversaries on unfamiliar ground. The fate of East Tennessee hung in the balance, and the reputations of the commanders would be won or lost.


Col. (ret) Ed Lowe served 26 years on active duty in the U.S. Army, with deployments to Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He attended North Georgia College and has graduate degrees from California State University, the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Command & General Staff College, and Webster’s University. He is an adjunct professor for the University of Maryland/Global Campus and Elizabethtown College, where he teaches history and government.