On Wednesday, November 4, 1863 Confederate General Braxton Bragg, responding to an earlier suggestion by Jefferson Davis, ordered James Longstreet’s corps to move against east Tennessee which was controlled by Ambrose Burnside’s Union forces.
While Bragg’s army would be seriously weakened by transferring Longstreet’s men, Knoxville needed to be recaptured for the Confederacy and communications with Virginia had to be reestablished. This bold plan of action frightened the Union War Department; William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union corps already was moving toward Chattanooga but had not arrived to relieve Rosecrans.
Until he did, Ulysses Grant could not either fully relieve Chattanooga or pursue Longstreet to assist Burnside’s army. If Sherman’s corps did not arrive quickly, east Tennessee might very well once again fall into the hands of the Confederate military.