In early November, Gen. Braxton Bragg sent Gen. James Longstreet from Lookout Mountain at Chattanooga on a campaign to take back Knoxville from the Yankees. The 15,000 men of the divisions of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws and Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins, who had taken over from the wounded Gen. John B. Hood, broke camp for the trip to the east Tennessee city.
On Nov. 4, wagon trains loaded with the baggage of the two divisions left Lookout
Mountain for Finess Station on the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad. Brothers Francis and John Poore and the other troops left Chattanooga at dark for the train that was supposed to take them the 60 miles to Sweetwater, about half way between Chattanooga and Knoxville.
But the trains didn’t come. So the two Poore brothers and the rest of the infantry began marching northward. Some trains finally caught up with the troops, but they were more worn out than those that had brought Francis and John to Chickamauga. Longstreet’s assistant adjutant-general, Lt. Col. Moxley Sorrel, described them as “almost comical in their inefficiency.”
The locomotives couldn’t pull the line of cars loaded with soldiers up some hills. So at the bottom of a hill, Francis, John and the other troops had to jump off the long train and trudge along the tracks to the top of the hill and there pile on board again.
When Francis, John and their comrades arrived at Sweetwater after dark on Nov. 8, the hungry men expected to find mounds of food waiting for them. But no one had told commander Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson to expect Longstreet’s Corps. Instead, as Longstreet reported, Stevenson had sent “everything of the kind to the army of Chattanooga.”
Besides getting by on little food, Francis, John and the other men also had to deal with bad weather. A light snow fell shortly after the men arrived at Sweetwater. The Poore brothers and the other men had started out in a warm September from Virginia. They hadn’t brought clothes or blankets for winter. Despite being cold and hungry, they soldiered on.