Racing to beat the Yankees to Knoxville in November 1863, Francis M. Poore, John F. Poore and their rebel comrades under Gen. James Longstreet reached Louden on the Tennessee River at daybreak on Nov. 14. The next morning they crossed to the north bank over a pontoon bridge.
Reports put Union troops of the Department of the Ohio under U.S. Major General Ambrose E. Burnside just a few miles ahead. The bluecoats left dozens of wagons on the roadside as they rushed to stay ahead of the oncoming Southerners. The two armies raced along side-by-side routes and through a blowing rain.
They both wanted to be first at the crossroads community of Campbell’s Station.
Here their separate routes came together to form a single road to Knoxville. If the Confederates reached the crossroads first, they would cut Burnside off from the defensive works at Knoxville and force him to fight in the open.
Around noon on Nov. 16, the federals reached Campbell’s Station first—but only barely. Fifteen minutes later, Francis, John and the other men in Brig. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’ Division fired on the bluecoats at the crossroads hamlet.
The rebels tried a double envelopment of the federals, that is, attacking both left and right ends of the Union army at once. McLaws’ Division attacked on the left while Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins’ men attacked the right.
Francis, John and the other men of Humphreys’ Brigade walked the ridge of a hill overlooking the valley and made up the far left of McLaws’ battleline. Below them the brigades of Joseph B. Kershaw, William Wofford and Goode Bryan moved across the valley and toward the enemy.
Francis, John and the rest of McLaws’ men hit the Union troops so hard that the Yankees moved back. Union gunners lobbed some artillery shells among the Poore brothers’ brigade on the hill. But the rebels were too late. The Yankees slipped into the earthworks at Knoxville.
For Francis, a harder fight lay ahead in Knoxville.