The engagement at Dandridge occurred when Federal troops, commanded by Maj. Gen. John Parke, moved toward Dandridge in East Tennessee on January 14 in search of forage. Upon receiving reports of the Federal move, Confederate Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet ordered two divisions of infantry to head toward Dandridge and his remaining two divisions to march along the railroad toward Mossy Creek in case the Federal movement towards Dandridge was a feint. Longstreet ordered his cavalry, commanded by William Martin, to also head for Dandridge. The southern commander sensed an opportunity to bring the Federal army to battle, and perhaps destroy it, while also safeguarding a vital foraging area. He accompanied Martin on the ride to Dandridge.
Federal cavalry, commanded by Brig. Gen. Samuel Sturgis, reached Dandridge on January 15 before Martin’s cavalry arrived. Sturgis planned to ambush Martin the next day and destroy his force with a double envelopment. Unfortunately, one part of Sturgis’s attack met the Confederate infantry division of Micah Jenkins at Kimbrough’s Crossroads on the Morristown Road and, outgunned, sensibly fell back to Dandridge after mounting an unsuccessful attack. The other half of the Federal envelopment did encounter Martin’s cavalry with Longstreet in personal command, and this force dislodged the Federals and sent them reeling back towards the town. The remainder of Parke’s army concentrated in and about Dandridge on the evening of January 16 as Longstreet came up before the town’s defenses.
Fearing that reinforcements from Virginia had reached Longstreet, Federal commanders decided during the night of January 16 to stay on the defensive. When morning arrived, Longstreet delayed his attack until noon because he did not have an accurate idea of Federal strength, allowing time for his sharpshooters to occupy an advanced position. Around noon, Brig. Gen. Bushrod Johnson’s division and some cavalry brigades surged to the attack along the Chucky Road while Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins brought Hood’s old division down the Morristown Road from the north. Federal divisions commanded by Cols. Oscar LaGrange and Israel Garrard awaited the onslaught. The 125th Ohio cavalry brigade occupied a natural depression in the ground ahead of the main Federal line; these men advanced to a rail fence where they put up a stout defense but were eventually swept back to the safety of the depression they had earlier left. In the meantime, Jenkins’s infantry division had arrived to cause the retreat of the advanced Federal forces on the Union left. As darkness settled over the area, all remaining advanced Federal units retreated to the safety of their main line. Longstreet had pushed the Federals from the hills before Dandridge when darkness halted the fighting.
During the evening, General Parke decided to retreat immediately, and his army was gone before midnight. The Federal army retreated in good order; Longstreet’s troops, many without shoes, could not effectively pursue in the frigid winter weather. Longstreet sent Martin’s cavalry in pursuit, but his cavalry commander was dilatory in pressing the Federals, who withdrew essentially untouched all the way back to Knoxville. Longstreet’s army returned to winter quarters around Morristown and Russellville. Confederate casualties totaled about 150 men; Union losses were about 100 men.
David C. Smith, Campaign to Nowhere: The Results of General Longstreet’s Move into Upper East Tennessee (1999); Frank J. Welcher, The Union Army, 1861-1865, Vol. 2 (1993).