Tennessee vs The Maxims vs South Alabama



Senior Member
Sep 7, 2004
Tennessee vs The Maxims vs South Alabama

Playing an opponent like the University of South Alabama brings to mind a quote from Green Bay Packer Guard Jerry Kramer in his classic Instant Replay. He was describing his feelings as the Packers went out to face a much lesser team during the 1967 season. He said, “If you win big you look like a bully. If you lose you look like a dummy.”

At least the Vols didn't look like a bunch of dummies.

I've nothing to add to that.


When we left Gen. James “Old Pete” Longstreet last week his Corps had sundered the Union Line at Chickamauga and then joined the rest of Gen Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee on the hills and ridges south and east of Chattanooga. Opposite them, in the town itself, was Union Gen. William Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland. After the disaster at Chickamauga, Rosecrans was depressed and paralyzed into inaction. He took no movements to improve his situation. President Lincoln stated he was, “Stunned, like a duck hit on the head.”

Fortunately for Rosecrans and his men, he was not confronted by the energetic and decisive Robert E. Lee, but instead by the passive, indecisive, and irascible Braxton Bragg. Having won his signal victory, Bragg was content to occupy the high ground to the south and east of Chattanooga and conduct a “siege” that violated the basic premise of a siege: The Union army in Chattanooga was not surrounded. Instead of taking any offensive actions against the Yankees, Bragg turned his attention to his true favorite pursuit. He argued with his subordinates.

Ulysses Grant would tell the tale of Bragg's time as a company commander at some obscure post on the frontier. Seems that Bragg was not only commander of a company but also the Post Quartermaster, in charge of all supplies. It came to pass that Company Commander Bragg decided his unit needed some supplies and submitted a requisition for them. As Post Quartermaster, Bragg, in writing, refused the requisition. Company Commander Bragg resubmitted the supply requisition with a written explanation of his reasons for the request. Quartermaster Bragg, again in writing, refused the request a second time and referred the matter to the Post Commander for resolution. The Post Commander called Bragg into his office and stated, “Mister Bragg, thus far you have argues with every officer at this post. Now I find you arguing with yourself. Just what do you want me to do?”

Bragg argued with Longstreet, who thought he needed to take offensive action to eject the Yankees from Chattanooga. He argued with Leonidas Polk, still nursing his anger over Polk's inaction on 20 September. He argued with his newest corps commander, Gen William Hardee, who thought everyone should listen to him since he had written a book on tactics a decade or so prior to the war. He argued with nearly every division and brigade commander as well. The arguments grew so heated that Longstreet wrote the Confederate Secretary of War and all the others signed a letter to Jefferson Davis demanding that Bragg be removed. The mercurial Bedford Forrest bluntly told Bragg that he would no longer obey any of his orders.

With what was essentially a mutiny brewing in the West, Davis was forced to take action. He left Richmond and traveled to north Georgia and met with the feuding generals. He met with them as a group and individually with the senior commanders. In those private meetings Davis told them they were right – all of them - including Bragg! Then he confirmed Bragg as commander of the Army of Tennessee. To quiet things down, he sent Forrest to the Department of Mississippi and ordered Longstreet to go north to Knoxville and push the Union forces there under Gen, Ambrose Burnside out.

When this writer says that the Confederate defeat in the West was due to a lack of attention from Richmond and command by a succession of incompetent boobs, this incident is exhibit “A.”

Anxious to be free of Bragg, Longstreet got his corps moving. Speaking of incompetent boobs, he left behind Gen. John Bell Hood, who had been badly wounded twice, losing the use of one arm at Gettysburg and having a leg amputated at Chickamauga. Hood would return to duty with the Army of Tennessee and remain there for the rest of the war.

Longstreet's move toward Knoxville quickly degenerated into farce. The weather was atrocious with heavy rain and falling temperatures. The railroad between Chattanooga and Knoxville had been cut in several places. Instead of simply bypassing the trains and marching straight along the several roads available, Old Pete put his men on the train and rode to where the line was cut. Then he got everyone off the train, marched around the cut and got on different trains and then rode to the next cut, again an again. In the event what should have taken three or four days took TEN.

Finally reaching Loudon, Longstreet was faced with finding a way across the Tennessee River. He detached 5,000 cavalry under Gen. Joe Wheeler to cross the Little Tennessee and close on Knoxville from the south. Wheeler pounded up what is now Highway 411 and arrived triumphantly on what he thought was Knoxville.

He was in Maryville.

And so it went.

Burnside had deployed his 23rd Corps and a division of his 9th Corps to keep tabs on Longstreet after he crossed the river. Longstreet wasted yet another day assembling his troops on the east bank of the river before setting out up what in now US Highway 11. On 16 November, 11 days after leaving Chattanooga, Longstreet's Corps crossed the Knox County line at what we now know as Dixie Lee Junction.

The movements of the Yankees and Rebels became a race to Campbell's Station. If Longstreet got there first, he could cut off the path of the retreating Blue Bellies and put a huge dent in Burnside's forces available to defend Knoxville. It was here that Old Pete could really have used Wheeler and his 5,000 horsemen. Unfortunately, they were currently raising the Rebel flag over the Blount County Courthouse.

The weather remained uncooperative as the race went on. The Union troops were forced to abandon many wagons and burn more in order to use the horses and mules to try to pull their artillery pieces through the morass. The cornucopia of supplies in the unburned wagons served to delay the Confederates better than any of Burnside's machinations.

Burnside's men won the race by about fifteen minutes and drew themselves up in line of battle astride what is now Kingston Pike about where the modern Farragut Town Hall sits today.

Longstreet deployed his troops as well. Gen Micah Jenkins had taken over Hood's Division and he ordered two brigades under Brig. Gen. McIver Law to move to the far right and envelop the Federal left and rear. Keeping with the “incompetent boob” theme, Law did no such thing and instead launched a frontal attack against the Yankee left.

The fight degenerated into a confused affair as the Confederates werer straggling into line and launching piecemeal attacks. The Federals stood them off and bought enough time for Burnside to get the bulk of his troops into the Knoxville defenses. The 23rd Corps and the single division from the 9th escaped after dark.

Finally, on 17 November, Longstreet and his Corps took up positions around Knoxville and settled in for a siege.

But that's another tale.


So, how did the Vols do against The Maxims?

1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.

South Alabama's major mistake was signing the contract to play Tennessee in the first place. Long time readers of these musings already know my opinion of college leaders who wh*re out their football players for money.

2. Play for and make the breaks. When one comes your way … SCORE!

Tennessee scored in just about every way imaginable.

3. If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don't let up … PUT ON MORE STEAM!

The outcome of the game was never in doubt after pre-game warm ups. The only steam needed was on hoagies at Gus's Deli.

4. Protect our kickers, our quarterback, our lead and our ballgame.

Hell's Bells, even quarterback Joe Milton got in the act with a scoring strike in the fourth quarter..

5. Ball! Oskie! Cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle … THIS IS THE WINNING EDGE.

The sight of Cade Mays limping off the field was a definite downer. With any luck he can be healed up for whatever bowl game Our Beloved Vols play.

6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.

Set against Velus Jones' sparkling 96-yard kickoff return, were repeated failures of the kick coverage teams. Most egregious of these was in the third canto when South Alabama gained 23 yards on a fake punt that kept their first scoring drive going. Personally, I'd have had them running steps immediately after that.

7. Carry the fight to South Alabama and keep it there for sixty minutes,

Some would say that Tennessee had no business scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter, however, they were simply running their offense. To paraphrase Tom Osborne, if they didn't want the Vols to score 60 points, they shouldn't have let the Vols score 60 points.

Up next are the Common Ho's of Vahnderbilt. It will be Senior Day on The Hill and I urge one and all to attend and salute these stalwarts who stood with the Orange and White and their team mates when others cut and ran.

Suggested Reading

E. Porter Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy

William H. Brearley, Recollections of the East Tennessee Campaign

Digby Seymour, Divide Loyalties: Fort Sanders and the Civil War in East Tennessee

Confederate General James Longstreet (National Park Service)

James Longstreet.jpg


Well-Known Member
Sep 11, 2011
Thanks OMG, I love the way you mention the present day sites where the battles took place, gives another perspective and ties to our present. As to maxim number six I totally agree, I told my wife as they were lining up, " Can't anyone see what is about to happen?" Well I guess not was her response. Oh Well another learning moment.

Boca Vol

Originally from Exit 81
Lab Rat
Mar 23, 2011
This one really hit close to home....literally. I'm sitting here reading this from my parents' house in Lenoir City. Across the lake (on the Knoxville side) there is a Civil War era house that no doubt came into play during this scenario. When I drove up from FL on Sunday I had finally had enough of I-75 and got off at Hwy 411 in GA and finished the journey along that route covering the land mentioned in the story.

Another great job OMG!

The house I'm referring to is right in the middle of this map.

Google Maps


Old Timer, Quality Poster
Nov 4, 2005
Very nice continuation of last week's lesson.
Also very fitting analogy to me as this team is fighting it's own 'Battle of Knoxville' to change the culture and win the fanbase back over.

I typically go to Maxim 7 because to me that is where it all starts and ends...but as you put it the outcome of this one was set before the ink was dry on the contract.
Still though I commend our men for not losing focus and still having meaningful game time snaps where our junior classmen got some learning opportunities in real time.

My thoughts on Maxim 6 are that I'm going to give Coach Ekeler and group a bit of a pass on this one as I can't recall anyone lining up for a fake punt at all in the SEC this year...so the guys likely had never practiced for the situation. The take away there though is that seeing how Ekeler runs his ship, I woe the next team that lines up for a fake.

On to Vanderbilt...GO VOLS !!!

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