This Week in the Civil War - 702
On Monday, November 16, 1863 Confederate troops under General James Longstreet, ordered north from Chattanooga, were nearing Knoxville, Tennessee. Union forces under General Ambrose Burnside had successfully withdrawn into Knoxville; the city was now besieged for all practical purposes.
Longstreet initially wanted to attack the city from the south, but lacking the means to carry the necessary pontoon bridges to cross the Tennessee River, he was forced to cross the river further downstream at Loudon on November 14 and march against the city's heavily fortified, western section.
On the 16th a concerned President Abraham Lincoln telegraphed Burnside, making his familiar query “What is the news?” and received the distressful information that Longstreet had crossed the Tennessee River and was preparing to assault Knoxville and Burnside’s besieged Union forces.