Yankee Commandos

How William P. Sanders Led a Cavalry Squadron Deep into Confederate Territory

  • Author(s): Brandes, Stuart
  • Series:
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2022-05-15
  • Status: Active
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In June of 1863, Col. William P. Sanders led a cavalry raid of 1,300 men from the Union Army of the Ohio through Confederate-held East Tennessee. The raid severed the Confederate rail supply line from Virginia to the Western Theater and made national headlines. Until now, this incredible feat has been relegated to a footnote in the voluminous history of the American Civil War.

In Yankee Commandos, Stuart Brandes presents readers with the most complete account of the Sanders raid to date by using newly discovered and under-explored materials, such as Sanders’s official reports and East Tennessee diaries and memoirs in which Sanders is chronicled. The book presents important details of a cavalry raid through East Tennessee that further turned the tide of war for the Union in the Western Theater. It also sheds light on the raid’s effect on the divided civilian population of East Tennessee, where, unlike the largely pro-secession populations of Middle and West Tennessee, the fraction of enlisted men to the Union cause rose to nearly a quarter.

Colonel Sanders remains an enigma of the American Civil War. (He was a cousin of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and his father and three brothers donned Confederate gray at the outbreak of the war.) By studying the legend of Sanders and his raid, Brandes fills an important gap in Civil War scholarship and in the story of Unionism in a mostly Confederate-sympathizing state.

STUART BRANDES is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. He is the author of American Welfare Capitalism, 1880–1940 and Warhogs: A History of War Profits in America.