Roughly 650 miles southwest of Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee was encamped around Tullahoma, Tennessee recovering from its recent engagement with the Union forces at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. For three days from December 31, 1862 to January 2, 1863, Bragg’s “Army of the Heartland” attempted to stop Major General William S. Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland and its advance toward the vital rail hub of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Three days of bloody fighting resulted in a stalemate along the Nashville Pike. The threat of additional Union reinforcements forced General Bragg, a native of Warrenton, NC, to retreat back to Tullahoma, Tn. to regroup and monitor the growing Union forces now occupying Murfreesboro, Tn.
In Shelbyville, Tn., Confederate Colonel Robert Brank Vance wrote his brother, Governor Zebulon Vance, regarding his desire to receive a promotion to brigadier general and a permanent command of a brigade. Initially, Colonel Vance commanded the Twenty-ninth North Carolina Troops of Confederate Brigadier General James E. Rains’ brigade, but had temporarily assumed brigade command when General Rains was killed leading the charge against Union artillery during engagement at Murfreesboro, Tn. In his letter dated January 28th, Vance was requesting that his brother should involve the General Assembly in his request to a permanent brigade command noting that he had the support of his division commander, Major General John Porter McCown, and another divisional commander, Major General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham. Colonel Vance also sought to create a “North Carolina” brigade within the Confederate Army of Tennessee by grouping the Twenty-ninth, Thirty-ninth, and Sixtieth North Carolina Troops into one unit.
On March 16, 1863, Colonel Vance received his desired promotion to brigadier general, but was transferred away from the Confederate Army of Tennessee to western North Carolina to help suppress the growing unrest in the mountain counties.