Topographical map of the approaches and defenses of Knoxville, surveyed under the direction of Union Capt. O.M. Poe, dated November 14, 1863, provided his commanding general Burnside with unequaled decision-making information.
“In his official report Poe stated, ‘And here I feel it is my duty to refer to the great value of the services of the contrabands. They were ever tractable and willing, and many of them came to me and volunteered to work. They did an amount of labor which was truly astonishing. Day and night they worked without murmur. For the first week they labored regularly eighteen hours out of the twenty four, and during the whole siege, out of nearly 200 that we had at work, only 1 asked to be relieved, and he for only one afternoon.’”
One of his willing slave workers was the fictional Brutus, servant to the novel’s Mrs. Parthenia Leila Ellis.