The Battles for Cumberland Gap 1861 – 1862

The Geography of Cumberland Gap
The Cumberland Gap is a natural passageway through the Cumberland Plateau of the Cumberland Mountains, which are part of the southeastern Appalachians. The Gap is located near the point where the states of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee meet—between Middlesboro, Kentucky and the town of Cumberland Gap, which is located below the Gap at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains on the northern boundary of Northeast Tennessee.
The Cumberland Gap region includes one county in Virginia, four counties in Kentucky, and five counties in Tennessee—Campbell, Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, and Union—all within a 25-mile radius of the Cumberland Gap. This area spans across mountains, rivers, and lakes.
Several American Civil War engagements occur in and around the Cumberland Gap; they are known collectively as the Battle of Cumberland Gap.

A Foggy morning at Cumberland Gap

Kentucky declared herself neutral on 16 May 1861. The state’s neutrality is broken on 4 September 1861, exposing the entire northern boundary of Tennessee to possible invasion.

First Occupation of Cumberland Gap
CSA Gen. Felix Zollicoffer, commander of the Department of East Tennessee at Knoxville, takes the initiative and marches his forces to Cumberland Gap. He easily overcomes the local Home Guard and occupies the Gap, and builds earthwork fortifications to stave of any Union invasion of Northeast Tennessee. They erect seven forts on the north facing slope, and cleared the mountains of all trees within one mile of each fort.
A soldier wrote, “It is the roughest place in the world, but we are going to stick the mountain full of cannon to prevent the Lincolnites from crossing.”

MINI BIO: CSA Gen. Felix Kirk Zollicoffer
In 1860 newspaperman Felix Zollicoffer urged Tennesseans to remain loyal to the Union. When the state seceded in June 1861, however, he fully supported the decision. Tennessee Governor Isham Harris rewarded Zollicoffer with a commission of brigadier general on 9 July 1861.
On 26 July 1861 Harris sent the new general to Knoxville to command the new Department of East Tennessee. A large majority of that region’s population has continued to support the United States.
Zollicoffer’s orders were to enforce secession in the eastern counties and to control the Unionists, in case they might have any ideas of rebelling against the new Confederate government.
Gen. Felix Zollicoffer attempted to pacify East Tennessee’s pro-Union population with a lenient policy and the stationing of only fifteen companies of troops in the region.
On 8 August 1861 Isham Harris was re-elected governor of Tennessee; on 18 August, he ordered Zollicoffer to arrest and, if necessary, banish Unionist leaders from the state, changing Zollicoffer’s policy from leniency to force.

8 OCTOBER 1861
Excerpt from a letter from Dr. U. G. Owen to his wife
Cumberland Gap Tenn. Oct. 8th 1861.
Mrs. U. G. Owen
We are camped on the mountain at the Gap. It is so cold that I can scarcely write this evening. … We are building forts, breastworks, &c of every sort, going to stick the mountain full of cannons to prevent the Lincolnites from crossing. We have one hundred at work every day, building fortifications.
I have my tent up on the side of the mountain, plenty of straw on the floor, plenty of cover to keep me warm at night. I also have a cot to sleep on – brought from Knoxville – did not cost me anything. It Rained hard all day yesterday and part of Sunday. I have not been here long enough yet to find out anything about the people.
I will have to get me a horse – to [would love to have] our little horse from home but I hardly know how to get him here but I must have horse certain. Your Pa may know of some body coming to Knoxville and to Cumberland Gap who would bring him. They could ride him from Knoxville here.
I hope you are well satisfied at your Aunt’s … Don’t be uneasy about me because I will keep well & do well here or wherever I may go or be sent.
Our Regiment is nearly all well & about, very few sick. We are all camped here around the corner of three States, Tenn, Kentucky & Virginia. My tent is in Virginia, Dr. Compton’s in Ky, several are in Tenn. Battle’s Regiment is 13 miles from here … in Kentucky.
I see some of them [civilians] every day almost bringing salt that they captured from the Lincolnites at the Salt Works in Ky.
I want you to write me everything, tell me if you are satisfied there.
Dr. U. G. Owen to Laura, October 8, 1861.

October 24, 1861
Excerpt from another letter to Mrs. U. G. Owen
Cumberland Gap the 24th 1861
Mrs. U. G. Owen, My beloved Wife
We expect a fight here soon. General Zollicoffer is retreating back this way. They had a little fight at Rock Castle [River] Ky. He sent an order here last night to place our cannon & have them in Readiness. We worked all night at that & building breastworks. Col. Churchwell issued an order last evening for all the women to leave the Regiment, the kind of women you saw there at Camp Sneed – bad kind.
Laura, you want to come here but if you were here a while you would want to get away. Cold & wet, no house to get in, no fire but a little smoky one out of doors. I would not like for you to be here in that condition, and I will tell you that we are alarmed here and may have to retreat in a hurry.
I don’t want you to come here now while there is danger. I can’t tell one day where we will be next. Write me often. At Present I am in a great hurry. I will write again in a few days.
Your devoted husband
Dr. U. G. Owen to Laura, October 24, 1861.

Zollicoffer determines to establish defensive line at Jacksborough to thwart expected Federal invasion of Tennessee from Kentucky.
Twenty-three miles from Montgomery.
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector Gen., Richmond:
… I left the regiments of Cols. Churchwell and Rains at Cumberland Gap, busily engaged in completing the works there. Within a week or ten days I think the defenses there will be very strong. I think the Jacksborough routes can soon be made effectively impassable, and then I hope to move by the Jamestown route and advance.
If you will examine the topography of the country, you will perceive I have passed to this point along a valley at the foot of the mountain. The road is good. To pass from Jacksborough direct to Huntsville or Montgomery or Jamestown direct, I would have to pursue a mountain road, poor and broken, and the mountain is generally 30 or 40 miles wide.
Very respectfully,
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 4, pp. 530-531.


19 JANUARY 1862
Gen. Felix Zollicoffer is killed at the Battle of Mill Springs in Kentucky, but the Gap remains in Confederate control. The defenses are now manned by Col. James Edward Rains and his troops. 

CSA Col. James Edwards Rains.

MINI BIO: Col. James Edwards Rains
James Edwards Rains, a Nashville native, graduates second in the Yale Law School Class of 1854. Before the American Civil War, he works as city attorney and associate editor of the Daily Republican Banner under Felix Zollicoffer. In April 1861 Rains enlists as a private in the Confederate army and spends most of his military service in Northeast Tennessee under his old boss, now Confederate general, Felix Zollicoffer.
After Gen. Zollicoffer is killed at Mill Springs [19 January 1862], Col. James Edwards Rains and his troops man the defenses at the Cumberland Gap, repulsing numerous attempts by Union forces to seize the vital passageway. For his excellent service at the Gap, Col. James Edwards Rains is nominated as a brigadier general on 4 November 1862. The Confederate Senate has not confirmed his nomination when he is killed while leading his brigade at the Battle of Stones River on 31 December 1862. He was 29 years old.

14 FEBRUARY 1862.
Reports of Skirmish near Cumberland Gap.
Report of USA Gen. Samuel. P. Carter, Twelfth Brigade.
Capt. J. B. FRY, Assistant Adjutant-Gen., and Chief of Staff.
CAPT.: A reconnaissance was made to-day by a company of First Battalion Kentucky Cavalry, under the immediate command of Lieut.-Col. Munday [who] reports that he advanced quite close to the Gap; attacked the enemy’s cavalry picket; killed 5, wounded 2, and took 2 prisoners, 8 horses, 7 sabers, and 5 double-barrel shot-guns. No one was injured in the colonel’s command. Our party advanced so near the enemy’s defenses that they got within range of their batteries, which opened on them, when they returned to camp.

Report of CSA Col. James E. Rains.
SIR: I am convinced that the enemy will attack us at this place within a week. An attack to-morrow is probable. Their cavalry drove in our pickets to-day about 3 miles in advance of us. The force, seven regiments, are reported to be at Cumberland Ford, 15 miles in front. The force we have cannot hold the place, being insufficient to man the works.
The strength of the position has been greatly exaggerated. On the Kentucky side it is naturally very weak and difficult to defend. … It will require two regiments, in addition to the two now here, to resist the force menacing us. The position should never be abandoned. Its strategic importance cannot be exaggerated. … If abandoned, it cannot be easily retaken. Can re-enforcements be sent us?
JAMES E. RAINS, Col., Cmdg. Post.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, p. 417

18 FEBRUARY 1862
the whole East Tennessee border is much exposed …
SIR: In a dispatch of the 14th instant I acquainted you with the fact that our cavalry pickets had been attacked by the cavalry of the enemy and that an attack on this place was probable.
During the night following the engagement between the pickets there fell a deep snow, which, followed by constant rains up to this time, has placed the roads and streams between us and the enemy in such condition that an immediate attack is improbable.
Several days of fair weather much elapse before the enemy, distant about a day’s march, would attempt to reach us. By a dispatch from Colonel Vance, commanding at Knoxville, I learn that three regiments are on their way to re-enforce us. If these regiments reach us in time the place is safe against any force that can be brought over the roads in our front.
Indeed, it is not probable that thus re-enforced we will be attacked at all. If not re-enforced, an attack is highly probable. I would respectfully suggest that the whole East Tennessee border is much exposed and several important gaps wholly undefended, through any one of which it would not be difficult for the enemy to throw a force.
JAMES E. RAINS, Colonel, Commanding Post.

25 FEBRUARY 1862
CSA Gen. E. Kirby Smith assigned to command the Department of East Tennessee, headquarters at Knoxville.

21 MARCH 1862 – 23 MARCH 1862
Reconnaissance to and skirmish at Cumberland Gap.
Report of Col. Samuel P. Carter, U. S. Army.
HDQRS. TWELFTH BRIGADE, Camp Cumberland Ford.
CAPT.: Late in the afternoon of the 20th instant I was informed by a messenger from Claiborne County, East Tennessee, that four rebel regiments, with six pieces of artillery, under command of Gen. [E. Kirby] Smith left Cumberland Gap on the 19th instant to attack the Second East Tennessee Regt., which was then stationed at Woodson’s Gap, some 3 miles from Fincastle, Campbell County, East Tennessee.

On the morning of the 21st we marched toward Cumberland Gap, with the hope of arriving there before the return of the rebel troops. But when we arrived within 2 miles of the Gap I was overtaken by a messenger (who had been sent to Claiborne County) with information that the rebels had made a forced march, and were by that time within their encampment. As my force was much too small to make an attack on their strong entrenchments, protected by heavy redoubts, I determined to remain in front of their works for a day or two, and make as complete an examination of their works as practicable. We advanced on the enemy’s right and drove in their pickets; moved close to their right line of defense, and bivouacked for the night.

On the morning of the 22nd threw out skirmishers and drove the enemy from the woods to the abatis, which covers the whole mountainside, inside the line of fallen timber. The rebel sharpshooters were well protected by rifle pits. … The rebels opened on our skirmishers with shrapnel from two 12-pounders, but without doing any damage. I moved the two Parrott guns and their regiments to a ridge in the front of the Gap, where the former were placed in position and soon opened on the rebel works, and continued cannonading them until the afternoon.

Our fire was returned warmly from seven different works … They threw 24-pounder solid shot, 12-pounder shell (spherical), 6-pounder solid, and 8-inch shell. … They were several times driven from their guns, but as they had hill and deep trenches close at hand where they seemed to be securely covered, I doubt if they suffered much. … Although the rebel force was more than double ours, all of our efforts to draw them from their works were unsuccessful.

This command bivouacked again just in front of the Gap, and as I had completed successfully the reconnaissance, I left in the forenoon of yesterday, and arrived in this place last evening. Some of the officers and men had narrow escapes, but not one was injured or lost. …

Although we had snow-storms and sleet during both the nights we bivouacked in the mountains, as well as yesterday, I heard no word of complaint from either officer or man. The ammunition of Parrott guns, both fused and percussion, seemed to be defective, as very many of our shells were not seen to explode. I have ordered it to be carefully examined.

This examination of Cumberland Gap confirms the opinion given in a former letter that the place is very strong if attacked from the north side, and can only be carried by a large force with a heavy loss of life, but it can be readily reduced by having a good force attack simultaneously on the south side, or, better still, by an investment, which would soon starve them out. …
Respectfully, &c., S. P. CARTER,
Acting Brig.-Gen., Twelfth Brigade.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 42-45.

22 MARCH 1862
Report of Col. James E. Rains, C. S. Army.
HDQRS., Cumberland Gap, March 22, 1862.
SIR: On yesterday evening, about dark, a party of infantry scouts which I sent out drove in the enemy’s pickets 3 miles out on Harlan road. At daylight skirmishing parties of the enemy opened fire upon our right from the adjacent hills. The firing is now going on and the Minie balls are falling within our works. I have seen no artillery. The snow is falling thickly and the morning is dark. Our men are in the trenches. The fire is a very thin one, and we have not returned it. One man is wounded.
JAMES E. RAINS, Col., Cmdg. Post.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 42-45.

28 MARCH 1862
USA General George W. Morgan is assigned to command of Seventh Division, Army of the Ohio, and is ordered to operate against Cumberland Gap. By April 1862, Morgan is moving against the Gap with the remaining three brigades of his division.

30 MARCH 1862
Knoxville, Tenn., March 30, 1862.
GENERAL: Colonel J. E. Rains, commanding the post at Cumberland Gap, reports that on the evening of the 21st instant the enemy drove in the pickets and on the morning following appeared in his front. Having succeeded in placing two pieces of artillery in position on a neighboring ridge, they opened fire, which was kept up during the day (the 22nd) with considerable vigor, as well as from small-arms at long range, but with little effect. The loss of the enemy is not known, but during the night they withdrew, apparently in great consternation. A body of cavalry to protect their rear were the only troops of the Federal forces seen the next morning, and which it was impossible to cut off.
Information which had reached the enemy of an expedition toward Jacksborough led them to believe that the garrison had been weakened to a great extent, and induced this demonstration. After feeling and ascertaining that it was in force, they retired. Their force was no other than Carter’s brigade, estimated at about 4,000 to 6,000.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Major-General, Commanding.

USA Gen. Samuel P. Carter

11 APRIL 1862
Battles and Leaders of the Civil War
ON the 11th of April 1862, with the Seventh Division of the Army of the Ohio under my command, I arrived at Cumberland Ford with orders from General Buell to take Cumberland Gap, fourteen miles to the southward, and occupy East Tennessee, if possible; if not, then to prevent the Confederates from advancing from that direction. … The division under my command consisted of four brigades, commanded by Genls. Samuel P. Carter and James G. Spears, Colonel John F. De Courcy, 16th Ohio regiment, and Colonel John Coburn, 33rd Indiana regiment.
During the preceding winter [1861—1862], Carter had occupied a position near the ford and threatening the Gap. The condition of Carter’s brigade was deplorable. The winter’s storms … had practically cut him off from his base of supplies, and … his troops were half-famished and were suffering from scurvy. Of the 900 men of the 49th Indiana regiment, only 200 were fit for duty.
Reconnaissances at once satisfied me that the … Gap could not be taken by a direct attack, nor without immense loss. I determined to try to force the enemy to abandon his stronghold by strategy.
The position of the Confederate commander in East Tennessee, Major-General E. Kirby Smith, was a difficult one. A large majority of the people of East Tennessee were devoted to the Union, and the war there had become a vendetta. The Union men regarded the Confederates as criminals and were in turn denounced by the Confederates as insurgents. Kirby Smith recommended the arrest and incarceration in Southern prisons of leading citizens … as a means of converting the majority to the Southern cause.
On our side, acts not less vigorous were resorted to. A few days after our occupation of Cumberland Gap, June 18th, General Spears, without authority, sent out in the night, captured and wanted to hang a number of Confederate citizens, whose offense was that they had arrested T. A. R. Nelson, while on his way to take his seat in the United States Congress, and had sent him to Richmond. Their lives were saved by my interposition, and they were sent as prisoners to Indianapolis.
For a distance of eighteen miles north of Big Creek Gap, a pass south-west of Cumberland Gap, the Confederates had heavily blockaded the narrow and abrupt defiles [passes] along that route. The work of clearing the blockades was thoroughly done. But while Spears was thus engaged Kirby Smith advanced with a large force of infantry through a bridle-path called Woodson’s Gap, to cut him off.
The attempt might not have succeeded but for the heroic act of Mrs. Edwards, a noble woman, whose heart was wholly in the Union cause, although she had a son in each of the opposing armies. Well mounted, she passed the mountains by another path, and, by incredible efforts, reached my headquarters in time to enable me to send couriers at full speed with orders for Spears to fall back toward Barboursville [KY], until his scouts should report that Smith had recrossed the mountains.
In order to succeed in the task committed to me it was necessary to compel Kirby Smith, who was at this time concentrating his whole army in my immediate front, to divide his forces. To this end I urged General [Don Carlos] Buell to direct General O. M. Mitchel to threaten Chattanooga and thus draw the main force of the Confederates in that direction.
About four miles south of Cumberland Ford is a narrow defile [pass] formed by an abrupt mountain on one side, and the Cumberland River on the other, through which passes the State Road to Cumberland Gap, and on the edge of the defile was an abandoned cabin, known as “The Moss House” … at the junction of the State Road and a pathway leading to Lambdin’s [?] on the main road to Big Creek Gap.
On the morning of May 22nd I sent forward the brigade of De Courcy, with a battery, with orders to occupy the defile, and, as a stratagem intended to puzzle Smith, to construct a fort at the junction of the pathway and road. I threw forward a strong party of pioneers to widen the path leading to Lambdin’s, so as to enable my artillery and train to move forward.
The mountain was steep and rugged, and skill and toil were necessary to the accomplishment of the work. Twenty-two guns—two of them 30-pounder and two 20-pounder Parrott’s—had to be dragged over the Pine and Cumberland mountains, at times by means of block and tackle, at others by putting in as many horses as could be used, and again by men—200 at a single piece—hauling with drag-ropes.
On the 6th and 7th of June Buell caused diversions to be made by an advance of part of Mitchel’s command to the river opposite Chattanooga, and Smith, with two brigades, hastened to its rescue. The brigade of De Courcy had gone forward; Baird occupied the defile at the Moss House, and Carter was assigned to hold the defile till the last moment, and then bring up the rear of the column.
On the 9th of June General Buell telegraphed me from Booneville, Mississippi: “The force now in Tennessee is so small that no offensive operation against East Tennessee can be attempted, and you must therefore depend mainly on your own resources.”
And on the 10th: “Considering your force and that opposed to you, it will probably not be safe for you to undertake any offensive operations. Other operations will soon have an influence on your designs, and it is better for you to run no risk at present.”
It was, however, next to impossible to change my plans at this moment, and move back on a road such as described. We therefore continued to toil forward over the almost impassable mountains.
Thinking that the series of feints against Chattanooga that were being made at my request indicated an advance in force. Kirby Smith now concentrated for defense at that point, after evacuating Cumberland Gap and removing the stores.
This was just what I wanted. On the evening of the 17th of June, General Carter L. Stevenson of the Confederate forces sent Colonel J. E. Rains to cover the evacuation of Cumberland Gap, which had been commenced on the afternoon of that day; Rains withdrew in the night and marched toward Morristown.
Unaware of that fact, at 1 o’clock on the morning of June 18th we advanced in two parallel columns, of two brigades each, to attack the enemy; but while the troops were at breakfast, I learned from a Union man who had come along the valley road that Rains had withdrawn and that the gap was being evacuated.
The advance was at once sounded, and four hours after the evacuation by the Confederates the flag of the Union floated from the loftiest pinnacle of the Cumberland Range. The enemy had carried away his field-guns, but had left seven of his heavy cannon in position, dismantling the rest.
At the request of Carter, his brigade was sent forward in pursuit of the enemy as far as Tazewell, but the enemy had fallen back south-eastward to the Clinch Mountains. Cumberland Gap was ours without the loss of a single life. Secretary Stanton telegraphed the thanks of the President, and General Buell published a general order in honor of this achievement of the Seventh Division.
Lieutenant (now Colonel) William P. Craighill, of the Corps of Engineers, a soldier of distinguished merit and ability, was sent by Secretary Stanton to strengthen the fortifications at the Gap, and he soon rendered them impregnable against attack.
My hope and ambition now was to advance against Knoxville and arouse the Union men of East Tennessee to arms. I urgently asked for two additional brigades of infantry, a battery, and two regiments of cavalry, and, thus reinforced, pledged myself to sweep East Tennessee of the Confederates.
My guns were increased from 22 to 28, and a battery of East Tennessee artillery was organized, commanded by Lieutenant Daniel Webster, of Forster’s 1st Wisconsin battery.
Four thousand stand of arms, destined for East Tennessee, but left at Nicholasville and Crab Orchard during the winter on account of the impassable state of the roads, were now sent forward to Cumberland Gap with a large supply of ammunition, and magazines and an arsenal were got ready for them.
A vast store-house, capable of containing supplies for 20,000 men for 6 months, was also built by Captain W. F. Patterson. The nerves and muscles of every man were stretched to the utmost tension, and the Gap became a vast workshop. Captain S. B. Brown, assistant quartermaster and acting commissary of subsistence, a man of fine intelligence and great energy, put on the road in small trains over four hundred wagons, and by this means the various munitions of war were dragged from the bluegrass region through the wilderness to Cumberland Gap.
*The Confederate forces covering the mountain and river passes north of Knoxville at this time were under General C. L. Stevenson, First Division, Department of East Tennessee. – EDITORS.
Colonel De Courcy and Captain Joseph Edgar … were detailed as instructors of tactics for the officers of the new regiments of East Tennessee troops, who were brave, ambitions men and anxious to learn. Forage was collected with difficulty by armed parties.
About the middle of August Stevenson went into position in my immediate front.
On the morning of the 17th I received intelligence … that Stevenson would attempt to carry the Gap that night.
At 2:30 A. M. on the 18th reveille was sounded, and the lines were manned, but the enemy did not attack. It was evident that he intended a siege.


26 APRIL 1862
E. Kirby Smith’s situation report for East Tennessee
Maj. T. A. WASHINGTON, Assistant Adjutant-Gen., C. S. Army
MAJ.: … The line of the Cumberland is best defended by a force mobilized at some central point. The enemy with superior forces threatening Chattanooga and Cumberland Gap from without and a disloyal people within requiring large detachments to guard the line of the railroad, leaves a very inadequate command for defending the department. …
My reports from Cumberland Gap, and through other sources, indicate a large force on the Cumberland River, opposite the Gap. Their number is greatly exaggerated; but have a formidable column has been collected and that a forward movement may soon be expected from Kentucky is undoubted.
The force originally under Gen. [S.P.] Carter has been re-enforced by three regiments and a battery of artillery from Louisville, Ky. At least 7,000 Unionists from East Tennessee have joined his command within the last three weeks, and the Federal troops which were operating against Pound Gap are reported to have been ordered to the same point.
By information received from Lexington, Ky., a large amount of transportation destined for Cumberland Gap had arrived there on the 11th instant, and the belief was prevalent among our friends that East Tennessee would be invaded from that point by a large force. Re-enforcements should be sent to the department and arms for the unarmed regiments forwarded without delay. …
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. II, pp. 453-454.

29 APRIL 1862
Repulse of Federals at Cumberland Gap
Reports of Maj.-Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army, including orders for movement of troops.
Knoxville, Tenn., April 30, 1862.
The enemy attacked Cumberland Gap yesterday in force. I go to-day to re-enforce Gen. [Carter] Stevenson with all my available troops. Yesterday the enemy attacked Gen. Leadbetter’s command at Bridgeport. It was necessary to retreat, and the bridge there was burned by Gen. Leadbetter.
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.

30 APRIL 1862
Gen. S. COOPER, Adjt. and Insp. Gen., Richmond, Va.
KNOXVILLE, TENN., April 30, 1862.
GEN.: The enemy has attacked at Cumberland Gap. Move with all your disposable force toward Jacksborough. I will overtake you to-night or tomorrow morning. You will withdraw all the cavalry, except one company at Clinton and Cobb’s Ferry, respectively. Those remaining will be directed to keep up communication with this point, and also to communicate to you across the country any important intelligence. You will take with you, if practicable, six- or seven-days’ rations, but be careful to have the wagons in condition to travel lightly. The troops should be without impediments and in fighting order. If the steamboat is at Clinton, you will keep it there.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.

3 MAY 1862
HDQRS., Fincastle, Tenn.
MAJ.: Since their repulse at Cumberland Gap, on the 29th ultimo, the enemy have made no demonstration at that point. My intelligence is that they are removing the obstructions in the Big Creek Gap road west of Fincastle. With my effective force here (1,500) I shall operate through the mountain on their rear, which is beyond support from the main body at Cumberland Ford.
Small as my command at this point is, it is all the disposable force in the department, and was collected from every direction … The Georgia regiments ordered to this department … have since been so reduced by measles, mumps, and typhoid fever that they do not average an effective strength of 300. … The troops lately raised in Tennessee are in the same condition. … Whilst the people of East Tennessee believe my force to be large and effective, to the department alone have I exposed its weakness and inefficiency.
I shall resist the enemy’s entrance into East Tennessee with all the means at my disposal, but with the people in my midst enlisted against me, and with a force of at least four to one, more efficient and better equipped, it will be alone assistance from on High that enables us to maintain possession of the department. …
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg. OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. 1, pp. 75-77.

26 MAY 1862
Operations about Cumberland Gap.
Part of the March 28-June 18, 1862 Cumberland Gap Campaign.
Report of Brig. Gen. James G. Spears, U. S. Army,
Camp Pine Knot, May 26, 1862.
… Reliable information shows the enemy’s strength now on Big Creek Gap to be 8,000 strong, with at least four pieces of artillery, and they positively declare their intention to invade Kentucky at this point. They are greatly exasperated; our pickets having killed one of theirs on yesterday. They are said to have 1,500 cavalry coming from toward Knoxville and down from Cumberland Gap.
I have waited patiently here a good while, with an enemy threatening me in front of three times at least of those under my command. They have artillery; I have none. I do think the time has come that some action must be taken, and now is the time to move. You have the artillery and men, and at this point there is no mistake. If reliable information can be relied on, they (the enemy) intend to make the fight. I trust something will be done speedily. The enemy is now in the exact position he was when the former contemplated move was put on foot. Why not now advance?
Such move would prevent them from re-enforcing the gap, and we could attack them in detail successfully; after which being done, if deemed advisable, we could move our whole force on Cumberland Gap and fortify out of reach of their cannon, and compel them to fight us from under their cover, or starve them out and compel them to surrender. I have been directed by you to be ready to advance or retreat at a moment’s warning.
I am sorry to have to say it is an impossibility to comply with the instructions, as we have to subsist and forage ourselves. The transportation is very weak indeed. Much of our forage and subsistence we have to haul twenty miles, and the transportation is frequently gone for two days at a time on foraging and subsistence purposes, so that often if called on to advance or retreat we would have no means of transportation, and the result would be our ammunition, tents, and camp equipage and all would be left, and perhaps lost and fall into the hands of the enemy.
I earnestly call your attention to my condition in this respect that such action may be taken as will prevent any great injury resulting on any move that may be made under instructions yet in force relative to my command.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES G. SPEARS, Brig.-Gen. OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 14-15.

USA Gen. James Spears

JUNE 1862
The Confederate commander of the Department of East Tennessee at Knoxville, Gen. E. Kirby Smith, faces a difficult choice when the U.S. Army threatens both ends of his department—Chattanooga and Cumberland Gap. He chooses Chattanooga and rushes all available troops to Chattanooga to protect his Georgia supply lines. Confederate units hurry south, burning bridges over the Clinch River as they march to the railroad depot at Morristown to catch a ride to Chattanooga.

10 JUNE 1862 – 15 JUNE 1862
Operations in East Tennessee
Report of Brig. Gen. James G. Spears, U. S. Army.
ARMY OF THE OHIO, Cumberland Gap.
CAPT.: In obedience to instructions of June 10, 1862, I proceeded with my command … by way of Big Creek Gap, in order to join Brig. Gen. [George] Morgan at Speedwell. The advance of my command, after having opened and removed a heavy blockade through Pine and Cumberland Mountains, entered the Gap on the evening of the 11th, at which point my pickets were fired on by the pickets of the enemy, which resulted in a pretty heavy skirmish. As we advanced through the Gap the enemy’s pickets, lying in ambush, contested our advance, and fired upon us from rocks and other places of concealment. … we advanced through the Gap, and it being dusk, my men lay upon their arms and rested until next morning.
On the next morning the opening of the blockade was resumed, and the work continued until 12 o’clock that day, during which time the enemy’s cavalry pickets and my advance pickets kept up a heavy skirmish … the whole command and transportation were ordered to renew the march to join Gen. Morgan at Speedwell.
After having passed through the Gap and turned up the valley the advance train was ordered to halt and the rear ordered to close up. While said order was being executed the advance of the trains was charged upon by a considerable force of the enemy’s cavalry, but they were gallantly repulsed … and made to retreat in confusion.
On the morning of the 15th my pickets were attacked, but they were unable to draw the enemy after them. … I ordered Col. Houk, Col. Cooper, and Col. Shelley to proceed into the valley and advance across the same and attack the enemy on the ridge, at which place they seemed to be assembled in force.
They did so, and succeeded in routing them, driving them across Clinch River and alarming them so much they filled boats with rails, set them on fire, and turned them loose down the river, and retreated toward Knoxville. … in the evening, on our return to the valley, I received a dispatch informing me … that I was ordered to join Gen. Morgan at Speedwell at the earliest practicable moment, in order that our forces on this side might be concentrated for the purpose of attacking Cumberland Gap. It then being dark, or about it, I threw out picket-guards and remained at the Gap during that night.
On the following morning, having been joined by the Twenty-fourth Brigade, commanded by Gen. [S. P.] Carter, in obedience to said order, at 4 o’clock I took up the line of march, and on same evening arrived at Rogers’ Gap. …
As we passed along we were frequently greeted by groups of citizens along the road, both ladies and gentleman, who had heretofore acted with the secession party, who expressed their great joy and satisfaction on the arrival of our army, and who stated that they had been deceived, but that they were glad our army had come to relieve them from the oppression and thralldom which had borne them down, and invited the officers to visit their houses and families and partake of such refreshments as they had, which … was generously given and thankfully received.
… on the 15th, after resting one day … I, with my command, together with commands of Gen.’s De Courcy, Baird, and Carter, took up the line of march at 1 o’clock for the purpose of attacking the enemy … The place assigned me in the order of march was forty-five minutes in rear of Gen. Carter’s brigade… But before arriving at said place it was ascertained that the enemy had abandoned it under great confusion, and made their way, some said, toward Cumberland Gap, some toward Knoxville, and others toward Morristown.
After resting a while … we were ordered to take up the line of march toward Cumberland Gap, in order to attack the enemy there, but before arriving at that point it was ascertained that the enemy had abandoned it and fled toward the railroad in utter confusion …
Gen. De Courcy having first arrived with his brigade on that evening, after having marched some twenty miles, proceeded to the top of the mountain, raised the glorious old flag of our country, and fired a salute from Capt. Foster’s battery in honor of the brilliant success achieved by the valor, energy, and patriotism of our officers and soldiers. … The officers and men and all under my command with promptness, energy, and zeal executed at all times every order and command given to them by me, and my warmest thanks are accorded to them, one and all.
I am, captain, very respectfully,
your obedient servant,
JAMES G. SPEARS, Brig. Gen., Comdg.
Twenty-fifth Brigade, Army of the Ohio.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. I, pp. 69-72.


13 JUNE 1862
Bowman, East Tennessee.
Colonel J. B. FRY:
On yesterday I received your telegram giving me authority to operate offensively … At the same moment I received a dispatch from Colonel De Courcy, still at Rogers’ Gap, saying that the enemy evacuated Cumberland Gap … Soon after Mr. Kellinn, who resides within 8 miles of Cumberland Gap, arrived with information that the huts were burned and the tents taken down on the Kentucky front of the Gap.
I have just received a dispatch from Colonel De Courcy saying that the enemy was reported to be in position at Cedar Creek, near Fincastle. General Carter is now en route to Big Creek Gap, and I feel it to be my duty to concentrate my division at the earliest moment practicable. The enemy may not have evacuated Cumberland Gap, but simply resorted to a ruse. …

18 JUNE 1862 – 17 SEPTEMBER 1862
Second Occupation of Cumberland Gap
18 JUNE 1862
Occupation of Cumberland Gap by Union forces.
Excerpt from the Report of Gen. George W. Morgan relative to the Federal occupation of Cumberland Gap.
Well, the Gap is ours, and without the loss of a single life. I have since carefully examined the works, and I believe that the place could have been taken in a ten days’ struggle from the front, but to have done so I should have left the bones of two-thirds of my gallant comrades to bleach upon the mountain-side, and, after all, this fastness, all stained with heroic blood, would only have been what it now is, a fortress of the Union, from whose highest peak floats the Stars and Stripes. The result secured by strategy is less brilliant than a victory obtained amid the storm and hurricane of battle, but humanity has gained all that glory has lost, and I am satisfied.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. p. 61.

18 JUNE 1862
Excerpt from the Report of John F. De Courcy
Col., Cmdg. Twenty-sixth Brigade relative to the occupation of Cumberland Gap, June 18, 1862
On the 18th instant I resumed the march … The enemy being supposed to have taken up a strong position at Thomas’ farm, and my orders being to attack him before Gen. Carter, who was marching on a parallel but longer line than the one I was operating on, could debouch, I moved with the amount of celerity which I deemed would enable me to attain the object in view.
I reached the point indicated, but found the enemy had retreated early in the morning. After reposing the troops I moved on slowly, to enable the cavalry advance guard to examine the woods, which were constantly presenting themselves on my flanks, and from under whose cover I had been informed I might at any moment except an attack from the enemy posted in ambush.
Finally, after a march of nearly 20 miles, I reached Cumberland Gap, which I found the enemy had evacuated during the previous night, its rear guard having left only three hours before the arrival of my advance guard. Before sunset the flags of the Twenty-sixth Brigade flaunted over the fortifications, and Foster’s battery, firing a salute of thirty-four guns, told in loud tones to the persecuted people of East Tennessee that they were free, for once more the Stars and Stripes were near to protect and encourage them in their loyalty. …
In concluding this report it becomes my most pleasing duty to request you to mention to the general commanding that the many difficulties and fatigues of this march were met, endured, and overcome by the officers, noncommissioned officers, and privates under my command with a cheerful spirit and an energy of action which speaks well for their patriotism and soldier-like qualities. The officers of my personal staff displayed great activity, perseverance, and intelligence in seeing my orders carried out …
John F. De Courcy, Col., Cmdg. Twenty-sixth Brigade.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 10, pt. pp. 72-74.

17-18 JUNE 1862

Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan.

Twenty-fourth Brigade, Brig. Gen. Samuel P. Carter:
49th Ind., Lieut.-Col. James Keigwin;
3rd Ky., Col. T. T. Garrard;
1st Tenn., Col. Robert K. Byrd;
2nd Tenn., Col. James P. T. Carter.

Twenty-fifth Brigade, Brig.-Gen. James G. Spears;
3rd Tenn., Col. Leonidas C. Houk;
4th Tenn., Col. Robert Johnson;
5th Tenn., Col. James T. Shelley;
6th Tenn., Col. Joseph A Cooper.

Twenty-sixth Brigade, Col. John F. De Courcy:
22nd Ky., Col. Daniel W. Lindsey;
16th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. George W. Bailey;
42nd Ohio, Col. Lionel A. Sheldon.

Twenty-seventh Brigade, Brig. Gen. Absalom Baird:
33rd Ind., Col. John Coburn;
14th Ky., Col. John C. Cochran;
19th Ky., Col. William J. Landram.

Artillery, Capt. Jacob T. Foster:
7th Mich., Capt. Charles H. Lanphere;
9th Ohio, Lieut. Leonard P. Barrows;
1st Wis., Lieut. John D. Anderson;
Siege Battery, Lieut. Daniel Webster. Cavalry
Ky. Battalion, Lieut.-Col. Reuben Munday. Ky.
Engineers, Capt. William F. Patterson.

Twenty-seventh Brigade at Cumberland Gap

Their composition is not stated in the “Official Records.”
During the month of July.
Brig. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson, First Division, Department of East Tennessee, was in position confronting Morgan at Cumberland Gap.
The strength of this division was stated by General Kirby Smith on the 24th of the month to be 9000 effectives, “well organized and mobilized, and in good condition for active service.”
The organization on the 3rd of July was as follows:
Second Brigade, Col. James E. Rains:
 4th Tenn., Col. J. A. McMurry;
11th Tenn., Col. J. E. Rains;
42nd Ga., Col. R. J. Henderson;
3rd Ga. Battalion, Lieut.-Col. M. A. Stovall;
29th N. C., Col. R. B. Vance;
Ga. Battery, Capt. J. G. Yeiser.

Third Brigade, Brig. Gen. S. M. Barton;
30th Ala., Col. C. M. Shelley;
31st Ala., Col. D. R. Hundley;
40th Ga., Col. A. Johnson;
52nd Ga., Col. W. Boyd;
9th Ga. Battalion, Maj. J. T. Smith;
Va. Battery, Capt. Joseph W. Anderson.

Fourth Brigade, Col. A. W. Reynolds:
20th Ala., Col. I. W. Garrott;
36th Ga., Col. J. A. Glenn;
39th Ga., Col. J. T. McConnell;
43rd Ga., Col. S. Harris;
39th N. C., Col. D. Coleman;
3rd Md. Battery, Capt. H. B. Latrobe.

Fifth Brigade, Col. T. H. Taylor:
23rd Ala., Col. F. K. Beck;
46th Ala., Col. M. L. Woods;
3rd Tenn., Col. J. C. Vaughn;
31st Tenn., Col. W. M. Bradford;
59th Tenn., Col. J. B. Cooke;
Tenn. (Rhett) Battery, Capt. W. H. Burroughs.


19 JUNE 1862
The enemy evacuated this American Gibraltar …
Cumberland Gap, June 19, 1862.
The enemy evacuated this American Gibraltar this morning at 10 o’clock, and De Courcy’s brigade took possession at 3 this afternoon. The enemy destroyed a considerable amount of his stores, and precipitated several cannon over the cliffs, spiking others, and carried a few away. I believe, however, that seven have been found in position. The tents were left standing, but cut into slits. He had not time to destroy or take a portion of his stores, and they have been taken possession of by the proper officers.
The Stars and Stripes were raised by De Courcy, and a national salute was fired in honor of the capture of this stronghold of treason. Each brigade, in the order of its arrival, will on successive days plant its flag at sunset upon the pinnacle of the mountain, accompanied by a national salute.
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

20 JUNE 1862
Cumberland Gap.
It has been with mortification and regret that the general commanding has learned that outrages have been committed upon private property of citizens, some of whom are loyal to the Union, by a few bad men, who have disgraced their uniforms by their unsoldier-like conduct.
Private citizens and private property must be respected, and the honor of our flag and of the brave men who are ready to die beneath its folds shall not be sullied by a handful of desperadoes who have crept into the ranks of the army, and if any such act is committed after this order has become promulgated and known the perpetrator of the outrage shall suffer the penalty of death, as prescribed by the Rules and Articles of War.
It is directed that this order be at once published at the head of every company in the command and that commanding officers will look to its enforcement.
By command of General Morgan:
Assistant Adjutant-General.

20 JUNE 1862
Confederate depredations in Cumberland Gap environs.
Col. FRY, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.:
I have great need of two regiments of cavalry, and hope that they will be sent me immediately. The rebel cavalry are committing atrocious outrages, and I have not the means to protect the people. With one regiment much could be done, and with two I could give immediate security to the people of this portion of the State.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 43.

21 JUNE 1862
President Lincoln notified about the Confederate evacuation of Cumberland Gap.
The enemy has evacuated Cumberland Gap. Must very soon leave all East Tennessee.
H. W. HALLECK, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 44.

22 JUNE 1862
Telegram from the Secretary of War.
WASHINGTON, June 22, 1862.
Brigadier-General MORGAN:
This Department has been highly gratified with your successful occupation of Cumberland Gap, and commends the gallant conduct and labors of your officers and troops, to whom you will express the thanks of the President and this Department. Cumberland Gap is regarded as a strategic point of great importance, which, unless you have orders from your commanding officer, this Department will consider you well employed in holding and strengthening that position so that the enemy can by no chance recover his position.
I have been striving ever since receiving the intelligence of your success to aid and send you a skillful officer of the Engineer Department to place and construct the necessary works. That has delayed my communication to you. The great demand in this quarter has absorbed the whole engineer force, but tomorrow I hope to send you an officer highly recommended by General Totten for his professional skill. It is out of the power of this Department to supply you at present with any cavalry for offensive operations, and as your force for some time can be advantageously employed defensively in its present position, I trust you will not need it.
With thanks for your diligence and activity,
I remain, yours, truly,
Secretary of War.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, p. 1008.

24 JUNE 1862
Hon. E. M. STANTON, Washington, D. C.
Citizens of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee come in by the dozen to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. A moment ago, 13 Virginians came in, and when I welcomed them back to the old flag every eye was dimmed with tears.
Brigadier-General Volunteers, Commanding.

25 JUNE 1862
Confederate civilians in Cumberland Gap environs take the oath of allegiance.
Cumberland Gap.
Gen. [DON CARLOS] BUELL, and Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War: Secession citizens of Tennessee continue to come in to take the oath of allegiance and ask the protection of the brave old flag.
Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 66.

31 JULY 1862
CSA Gens. E. Kirby Smith and Braxton Bragg develop a plan to drive Union forces out of Tennessee.

2 AUGUST – 4 AUGUST 1862
Operations at Cumberland Gap.
Report of Col. John F. De Courcy, Sixteenth Ohio Infantry, commanding brigade. TAZEWELL, EAST TENN.
CAPTAIN: The foraging has thus far proceeded satisfactorily. Hay, horses, cattle, and sheep were brought in yesterday. No corn has been found as yet. Yesterday [3rd] I made a reconnaissance toward Big Springs. The enemy had there about 100 cavalry, and they held their ground for about an hour and did not leave until I opened fire on them with a 10-pounder.
This day [4th] I proceed with the Sixteenth Regiment and two guns to Little Sycamore … where I shall leave a part of the Forty-second Regiment to protect my line of retreat in case of disaster. From Little Sycamore I shall move toward Big Sycamore, and return to Tazewell from that point …
This expedition is intended to cover a large train which proceeds from here direct to Big Sycamore. I have not sufficient strength to make detachments without at the same time leaving altogether open the position in rear of this town. But by thus calling the enemy’s attention toward Little Sycamore I hope to make them uneasy about their Morristown line of [rail]road.
Two of the enemy’s spies have been arrested whilst in the act of giving their cavalry information of the position of our infantry. It would serve as a good example if these men were punished according to the laws. If an order be sent me to that effect, I will have them publicly shot.
I have the honor to be, yours, respectfully,
Col., Commanding Twenty-sixth Brigade.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 42-43.


2 AUGUST – 6 AUGUST 1862
Operations against and about Cumberland Gap
Report of Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan, U. S. Army.
CUMBERLAND GAP, August 7, 1862.
COL.: To obtain forage and feed and learn the strength of the enemy, De Courcy was ordered to Tazewell on the 2nd instant. He secured 200 wagon loads of forage, all of which safely arrived on the 5th. Some slight picket skirmishing took place, in which we had 2 men wounded, while the enemy had 1 killed and several wounded.
Early in the morning of the 6th instant, not wishing to bring on a general action, I ordered Col. De Courcy to return to this post, but he was attacked at daybreak on that day. Considering enemy’s forces the attack was feeble. Two of his regiments surrounded two companies of the Sixteenth Ohio, detached to protect a section of artillery. The enemy’s movement was well executed …
Although surrounded by a vastly superior force, the two infantry companies … fought heroically, and three-fourths of them succeeded in cutting their way through to their regiments. But we fear that Capt. Edgar, an officer of great merit, was killed and Capt. Taneyhill taken prisoner.
A soldier of the Twenty-second Kentucky was shot through the neck and fell. His gun dropped from his hands; his foe contrived to advance upon him, when the wounded hero grasped his gun, rose to his feet and shot the rebel soldier dead when within five paces of him, when he again fell. …
At 3.30 p. m. a courier arrived from Col. De Courcy and asked for aid. Leaving three regiments to guard the Gap I marched with my remaining force to his assistance, but when within 2 miles of Tazewell I met him on his return. The enemy left the field at 5 o’clock and maintained his position until 7 o’clock p.m. The enemy’s loss is believed to be considerable. I did not pursue, lest with a superior force, he should gain my rear.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, pp. 835-836.

5 AUGUST 1862 – 6 AUGUST 1862*
Foraging, operations against and about Cumberland Gap.
Reconnaissance and skirmishes near Tazewell.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 52, pt. I, pp. 43-44.

16 AUGUST 1862
Recent operations around Cumberland Gap
We have had the pleasure of an interview with Capt. J. H. Ferry, Quartermaster of General Morgan’s division, who left the Gap at noon on Tuesday last, the twelfth instant, and he gives a full and explicit denial to the rebel reports of our reverses in that vicinity.
Since … the middle of July, there has been no regular engagement near the Gap until last Saturday, when Col. De Courcy went out on a foraging party with his whole brigade, consisting of the Sixteenth and Forth-second Ohio and Twenty-second Kentucky, Col. Lindsey, and the Fourteenth Kentucky, Col. Cochran, of Gen. Baird’s divisions. Col. Cochran was in advance with his regiment, about a mile and a half beyond Tazewell, on picket-duty, when he was attacked by four rebel regiments under Col. Rains, comprising the Eleventh and Forty-second Tennessee, Thirtieth Alabama and Twenty-first Georgia.
Col. Cochran immediately formed his command on each side of the road, each flank supported by a piece of artillery from Foster’s Wisconsin battery … The rebels advanced upon the Fourteenth Kentucky in extended line and their flanking regiments thrown forward, with the evident intention of surrounding and cutting off the whole regiment and artillery.
Col. Cochran, seeing this, retired his regiment in perfect order, as soon as the artillery had placed itself in his rear, and took position where the movement could not be repeated against him. The rebels, then changed their plan of attack, and charged … until when within two hundred and fifty yards, Col. Cochran, who had stood without discharging a gun, poured a terrible fire upon them, which checked their advance and threw them into disorder.
In the mean time, Foster’s entire battery of six guns had been place in position on an eminence in the rear, and opened fire, which turned the rebel disorder into a rout, and no more was seen of them. Rebel officers who came in under a flag of truce, acknowledged a loss of from two hundred to two hundred and fifty, and the Knoxville Register … published the names of one hundred and nine killed. We lost but three killed.
Lieut. Col. Gordon, of the Eleventh rebel Tennessee regiment, was taken prisoner by two men of the Sixteenth Ohio, and though their company was completely surrounded, they undexterously managed to bring him in to Colonel De Courcy.
The rebels offered to exchange all prisoners taken by them for their lieutenant-colonel, but the arrangements had not been completed when Captain Ferry left the Gap. Gen. Morgan issued orders complimenting Cols. Cochran and De Courcy and their men for their bravery, but it is universally conceded that to Col. Cochran belongs all the credit and the splendid repulse of the four rebel regiments.
~ Louisville Journal

The method of determining if a fight was a ‘battle’ or a ‘skirmish,’ an ‘engagement,’ an ‘affair’ or a ‘heavy skirmish’ is very subjective. Thus one man’s ‘skirmish’ could be another man’s ‘battle.’

16 AUGUST – 22 AUGUST 1862
Operations about Cumberland Gap.

16 AUGUST 1862
Confederate Army of Kentucky, under Gen. E. Kirby Smith, crosses the Tennessee Cumberland Mountains into Kentucky.
HUNTSVILLE, ALA., August 16, 1862—10.10 p.m.
Maj.-Gen. HALLECK, Gen.-in-Chief: Kirby Smith is advancing into Kentucky by the gaps west of Cumberland Gap with some 12,000 or 15,000 men, doubtless with the immediate object of getting into Morgan’s rear. Morgan says he can with his present supplies hold his position for five weeks. …
The movements of the enemy and information from various sources leave no room to doubt their intention to make a desperate effort to repossess themselves of this State.
D. C. BUELL, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 344.

16 AUGUST 1862
Morgan to Buell
CUMBERLAND GAP, August 16, 1862—12 m.
Gen. [DON CARLOS] BUELL, Huntsville: I have good reasons to believe that Smith intends to advance through Big Creek and possibly through Rogers Gap … Both gaps are observed. His force will be from five to eight brigades of infantry, with a corresponding force of artillery and cavalry, in all 12,000 or 15,000 men.
I have ordered a small cavalry force to Boston [KY] with directions that upon the first approach of the enemy at Big Creek or Rogers Gap to fall back upon Barboursville [KY] and to destroy all forage and drive before him all cattle along the route. …
I respectfully suggest that I have left one of two plans: to await quietly here until Smith is starved out and forced to fall back or to concentrate eight regiments at London [KY]. … Smith cannot possibly remain three weeks in my rear. I can hold this place five weeks with my present command.
MORGAN, Brig.-Gen. Volunteers, Cmdg.

16 AUGUST 1862
CSA Gen. E. Kirby Smith crosses the Tennessee Cumberland Mountains and invades Kentucky.
As planned, Smith will advance against the Federals at Cumberland Gap. After disposing of this force, Smith is to reunite with [Gen. Braxton] Bragg for the advance into Middle Tennessee …
Unfortunately, Smith has an obsession with Kentucky which will end his agreement to mutually support and cooperate with Bragg. Smith plans to deal with Union Major General George Morgan at Cumberland Gap by striking deep into Kentucky. If he destroys the bridge over the Kentucky River near Lexington, Morgan will be forced to evacuate Cumberland Gap.

16 AUGUST 1862 – 22 AUGUST 1862
Operations about Cumberland Gap Report of Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan,
U. S. Army, commanding Seventh Division, Army of the Ohio.
CUMBERLAND GAP, TENN., August 22, 1862.
GEN.: On the night of the 16th the enemy, said to be 20,000 strong, arrived in our front and drove in our pickets. … During the … [following] morning the enemy’s … artillery opened upon our cavalry. We returned the fire from the pinnacle forts … and compelled the enemy to withdraw his guns. … He now envelops our entire front. … The column which passed Big Creek Gap is said to be 20,000 strong. …
I ordered Col. [Leonidas] Houk to concentrate his regiment and fall back upon Cumberland Gap. It is rumored that Houk was attacked on the 16th instant and his command captured. On the morning of the 16th I sent Capt. Martin via Cumberland Ford to observe Big Creek and Rogers’ Gap. On the 17th instant [at Pine Mountain TN] he [Houk] was attacked by [Henry Marshall] Ashby’s cavalry, 600 strong, and 60 of his men are missing.
This telegram is sent to Gen.’s Halleck and Buell by courier to Lexington.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, p. 860.

Col. Leonidas Campbell Houk, First Tennessee Infantry USA

MINI BIO: Col. Leonidas Campbell Houk
Leonidas C. Houk, congressman and judge, was born near Boyd’s Creek, Sevier County. The death of his father in 1839 left him and his mother impoverished. His formal education consisted of only a few months at a country school; thereafter, he educated himself through diligent reading.
As a youth he earned a living as a cabinetmaker and Methodist preacher while studying law at night. In 1859 he was admitted to the Tennessee bar and opened an office in Clinton.
A Union loyalist at the outbreak of the Civil War and member of the Union convention in East Tennessee in 1861, Houk organized the First Tennessee Infantry USA … He served as a private, lieutenant, and quartermaster; in 1862 he was colonel of the Third Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Infantry. Poor health forced him to leave military service in 1863, and he spent the next two years following military activities and writing pro-Union articles for the press.

16 AUGUST 1862
Letter from Confederate soldier John Wesley Pitts to his wife in Alabama.
From Confederate camp at Tazewell TN near Cumberland Gap.
My Darling Vin
As it is thought we will commence an advance movement to-day, I have seated myself at the foot of an old oak tree to write you a few lines. We are now cooking up four days rations to go somewhere. It is thought we will go to the gap and from there to Kentucky as it is reported that the Yanks are evacuating the gap to prevent our troops from flanking them.
The whole of East-Tenn is in commotion preparing for a forward movement into Kentucky. The western army has been swarming into this country for the last 10 days. We have 10 or 12,000 men at this place. It is thought that we will attack the gap in front and Gen [E. Kirby] Smith with 20 or 25,000 will cross the Cumberland Mountains at Big Creek Gap – 20 miles below here and attack them in their rear, while Bragg will advance from Chattanooga and Price from the West.
If their plans can be carried out, we will be in possession of the whole of Tenn and a part or the whole of Kentucky in a short time. If we start on that trip, it may be some time before you will hear from me again. … if we get possession of the gap, it might fall to the lot of our Regiment to stay there and guard it.
The health of my company is improving some. I will start 12 more discharged men home in a few days. It looks like I will have to discharge half of my Company. I will try and send you some money by some of them. Say to old man Wallace that it is impossible to get any flour shipped from this country as Gen. Smith has issued an order preventing the shipment of any flour from the state. I will send his money back by the first one passing.
How does the little President [infant son] behave? Have you named him yet? I guess I will have to send him a Pony so that he can attend to the farm when Pa is absent. Did Gus Caldwell hand you the $40.00 I sent? There has nothing new or interesting occurred since my last. Kiss Lula for me.
My Kindest regards to all.
Write to me often. 
Yours as ever,

18 AUGUST 1862
Initiation of Confederate siege of Cumberland Gap; An entry in the diary of Private William E. Sloan
We are now within three miles of Cumberland Gap. We arrived here yesterday morning [17th] and commenced a siege, and we have the Gap invested from mountain to mountain, our line forming a semi-circle around the gap. The enemy has heavy batteries on the mountain with which they shell us continually, but with very little harm to us. Our line is very scattering, owing to our limited numbers, but things are so arranged that should the enemy attack pickets and skirmishers are well advanced. It is reported that Gen. Kirby Smith (whom we have lost sight of for some time) is advancing through Big Creek Gap, with the rest of our division and such other troops as he can collect together, and that his aim is to attack Cumberland Gap in the rear. If this be true, and they invest the rear properly we will compel the enemy to surrender. The Yankees seem to know nothing about the flank movement, and are turning their fire entirely on us. They are said to be commanded by one Gen. Morgan. We are all in fine spirits.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.
~ William E. Sloan’s diary of the Great War for Southern Independence
An account of the daily occurrences of Company C, Third Tennessee Volunteer Infantry from the beginning of the war to August 19, 1862, after [that] of Company D, Fifth Tennessee Cavalry from that date to the end of the war, and of Company D, Fifth Tennessee Cavalry, from that date to the end of the War. Cleveland, Tenn.: E. Wiefering, 1996.

21 AUGUST 1862
Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of the Mississippi crosses the Tennessee River in preparation for its movement north to Kentucky.

22 AUGUST 1862
Confederate soldier William E. Sloan keeps a diary while in camp at Cumberland Gap.
A skirmish at Cumberland Gap
I have been with a detail on picket duty all night. We were fired on to-day by two regiments of Yankee infantry and driven in. One of our men was killed and one wounded. We fell back in good order to our base and formed line of battle, but the enemy did not advance. They brought with them a battery with which they gave us a few charges of grape, also the heavy batteries on the mountain opened on us with shell, but without damage. They soon retired, and we are now occupying our former picket ground.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

24 AUGUST 1862
Truce and defection at Cumberland Gap
We are still holding our position. Our boys made a truce with the Yankee pickets to-day, and they met and had a conversation between the lines. The result was that one of the Yankees deserted and came over to us.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

25 AUGUST 1862
One Confederate soldier’s prognosis on the siege of Cumberland Gap.
The siege of Cumberland Gap is likely to last much longer than we at first expected. The prisoners that we have captured report that they have several months supply of provisions on hand. We learn that Gen. E. Kirby Smith, who was thought to be in [the] rear of the enemy at Cumberland Ford, has left and gone on further into Kentucky, and that the Yankees in the Gap have received large trains of supplies. This is the report, but whether true or not we do not know. A long train of wagons was seen coming down the mountain this evening, and we suppose they are coming out after forage.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

25 AUGUST 1862
Activities during the Confederate siege of Cumberland Gap
The enemy approached us this morning. They had two regiments of infantry and some artillery with their wagon train. They did not drive our pickets in, but proceeded to load their wagons with oats and green corn which grew just on their picket line, and the infantry and artillery stood in line of battle to protect the men who gathered the corn.
They then planted their battery a little nearer to us and shelled our pickets with great fury for a short time, but as we were under cover of thick woods they did not know where to direct their fire, and therefore did us no harm. They were in good range for sharp-shooters, had our men been provided with suitable guns, but I had the only long-range gun in the company, it being a Sharpe rifle.
I had the pleasure of annoying their gunners very much with my rifle, as I had a splendid position behind a great oak tree, and felt perfectly safe from the shells; in fact I think that I would have been safe without the tree, for the reason that while many shots were evidently aimed at it, no one struck it, but I certainly would not have felt safe without that great friendly tree standing in front of me.
The enemy soon retired. Our men are mostly armed with shot-guns and other muzzle loading arms of old pattern, some of them being flint-locks; all of which are good enough at close range, but are very unsatisfactory in the present service. We also carry sabres, but they are only good in a cavalry charge. A few of us have revolvers.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

25 AUGUST 1862
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NO. 2, Chattanooga, Tenn.
The troops of this command will be in readiness to move at an hour’s notice. Ample time for the preparation having been allowed and everything necessary having been promptly supplied, the general trusts the movement will be made with that alacrity and regularity which can alone inspire confidence. The enemy is before us, devastating our fair country, imprisoning our old and venerated men, even the ministers of God, insulting our women, and desecrating our altars. It is our proud lot to be assigned the duty of punishing and driving these deluded men, led by desperate adventurers and goaded on by Abolition demagogues and demons. Let us but deserve success and an offended Deity will certainly secure it. Should we be opposed, we must fight at any odds and conquer at any sacrifice. Should the foe retire, we must follow him rapidly to his town territory and make him taste the bitters of invasion. Soldiers! The enemy are before you and your banners are free. It is for you to decide whether our brothers and sisters of Tennessee and Kentucky shall remain bondmen and bondwomen of the Abolition tyrant or be restored to the freedom inherited from our fathers.
By command of Gen. Bragg
Humphreys Marshall marching from Pound Gap by way of Mount Sterling to join Kirby Smith. His force estimated at from 8,000 to 15,000. About 300 rebel troops at Mount Sterling and 100 at Winchester. Kirby Smith’s forces, which were at Lexington and Frankfort, have moved on toward Cynthiana and Covington. Rumored that a portion of his forces are moving toward Louisville. Col. De Courcy, of Gen. Morgan’s command, is at Manchester with his brigade, and is collecting supplies for the army at Cumberland Gap. Gen. Morgan’s entire force numbers about 7,000 effective men. He has thirty pieces of cannon, with a moderate supply of ammunition for them; has plenty of ammunition for small-arms. Provisions will hold out eighty days yet.
Gen. Bragg crossed the Tennessee River on the 25th of August. Gen. Stevenson has from 10,000 to 15,000 men immediately in front of Cumberland Gap. Kirby Smith’s force altogether in Kentucky number from 30,000 to 40,000. Recruits for the rebel army are being raised very rapidly in Kentucky.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, pp. 957-959.

27 AUGUST 1862
Skirmish near Cumberland Gap
Report of Brig. Gen. George W. Morgan, U. S. Army.
CUMBERLAND GAP, August 29, 1862.
GEN.: Nothing of interest on the 28th instant. On the 27th a small detachment from the First and Second Tennessee, commanded by Capt.’s Meyers and Robbins, attacked and surprised a party of the enemy’s cavalry, commanded by Acting Brig.-Gen. Allston, of South Carolina. Allston, his colors, and 3 privates were captured. The enemy left 4 dead men upon the field and had a considerable number wounded. The affair was a complete surprise, and we did not sustain any loss.
Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, p. 892.

28 AUGUST 1862
Letter from John Wesley Pitts to his wife ‘Darling Vin’ 
Camp Near Cumberland Gap 
My Darling Vin
I wrote you day before yesterday, but as Lt Wilder leaves this morning for home, I thought I would drop you a few lines. Lt Wilder has resigned on account of sickness. I am very fearful I will have to do the same as I am reduced to the necessity of wearing a truss and I am afraid if I stay here, I will injure myself for life.
Many a man has gone home from here not half as bad off as I am, but the idea of going home and leaving my company has something about it I don’t like. Besides my health is so good, or rather I look so healthy, if I was to come home the people would say there was nothing the matter with me. So I shall stay as long as I am able to walk.
We are still here in front of the Gap and as I write I can hear the boom of the enemy’s cannon throwing shell at our forces on the other side of the mountain. They have not shelled us but very little today. Their attention seems to be takin up on the other side. I am in hopes they will do something soon as I am getting very tired of laying here in the woods. We may have to stay here in our present position for a month yet.
We cannot find out how much provisions the enemy have left and of course they will not surrender until that is exhausted. They have been coming down after corn, but I understand from a deserter that they have a good deal to go on yet and corn was to make it hold out as long as possible – deserters are coming in all the time. All of the boys that are here are well. Though I have only 18. No other news of interest.
Kiss the babies good bye. 

28 AUGUST 1862
A Confederate cavalryman’s observations on the fortifications at Cumberland Gap.
Cumberland Gap is a very strong hold, being a natural fortification of itself, and the big forts with heavy siege guns mounted in them, and other formidable earth-works makes the place almost impregnable. Our force is about equal in numbers with that of the enemy, with the difference that they have more field artillery than we have, to say nothing of the heavy fort guns that they are using against us; therefore the idea of storming the gap has not been suggested, and would be perfectly insane.
Those forts were built by the Confederates, and they are equally effective on either side of the mountain. We would require a force of 5 to 1 to take the Gap by storm, therefore we must starve them out if we get them. Heavy firing was heard beyond the Gap this morning, but we suppose it was only the Yankees firing of their loaded guns.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

31 AUGUST 1862
Federal artillery bombardment of C. S. A. camps at Cumberland Gap.
The enemy has been shelling at us continuously all day with their big guns, but they do us no harm. The buzzing of shells has become an old song to us; our boys pay no attention to them. Most of the shells pass over our heads, though some fall short of us. It is worthy of note that there has not been a rifle pit, or any sort of breastworks erected over our entire line since this siege began, though most of our regiments have thick woods to camp in. If our enemies had our position they would have the whole country round about dug up into powerful earth-works.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.


Major General J. P. McCown, C. S. Army assumes command of the Department of East Tennessee.

Knoxville, Tenn., September 3, 1862.
Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
SIR: Col. Scott and others in Kentucky have paroled East Tennesseeans in the Federal Army to return to their homes. … Cumberland Gap, on this side, is closely invested, and Gen. Morgan is short of provisions. The north side of the Gap is open, and he can escape in the direction of Manchester or Columbia.
The force at my disposal is only sufficient to invest this side, protect the railroad bridges, and keep the country quiet. Gen. Smith is calling on me for re-enforcements. My position as temporary commander of the department is embarrassing, to say the least. I shall carry out Gen. Smith’s views. The conscript law should be enforced at once. I would prefer having the disaffected element in my front than my rear. I would recommend that [a] warning be given that all those who left would be considered as aliens and their property sequestrated. …
Those who left for the north would only embarrass Gen. Morgan in his critical position. If I had forces sufficient to invest the north of the Gap, I believe that Morgan and his whole force would soon be captured or give battle. A definite policy should be adopted at once, and I ask early instructions. The position and importance of East Tennessee requires prompt action.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. P. McCOWN, Maj.-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, pp. 794-795.

6 SEPTEMBER 1862 – 10 SEPTEMBER 1862
Expedition from Cumberland Gap to Pine Mountain and skirmishes
Report of Col. Joseph A. Cooper, Sixth Tennessee Infantry.
HDQRS. TWENTY-FIFTH BRIGADE, ARMY OF THE OHIO, Cumberland Gap, September 12, 1862. Brig.-Gen. MORGAN:
DEAR GENERAL: Having received, I herewith transmit to you the report of Col. Cooper of the expedition made in obedience to an order received from your headquarters. It is with no small degree of gratitude and pleasure that I do the same, and take pleasure in stating, in addition to what he reports, that a comment from me upon the facts as stated in his report would nor could not present the gallant commander who planned, and the brave and energetic officers and men who executed, it in any more favorable light before the country than their gallant conduct on the occasion as stated in Col. Cooper’s report. For all which gallantry, patriotism, and energy it is my first duty, as well as my greatest pleasure, to forward, together with this report, to your headquarters for your further consideration, and then to receive from you and the nation such other and further comment as in your judgment said little band of patriots are entitled to. I am, general, your friend and obedient servant, JAMES G. SPEARS, Brig. Gen. Comdg.
Twenty-fifth Brigade, Army of the Ohio.

John Wesley Pitts writes his wife from Cumberland Gap.
Cumberland Gap, 4 o’clock P.M.
My Darling Vin
Since mailing the letter I wrote you this morning our Regiment has received orders to go into camp until tomorrow morning. About dinner time I received yours written at Columbiana on the 13th inst, and I assure its perusal afforded me a great deal of pleasure to know that you were well and everything moving on so smoothly. Separated as we are it is always a great pleasure to hear from you and if I sometimes complain of your not writing as often as I could wish, you must overlook and attribute it to an over anxiety to hear from you & the little ones.
You ask me to come home. I would like very well to do so but for a healthy man like myself to resign and go home it would furnish gossip for years to come, besides my company is so anxious for me to stay that it would look wrong in me to leave them as long as can possibly get along. They say that I will have to give it up and go home but as long as I can without serious injury to myself, they want me to stay.
It makes me proud and mad at the same time to think they should object so strong to my leaving them. If I were a lieutenant or a private, I should not hesitate one minute but apply for a discharge and go home, even if I were forced by the conscript to hire a substitute.
Since I got me a truss I have done pretty well while I was lying around here and not walking much, but as soon as I commenced marching this week, I began to get worse & have [been] getting worse all the time, and yesterday in the march from Baptist Gap 10 miles below this, I gave completely out and had to fall back behind the Regt. If I continue to get worse, I will have to give it up, as I do not care to be left behind the Regt. in such a country as Kentucky.
I am only affected on one side at present but the Dr. says I may get so on the other any day. Dr. Reeves says if I were at home and would take the proper care of myself, I would get over it directly, but that he is afraid I will [not] get over it in the service. I would like exceedingly if some arrangement could be made by which I could get a Company in place of the one at the Bridge, as I would then be stationery – But enough of myself.
I have looking around all day at the sights in this Gap & vicinity and have not yet seen half. If I had time, I could write you ten or fifteen pages. I have stood to-day in three different states at the same time – Kentucky, Tennessee & Virginia. They corner right in the Gap. It is the most magnificent view from the mountain I have ever beheld, but I have not the space to go into detail.
Such destruction of property I never expected to see as we witnessed here – arms, ammunition, Camp & garrison equipage or a large amount of coffee and salt were burnt. Our troops saved a good deal but an immense amount was lost. They destroyed all their tents, baggage, tools, ammunition & everything they had brought here for the purpose of arming the East Tennessee Tory’s [Unionists]. We captured 430 of them before they could get away. They all appear very anxious to get out of the army.
I will write again as soon as I get a chance. Write soon. Continue to direct your letters to Knoxville as we will have a regular mail to follow us as we advance. Good Bye, 

Confederate concern about Federal position at Cumberland Gap
Gen. BRAXTON BRAGG, Chattanooga, Tenn.
GEN: I have just returned from Gen. Carter Stevenson’s headquarters. With Gen. Stevenson I made a careful reconnaissance of the enemy’s position at Cumberland Gap. We cannot storm the place. They are strengthening their works, and can subsist for a considerable time from the country north of the mountain unless the Gap is invested on the north side.
Independent of the command of Gen. Stevenson I have only troops sufficient to guard our depot and the railroad bridges and a few Partisan Rangers, Col. Smith’s Legion. The Legion is now moving to Big Creek Gap to co-operate with Gen. Stevenson to cut off a force blockading Big Creek and Rogers Gaps. I believe the [Cumberland] Gap would soon fall if I had men to invest the north side. I should have done so if I could have collected 3,000 men.
Your calling on me for Smith’s Legion leaves me hardly able to guard the different gaps. I have organized some 1,500 old soldiers (joining their regiments) that I shall forward as soon as armed and Big Creek Gap opened or that I can safely send them by the Jamestown route. Rest assured, general, that I shall do all I can to forward your wishes. The situation of East Tennessee is not satisfactory. I fear trouble.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. S. BRADFORD, Assistant Adjutant-Gen.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 810.

“The recovery of Cumberland Gap is a necessity …”
Gen. S. COOPER, Richmond, Va.:
GEN.: The Federal forces at Cumberland Gap have taken advantage of the advance of Gen. Smith’s command into Kentucky to blockade the passes through mountains which Gen. Smith entered Kentucky. A detachment of Kentucky cavalry left a few days since without orders to join Gen. Smith and were captured near Pine Mountain.
Gen. Smith is calling on me for re-enforcements. Gen. Bragg has ordered a portion of my small command to join Gen. Smith. I shall obey the order. With the force at my command at present I can only invest the Gap on this side, guard the various mountain passes and the railroad bridges.
I am unpleasantly situated, taking in view the necessity of recovering Cumberland Gap, the key to East Tennessee and the requisitions for re-enforcements for Kentucky. The recovery of Cumberland Gap is a necessity to the peace and quiet of this deluded region. It cannot be recovered unless it can be reinvested on the north side.
I cannot do this and send off the forces to Kentucky called for unless in his confusion Gen. Morgan may abandon it. I am now organizing a force to re-enforce Gen. Smith and escort funds. I shall push it forward as soon as it is of sufficient strength to certainly protect these funds.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. P. McCOWN, Maj.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. II, p. 814.

17 SEPTEMBER 1862 – 3 OCTOBER 1862
Union Army Evacuates Cumberland Gap
March of its garrison to Greenupburg [now Greensburg] KY
Report of Brig. Gen. W. Morgan, U. S. Army.
HDQRS. UNITED STATES FORCES, Greenupburg, Ky., October 3, 1862.
GEN.: On the night of the 17th of September, with the army of Stevenson 3 miles in my front, with Bragg and Marshall on my flanks, and Kirby Smith in my rear, my command marched from Cumberland Gap mid the explosion of mines and magazines and lighted by the blaze of the store-houses of the commissary and quartermaster. The sight was grand.
Stevenson was taken completely by surprise. At 5 o’clock p. m. on the 17th instant I sent him three official letters. The officers of our respective flags remained together in friendly chat for an hour. I have brought away all the guns but four 30- pounders, which were destroyed by knocking off the trunnions. During our march we were constantly enveloped by the enemy’s cavalry, first by the Stevenson and since by the [Gen. John Hunt] Morgan brigade.
Throughout I maintained the offensive, and on one day marched twenty hours and on three successive nights drove Morgan’s men from their supper. Morgan first assailed us in the rear and then passed to our front, blockading the road and destroying subsistence. For three successive days we were limited to the water of stagnant pools and that in small quantities. We expected to meet Humphrey Marshall at this place, but have been disappointed. Unless otherwise ordered I will proceed with my column to Camp Dennison to rest and refit.
With high respect,
Brig.-Gen., Cmdg.
OR, Ser. I, Vol. 16, pt. I, p. 990.

The Federals commenced burning their army stores last night at 8 o’clock. They blew up their magazines after midnight, and marched out before day. We advanced this morning and occupied the Gap, and found a great quantity of property destroyed and some not destroyed. The enemy had spiked the guns in the forts on the mountain peaks, and they left a great number of sick in the Gap. We will move on in pursuit of them.
~ Diary of William E. Sloan.

USA George W. Morgan saves his men from starvation by leading them
north out of Tennessee, through Kentucky to safety on the Ohio River.

The Great March from Cumberland Gap
3 October 1862 ended one of the epic marches in American military history, the evacuation of the Union garrison at Cumberland Gap to the Ohio River. The men, 7,000 under Brigadier General George W. Morgan, endured a test not often found in the annals of the United States Army. What they achieved is on a par with other great movements like Benedict Arnold’s march to Quebec in 1775, Stephen Kearny’s march to California in 1846, and Joseph Stilwell’s walkout from Burma in 1942. Yet it is largely forgotten outside of Kentucky.
Here is that story.
When the Confederates invaded Kentucky in August 1862, a 9,000-strong division under Carter Stevenson diverted to besiege George Morgan’s garrison at Cumberland Gap. Cut off from the outside, the men (many from East Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky) could only watch their rations diminish and wonder at what was happening elsewhere. No word came as August turned into September.
On September 6 the garrison’s bread ran out. Six days later, later the post quartermaster reported that feed for the horses and mules was almost exhausted. If these animals starved to death, the garrison would lose its mobility and would never be able to leave the Gap.
George Morgan now faced a critical decision. On September 14 he met with his staff and senior commanders. After considering the situation carefully, all present agreed that the Gap needed to be evacuated. Having thus decided to leave Cumberland Gap, the next question was where to go. A march on the Old Wilderness Road toward Lexington or Central Kentucky would mean a likely encounter with Confederates, not something George Morgan was willing to risk with his half-starved men. Win or lose, his force might be so crippled by a major fight that it would be unable to get to Union lines.
The only other alternative was to go through the mountains to the Ohio River, 200 miles to the north. But this option meant a major movement into a wild region using narrow roads and defiles that could easily be blocked by an intrepid opponent. George Morgan marked a possible route on a map, and he showed it to some officers who were familiar with Eastern Kentucky’s mountains. Almost to a man they agreed it would be a tough road, with little forage or water to be found. One officer, the former Kentucky State Geologist, said that the Federals could “possibly” get through, but only “by abandoning the artillery and wagons.” Despite the risks, George Morgan decided to try and bring out his whole force through the mountains.
After several days of preparations, George Morgan’s men left Cumberland Gap at 8 P.M. on September 17. They burned everything not movable and blocked the road to delay pursuit. Turning northeast past Manchester, the Federals moved into the mountains while Confederates under John Hunt Morgan and Humphrey Marshall exerted every effort to block their progress, While the wagons moved through defiles, East Tennessee infantry covered from the ridges above.
George Morgan later summarized the hunt in the Eastern Kentucky mountains: “Frequent skirmishes took place, and it several times happened that while the one Morgan was clearing out the obstructions at the entrance to a defile, the other Morgan was blocking the exit from the same defile with enormous rocks and felled trees.
In the work of clearing away these obstructions, one thousand men, wielding axes, saws, picks, spades, and block and tackle, under the general direction of Captain William F. Patterson, commanding his company of engineer-mechanics, and of Captain Sidney S. Lyon, labored with skill and courage. In one instance they were forced to cut a new road through the forest for a distance of four miles in order to turn a blockade of one mile.” 
The Confederates finally broke off pursuit October 1.
On October 3, 1862, George Morgan’s command crossed the Ohio River at Greensburg. After 219 miles and 16 days on the road, they had made it despite limited water, dwindling rations, and Confederate efforts. Federal losses totaled 80 men killed, wounded, and missing/deserted. Despite all odds, George Morgan had brought his men, wagons, and artillery to safety in the Buckeye State.

The Rev. E. K. Pitts and Hon. A. O. P. Nicholson had a series of appointments to address the people of East Tennessee on the subject of the war, extending from Loudon to Bristol, and closing on the 10th inst. The former was authorized by the rebel government to raise a regiment of volunteers. Maj. Gen. John P. McCown succeeded Gen. Kirby Smith in command of the Department of East Tennessee.
Gen. McCown publishes an order in the Knoxville Register of the 7th, revoking authority previously granted to impress or seize property, and thereafter impressments would only be made by a commanding officer or by a special order of the Major General Commanding the Department, the property to be receipted for at proper value in all cases.
The Knoxville Register of the 7th says: “Our latest advices from Cumberland Gap represents matters in status quo and every thing quiet.” What the programme of the rebel troops in relation to the besieged place, the Register says had not yet been developed. …
Nashville Dispatch

21 OCTOBER 1862
Stopping Confederate stragglers from reaching Knoxville.
Special Order No. 49
Headquarters Breckinridge’s Division, Knoxville.
Brig-Genl. Maxey will send a Regiment under one of his most competent officers out on the Tazewell road to Cumberland Gap to stop the stragglers from Gen’l Bragg’s army. He will order the officers in command to use such vigilance as will prevent their getting to the Rail Road Depot or into the town of Knoxville.
By Command of Maj. Gen. [John] Breckinridge.
Military daily log, 1862-1865,
William B. Bate collection.

21 OCTOBER 1862
Bragg’s Army of the Mississippi successfully completes its passage through Cumberland Gap and returns to Tennessee.

The Battles for Cumberland Gap 1863 coming in the near future.

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