Cumberland Gap
American Civil War History

The Old Wilderness Road cutting through the Gap was a natural invasion route. For the Confederacy, it led to the rich Kentucky bluegrass country to the north. For the Union, it led to the Northern sympathizers of East Tennessee, and to an opportunity to cut rebel supply lines. In late summer of 1861, the Confederacy seized the Gap (see Kentucky Confederate Offensive Campaign) and made it the eastern anchor of a defense line extending to the Mississippi River. Brigadier General William Churchwell was placed in command, and fortified the garrison during the fall of 1861. He built seven forts on the north facing slope, and cleared the mountains of all trees within one mile of each fort. Needed more elsewhere, the Confederates abandoned the Gap in June 1862.

Union Brigadier General George W. Morgan soon arrived to take possession of the Gap. The 20,000 men under his command began building nine south-facing batteries to repel an invasion. But none came. The Confederates under Lt. General Kirby Smith by-passed the Gap with 12,000 men and moved into Kentucky, severing Morgan's supply line. Without food and still fearing an attack, General Morgan boldly led his men north through enemy territory to safety.

The Confederates returned to the Gap, cleared up the mess General George Morgan and his men left behind, and strengthened the forts. Many skirmishes took place, as Unionists from Tennessee raided the garrison. In September 1863 a Union force under Maj. General Ambrose E. Burnside moved toward the Gap. On September 7, the Yankees destroyed provisions stored at the Iron Furnace. Burnside also deceived the Confederate commander, Brig. General John W. Frazer, into believing that his force was stronger than it actually was. Believing his Confederates to be outmanned, and short of provisions necessary for a long seige, Frazer surrendered his garrison on September 9.

Lining up along the Harlan Road, the Confederates were amazed to see the small force to which they had surrendered. The Gap remained in Union hands until the end of the war. Except for a garrison inspected by Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant in January 1864, when he labeled the Cumberland Gap the "Gibraltar of America," there was little excitement. Meanwhile, the war fought to its end in the South and East.

By the end of the war the Gap had changed hands four times, yet no major confrontation took place here.

Mentioned in battles at
Mill Springs Kentucky January 19, 1862
Perryville Kentucky October 8, 1862
Marion Virginia December 17-18, 1864


Flintlock Rifle

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Over 700 photographs and a rarity scale for each gun, this comprehensive guide to the thousands of weapons used by Billy Yank and Johnny Reb will be indispensable for historians and collectors.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

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American Civil War Book Titles

Civil War in the American West
An accurate and detailed history of the Western Theater of the Civil War, which was largely forgotten by history. He was one of the first historians to fully understand the impact that California had on the war as he gives an accounting of the Federal raid on the Dan Showalter Ranch in San Bernadino on October 5, 1861.
Partisan Rangers
The Partisan Rangers of the Confederate States Army: Memoirs of General Adam R. Johnson
The capture of Newburg, Indiana, with only twelve men and two joints of stovepipe mounted on the running gear of a wagon. This episode won him a nickname of "Stovepipe." He was promoted to Brigadier General in June 1864
The Railroads of the Confederacy
The story of the first use of railroads on a major scale in a major war. A complex and fascinating tale, with the railroads of the American South playing the part of tragic hero in the Civil War: at first vigorous though immature; then overloaded, driven unmercifully, starved for iron; and eventually worn out
Struggle for the heartland
Struggle for the Heartland: The Campaigns from Fort Henry to Corinth
The military campaign that began in early 1862 with the advance to Fort Henry and culminated in late May with the capture of Corinth, Mississippi. The first significant Northern penetration into the Confederate west

The Tale of the Devil: The Biography of Devil Anse Hatfield
The story of Hatfield patriarch Devil Anse Hatfield, beginning with his childhood in frontier Appalachia; it also covers his Civil War days as a noted Confederate soldier.
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Kingdom Of The Hollow, The Story Of The Hatfields and McCoys
Get to know the many members of the two families and how they live. The descriptions of Kentucky and West Virginia remind us of the remote cabin life of these mountain men and women and how important family can be in such a lifestyle

Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900
The legendary feud was not an outgrowth of an inherently violent mountain culture but rather one manifestation of a contest for social and economic control between local people and outside industrial capitalists

The Longest Raid of the Civil War: Little-Known & Untold Stories of Morgan's Raid into Kentucky, Indiana & Ohio
Kentucky, a slave state, did not secede. Many were pro Confederate however. Jefferson Davis was from Kentucky, Lincoln was also born there.

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