Doc. 136.-capture of Cumberland Gap.
Cumberland Gap is wrenched from rebel hands; and thus the most direct and available way to Eastern Tennessee is thrown wide open, and free access to and from the loyal people of that region is permanently secured. Viewing the event in all its aspects and bearings, it rises to the dignity and importance of a great political, military, and moral triumph, and none the less so from having been achieved by strategic operations, involving neither carnage, bloodshed, nor loss of life. On the evening of the seventeenth notice was given to have tents struck and two days rations in haversacks, and be prepared to march promptly at one o'clock on the morning of the eighteenth. At the appointed hour we were under way, and by sunrise had made, with all our train, a distance of six miles. Two miles further on we expected to meet the rebel infantry and cavalry, at a point where they had established a camp on our advent into Powell's Valley, and here, for the first time, we learned the probable abandonment of the Gap. As we progressed in our march, the rumors became more thick and fast of a hasty leave-taking, and the brigades were quickened into increased speed, with the hope of at least arresting the rear-guard, but without results. The entire division, with the ammunition train, made the distance--twenty miles--before sunset, and formally, amid the cheering of assembled hosts, and to the roar of artillery, raised the national emblem of power and glory. The regimental flags of the Sixteenth Ohio and Twenty-second Kentucky were each raised, and there may they ever remain as symbols of union and fraternity. The Cumberland range extends from north-east to south-west, and preserves a mean elevation above the valleys on either side, I suppose, some two thousand feet. The Gap is a cleft in the range of some five hundred feet in depth, and converges to a width barely sufficient for a road-way. For a year the rebels have been intrenching and fortifying with all the skill and military science of which they are masters, and to-day the Gap and its surroundings may safely be pronounced the Gibraltar of America. If it were sufficiently provisioned, adequately manned and armed, and gallantly defended, it could successfully withstand the world in arms. All honor to those whose strategy has compelled a bloodless surrender of such a stronghold. The waste and destruction has been immense. Three hundred tents, at least, were left standing, but they were slit into ribbons; tons of projectiles were thrown over the cliffs into the ravines. Their long sixty-four was precipitated over a precipice of two hundred feet, but without any very material damage; their mortar and smaller guns were spiked, and the carriages cut down. The whole surface of the encampments was strewn with flour, meal, beans, rice, corn, and oats. They have lived fast and well, and .cost them nothing but so much trash as you or I would not stop to pick up. The great defect of the rebel army organization has been its commissary department. They have subsisted by pillage and robbery, as their forced circulation of the issues of rotten shinplasters, banks and firms can be characterized by no milder terms. The capture of the Gap will have important results on the future operations of the war, as it can safely be made the base for future operations against the further south rebels. The situation here may thus be summed up: the rebels under Gens. Smith, Stevenson, and Barton, to the number of thirteen thousand, have retreated to Binghamton, Virginia; Gen. Morgan, with his main column, occupies Cumberland Gap; Gen. Carter, with his force, occupies Tazewell.