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.
[See map, p. 6.] This movement and Mitchel
's advance into northern Alabama
formed detached parts of the general-plan of operations arranged between General Buell
and General Halleck
The division under my command consisted of four brigades, commanded by Brigadier-Generals Samuel P. Carter
and James G. Spears
, Colonel John F. De Courcy
, 16th Ohio regiment, and Colonel John Coburn
, 33d Indiana regiment.
's brigade was afterward commanded by Brigadier-General Absalom Baird
.) During the preceding winter, Carter
, who joined me here, had occupied a position near the ford and threatening the Gap
The condition of Carter
's brigade was deplorable.
The winter's storms, converting the narrow roads into torrents, had practically cut him off from his base of supplies, and, in spite of all he could do, 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.
Reconnoissances at once satisfied me that the fastness 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
recommended the arrest and incarceration in Southern prisons of leading citizens, not in arms, as a means of converting the majority to the Southern
For a distance of eighteen miles north of Big Creek Gap
, a pass southwest of Cumberland Gap
, the Confederates
had heavily blockaded the narrow and abrupt defiles 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 well 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
, 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 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 Gap
is a narrow defile 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
,” situated 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 22d 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, 2 of them 30-pounder and 2 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.
The pathway leading from the Moss House
had been made the width of a wagon, but two teams could not pass each other there.
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, the Seventh Division pressed forward, 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.
telegraphed the thanks of the President
, and General Buell
published a general order
in honor of this achievement of the Seventh Division.
) 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
I urgently asked for two additional brigades of infantry, a battery, and two regiments of cavalry, and, thus reenforced, 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 raised, commanded by Lieutenant Daniel Webster
, of Foster
's 1st Wisconsin
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
Colonel De Courcy
and Captain Joseph Edgar
(afterward killed in action under De Courcy
) were detailed as instructors of tactics for the officers of the new regiments of east Tennessee
troops, who were brave, ambitious 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, probable in its character, that Stevenson
would attempt to carry the Gap
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.
On the 16th Kirby Smith
crossed the mountains south of us, into Kentucky
, occupied Cumberland Ford, and sent a demand for the surrender of the Gap
, to which I replied: “If you want this fortress, come and take it.
's position was critical.
He had no base of supplies; the valley in which his troops were concentrated was soon exhausted; the longer he delayed pushing toward the blue-grass region, the greater would be the force he would have to meet on reaching there.
Having completely cut me off from my base, he therefore pushed forward toward Lexington
, leaving Stevenson
still in front of me.
The Confederates were invading Kentucky
in three columns: Bragg
on the left, Smith
in the center, Humphrey Marshall
on the right, while John H. Morgan
hovered like an eagle on the wing, ready to pounce upon any weak point.
They now regarded the capture or destruction of my division as certain.
Our situation was indeed critical.
We had been three months in this isolated position.
Our only reasonable hope of succor had been destroyed by the defeat and dispersion of Nelson
's force at Richmond
on the 30th of August.
[See p. 4.] We were destitute of forage.
The horses of the 9th Ohio Battery literally starved to death, and their skeletons were dragged outside the lines.
Our supplies of food were rapidly becoming exhausted.
had been sent to Manchester
, sixty miles distant, in the hope of obtaining supplies, but there was scarcely sufficient for his own brigade.
Enveloped on every side by the enemy, absolutely cut off from my base of supplies, and with starvation staring us in the face, I assembled a council of war, and, stating the situation in a few words, asked for the opinions of the members.
, and Baird
being absent) gave it as their opinion, in which I concurred, that retreat was inevitable.
In fact, I had already marked out in red chalk on the map of Kentucky
my line of retreat, just as it was afterward carried out. Holding out the idea that we were seeking to obtain supplies by way of the barren wilderness through which I purposed to reach the Ohio
, I had previously caused Lieutenant-Colonel George W. Gallup
, of the 14th Kentucky, a soldier of rare merit, to send me at intervals men of his command familiar with the country through which each day's march would have to be made.
The information given me by those brave mountaineers was discouraging.
The want of water, the rugged character of the defiles, the almost absolute want of supplies, were stated by every one, but the opinion was expressed that a few wagons, laden with half a ton each, might get through.
My topographical engineer
, Captain Sidney S. Lyon
, a man of fine intelligence and skill, had been the geologist of Kentucky
, and was familiar with every foot of the State
Pointing out to him the region I had marked across the map I said, “Can I take my division by that route to the Ohio River
“Yes, possibly, by abandoning the artillery and wagons.”
However, there was practically no choice.
To retreat on Lexington
would have placed my division, with its reduced numbers, between Stevenson
in our immediate rear, Smith
in our front, Bragg
on our left, and Humphrey
View of Cumberland Gap from the South, Sept. 14, 1862.
from a Lithograph.
A, Battery No. 1; B, Battery No. 2; C, Fort McClellan; D, Battery No. 3; E, Fort Halleck; 1, 1st Tennessee Regt.; 2, 2d Tennessee; 5, 49th Indiana; 6, 14th Kentucky; 8, Headquarters Provost Guard; 9, 3d Kentucky; 10, 33d Indiana; 11, General Baird's Headquarters; 12, General Carter's Headquarters; 13, House used as General Morgan's Headquarters. |
Marshall on our right, with the passes of the Wild Cat
or of the Big Hill to overcome.
I therefore determined to retreat by the red-chalk line, and at all hazards to take my artillery and wagons with me.3
, who knew as well as I did that I must attempt a retreat, was vigilant and energetic.
From a knob on the east flank of Baptist Gap, with the aid of a good telescope, he could see all that was going on in Cumberland Gap
His line was nearly a semicircle, the opposite points of the diameter resting on the mountain's base to the right and left of the Gap
His policy was to starve us out.
During the night of the 16th of September, a long train of wagons was sent toward Manchester
under the convoy of Colonel Coburn
's 33d Indiana, two companies of Garrard
's 3d Kentucky regiment, and the 9th Ohio Battery.
This entire night and the following day, every preparation was made for the retreat.
Mines had been constructed to blow up the magazines and arsenal and fire the vast store-houses constructed and under construction.
Everything moved with the precision of a well-constructed and well-oiled piece of machinery, until late in the afternoon of the 17th, when a report came from our signal station on the crest of the mountain that a flag of truce from the enemy was approaching.
This was in reality a party of observation.
I therefore sent Lieutenant-Colonel Gallup
, with a small escort and a few shrewd officers, to meet the enemy's flag outside our picket lines.
The officers on
either side were laughing and joking together, when suddenly a glare of fire shone from the valley at the foot of the Gap
and a volume of smoke curled over Poor Valley Ridge
. One of the Confederates
exclaimed, “Why, Colonel
, what does that mean?
It looks like an evacuation.”
With admirable coolness and address Gallup
replied, “Not much.
has cut away the timber obstructing the range of his guns, and they are now burning the brush on the mountain-side.”
This off-hand explanation was apparently satisfactory, but the fact was that some reckless person had fired a quartermaster's building,--a criminal blunder that might have cost us dear.
On the night of the 17th, Gallup
, with a body of picked men, was left to guard the three roads leading from the camps of Stevenson
, and to fire the vast quartermaster buildings, as well as the enormous store-house, nearly completed, on the crest of the mountain, and near the gap. The arsenal, containing four thousand stand of small-arms, and a large amount of shells and grenades, had been mined, and trains had been laid to the magazines.
At 8 o'clock that night my command wheeled into column with the coolness and precision of troops on review; and without hurry, without confusion, with no loud commands, but with resolute confidence, the little army, surrounded by peril on every side, set out on its march of more than two hundred miles through the wilderness.
Toward morning Gallup
fired the vast buildings and the trains leading to the mines.
The shock of the explosion was felt fourteen miles away; the flaming buildings lighted up the sky as though the Gap
and mountain crests were a volcano on fire, and from time to time till after dawn we heard the explosion of mines, shells, or grenades.
we halted for a day and a half, to concentrate the command, and to organize for the march before us. A day or two before a soldier had murdered a comrade in cold blood, under circumstances of great aggravation.
I had ordered a court to try him. The sentence, of course, was death, and at the very moment of the execution the firing of our troops could be heard repelling the dash of Stevenson
's cavalry on the wagon train of Spears
I fully expected to be met by the enemy in force at Proctor
, where the deep and abrupt banks would have rendered the passage of the Kentucky River
perilous and difficult if disputed.
We accordingly moved by two nearly parallel roads, and the two columns reached Proctor
I at once threw a brigade, with a battery, across the river, and gave the command half a day's rest.
The previous day and night the ever-vigilant John H. Morgan
, with his daring followers, had been at Proctor
, had burned the steam flouring-mill and its valuable contents, and had then withdrawn to Irvine
, thirteen miles away.
In order to deceive the enemy as to my intended line of march, I directed Captain George M. Adams
, Commissary of Subsistence
, to send an officer toward Mount Sterling
with written authority to purchase supplies.
He set out, wearing his uniform, and attended only by two or three soldiers, knowing with certainty that he would be taken prisoner, and his papers seized.
He was, of course, captured, since the Confederates
were concentrating at Mount Sterling
, believing my objective point to be Maysville
Two roads run from Proctor
to Hazel Green
: the Ridge
road, then destitute of water, and the North Fork
road, which had water, but which the torrents of the previous rainy season had greatly damaged and in parts destroyed.
marched by the former, while Baird
, with the wagon train, took the latter.
It was largely through the energy of Baird
that the wagon train was saved.
After a day's halt at Hazel Green
to rest and refresh the half-famished men and animals, the march was resumed toward West Liberty
, supposed to be occupied by Humphrey Marshall
However, he was not there.
During this march, John H. Morgan
attacked the rear of De Courcy
's brigade and scattered a lot of cattle intended for the use of the retreating column.
then passed around us and commenced blockading the defiles between West Liberty
and destroying everything that could feed man or beast.
He did his work gallantly and well.
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. At Grayson
, however, on the 1st of October, John Morgan
abandoned the contest, to seek a new field for the exercise of his superior partisan skill and high courage; and on the 3d we reached the Ohio River
[see map, p. 6], without the loss of a gun or a wagon, and with the loss of but eighty men. Not only that, but, as General Bragg
states in his re port, we had detained General Kirby Smith
, and thus prevented the junction of the Confederate armies in Kentucky
, long enough to save Louisville
The opposing forces at Cumberland Gap, June 17th--18th, 1862.
Union forces.--Seventh division, army of the Ohio. Brig.-Gen. George W. Morgan
Twenty-fourth Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Samuel P. Carter
: 49th Ind., Lieut.-Col. James Keigwin
; 3d Ky., Col. T. T. Garrard
; 1st Tenn., Col. Robert K. Byrd
; 2d Tenn., Col. James P. T. Carter
. Twenty-fifth Brigade, Brig.-Gen. James G. Spears
: 3d 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
: 22d Ky., Col. Daniel W. Lindsey
; 16th Ohio, Lieut.-Col. George W. Bailey
; 42d Ohio, Col. Lionel A. Sheldon
. Twenty-seventh Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Absalom Baird
: 33d 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
Ky. Battalion, Lieut.-Col. Reuben Munday
. Ky. Engineers, Capt. William F. Patterson
Confederate forces.--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 3d of July was as follows:
Second Brigade, Col. James E. Rains
: 4th Tenn., Col. J. A. McMurry
; 11th Tenn., Col. J. E. Rains
; 42d Ga., Col. R. J. Henderson
; 3d 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
; 52d 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
; 43d Ga., Col. S. Harris
; 39th N. C., Col. D. Coleman
; 3d Md. Battery, Capt. H. B. Latrobe
. Fifth Brigade, Col. T. H. Taylor
: 23d Ala., Col. F. K. Beck
; 46th Ala., Col. M. L. Woods
; 3d Tenn., Col. J. C. Vaughn
; 31st Tenn., Col. W. M. Bradford
; 59th Tenn., Col. J. B. Cooke
; Tenn. (Rhett
) Battery, Capt. W. H. Burroughs