previous next

March 21-23, 1862.-reconnaissance to and skirmish at Cumberland Gap, Tenn.


No. 1.-Col. Samuel P. Carter, U. S. Army.

No. 2.-Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army.

No. 3.-Col. James E. Rains, C. S. Army.

No. 1.-report of Col. Samuel P. Carter, U. S. Army.

headquarters Twelfth Brigade, Camp Cumberland Ford, March 24, 1862.
Captain: 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 General Smith (who had arrived on the preceding day), left Cumberland Gap on the 19th instant to attack the Second East Tennessee Regiment, which was then stationed at Woodson's Gap, some 3 miles from Fincastle, Campbell County, East Tennessee. Orders were given to the First East Tennessee Regiment, Colonel Byrd-Seventh Kentucky, Colonel Garrard-Sixteenth Ohio, Colonel De Courcy; Forty-ninth Indiana, Colonel Say, and to Lieutenant-Colonel Munday, First Battalion of Kentucky Cavalry, to prepare four days rations and be ready to move on the following morning. Captain Wetmore's Ninth Ohio Battery was also ordered to have one section (two Parrott guns) in readiness to accompany [43] the command. The whole force amounted to some 2,300 men. Proper guards were left at this place and in the several camps.

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. Asmyforcewasmuch too small to makean attack on their strong intrenchments, protected byheavy 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 22d 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 skirmishing on our part was admirably performed by companies of the Sixteenth Ohio. Quite a number of the enemy were shot by them. The rebels opened on our skirmishers with shrapnel from two 12-pounders, but without doing any damage. I moved the two Parrott guns and three 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-one on the top of the Cumberland Mountains to the left of the Gap, which reared far above us; one on the side of the mountain, also on the left; one in the Gap, and four on the right or west side of the Gap. They threw 24-pounder solid shot, 12-pounder shell (spherical), 6-pounder solid, and 8-inch shell. Only the latter, which came from the gun on the top of the mountain, reached us. Some of our shell seemed to explode among their tents and others in their works, but I am not able to say what damage was done to them. 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.

The Forty-ninth Indiana was deployed on our right (the enemy's left in the afternoon), when they discovered another battery, which opened on them with shell, and although they were in good range and many shell exploded about them, no one was injured. 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. Officers and men behaved admirably, and will, I am sure, accomplish all that any equal number of men can. Inferior as they were in numbers, and notwithstanding the strength of the rebel works, I believe that every man would have cheerfully advanced to storm their works if the order had been given. Although we had snowstorms 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 [44] 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. I would suggest that another battery, with heavier rifled guns, could be advantageously used on this line. If General Garfield could march down from Pikeville through Virginia with his force and attack on south side or cut off supplies, I do not think the rebels could remain there long.

I forward herewith a rough sketch of the Gap and their works. I have ordered up the Thirty-third Indiana Regiment.

Respectfully, &c.,

S. P. Carter, Acting Brigadier-General, Twelfth Brigade,. Capt. J, B. Fry, Assistant Adjutant-General, Chief of Staff.

No. 2.-report of Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Smith, C. S. Army.

headquarters Department of East Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., March 30, 1862.
General: Col. 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 22d) with considerable vigor, as well as from small-arms at long range, but with little effect.1

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. General S. Cooper, Adjutant-General C. S. Army.

No. 3.-reports of Col. James E. Rains, C. S. Army.

headquarters, Cumberland Gap, March 22, 1862.
Sir: On yesterday evening, about dark, a party of infantry scouts [45] 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 Colonel, Commanding iost. Maj. H. L. Clay, Assistant Adjutant-General.

headquarters, Cumberland Gap, March 22, 1862-11 a. m.
Major: A line of couriers is established from this place direct to Knoxville; 2 men at intervals of 12 miles. The firing has ceased. Latrobes battery has driven the enemy off, and the snow having ceased, we have a clear day. There need be no uneasiness about us. We have undoubtedly killed one of the enemy, and they have mortally wounded one of Colonel Morgan's regiment.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

James E. rains Colonel, Commanding lost. Maj. H. L. Clay, Assistant Adjutant-General, Knoxville, Tenn.

headquarters, Cumberland Gap, March 22, 1862.
Major: It is 1 o'clock. The fight has opened with considerable vigor on both sides with artillery and infantry. We have 2 wounded. We will whip the fight. Our men are in good spirits.

Very respectfully,

James E. rains, Colonel, Commanding Post. Maj. H. L. Clay, Assistant Adjutant-General, Knoxville, Tenn.

headquarters, Cumberland Gap, March 22, 1862-6 p. m.
Major: We have had a brisk fire all day. The enemy have planted five or six batteries on the ridge in front. They fire from rifled guns, and with much precision. Their balls fall within our encampment very thickly, but have done no damage as yet. We have 4 men wounded by Minie balls. I do not know the force of the enemy. Have seen as many as six regiments and one battalion of cavalry. Our men are in good spirits. Our artillerists are doing well. The fight is still going on Respectfully,

James E. rains Colonel, Commanding eost. Maj. H. L. Clay, Assistant Adjutant-General, Knoxville, Tenn.


1 List of casualties omitted shows 5 men wounded.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 22nd, 1862 AD (4)
March 30th, 1862 AD (1)
March 24th, 1862 AD (1)
March 23rd, 1862 AD (1)
March 21st, 1862 AD (1)
21st (1)
20th (1)
19th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: