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[With reference to the four brigades of Morgan's 7th Division now staging at Cumberland Ford (now Pineville), Kentucky] ... The maintenance of such a force at that season of the year in a totally unproductive country, eighty miles from the nearest base of supply, and connected therewith by a road so difficult that a ton of freight was a sufficient load for a six mule team, was naturally a work of no ordinary risk and difficulty. It was necessary, however, in order to organize the Division for the work in hand. The road to Crab Orchard was repaired as well as possible, the means of transportation largely increased, and though compelled to subsist on short rations, the troops maintained their position and progressed steadily in the work of discipline and organization. The regiments drilled six hours daily, reviews were held on the river plain, and a siege battery organized by assembling a detail of one man from each company in the Division.
Cumberland Gap was in plain view, twelve miles distant, and occupied by a garrison variously reported at from ten to seventeen thousand men. On the 6th of May, intelligence was received, through a captured prisoner, that heavy reinforcements had been received at the Gap from Chattanooga.
East Tennessee was at that time a Confederate department, under command of Maj.-Gen. E. KIRBY SMITH. It was the avenue of communication between Virginia and the Central and Southwestern States of the Confederacy. It was fertile, rich in supplies, easily defended, and, with its important railroad from Richmond to Chattanooga, was a district of great importance to the Confederacy. To this stronghold there was but one approach from the North practicable for an army, viz., through Cumberland Gap. But Cumberland Gap was strongly garrisoned and fortified, and was believed by the Confederate authorities to be impregnable, as it would have been if properly defended.
Gen. MORGAN, while waiting for the Spring floods to subside and while seasoning his little army for its work, was carefully studying the strength of the Gap and the best plan for an attack. Two formal reconnaissances were made--one open and in force, the other secret. Engineers were sent to various points on the foot-hills in the neighborhood of the Gap to make careful drawings of the position, with the location of batteries, camps, trenches, etc. From the knowledge thus gained, Gen. MORGAN plainly saw the impossibility of carrying the Gap by assault from the front. He accordingly began to look about for means to capture it by a flank or rear approach. The Confederates relied upon the impossibility of such an approach and continued to strengthen their position in front.
Pound Gap, ninety miles to the Northeast, was the only point in that direction at which a column with artillery could pass the mountains. This would have required a march of two hundred miles from Cumberland Ford, and when arrived there the enemy would have had time to concentrate a large force to meet the Union troops in the mountain passes on the South side before Powell's Valley could be gained. Four miles to the West of Cumberland Gap on the North side and eight miles on the South is Baptist Gap, a rugged pass which was already strongly blockaded by the Rebels, and was moreover under the immediate eye of its fortified neighbor.
Nineteen miles West of the latter is what is called Rogers' Gap, where the mountain range is not less high but less rugged and precipitous. From the statement of the mountaineers it appeared that lightly laden wagons sometimes passed the mountains at that point. Fifteen miles still further West is Big Creek Gap, a deep gash in the mountains opening vertically from the bed of the creek to the mountain crest. The road leading through this defile was heavily blockaded for a distance of eighteen miles Northward.
MORGAN determined to pass the mountains at these points and thus threaten the enemy's base of supplies at Clinton, as well as Knoxville, the heart of that region, and the rear of Cumberland Gap. Secrecy and rapidity were essential to success, as serious obstacles had to be overcome. The Seventh Division had, on the 20th of April, about seven thousand bayonets for duty, with twenty-two guns and a battalion of cavalry, while the Confederate force under KIRBY SMITH was understood to be from eighteen to twenty thousand strong.
Four miles South of Cumberland Ford on the State road leading to Cumberland Gap, and ten miles from the latter place, stood a farm building known as the Moss House. From this point diverges a lane leading towards Lambdin's farm, nearly equidistant from Big Creek and Rogers' Gap. DECOURCY'S Brigade was sent forward to effect a mask at the Moss House, and as a ruse MORGAN caused an earthwork to be constructed at that point. In the meantime another brigade was pushed forward towards Lambdin's. Never before had wagons attempted to pass that road, over what is known as the Bushey Mountain, and men and horses frequently toiled at the same ropes in dragging the guns up the steep ascents. As soon as one brigade had passed, the masking brigade was sent forward under cover of night and another brigade took its place, a new battery being placed in the position whence the other battery had been withdrawn. In this manner the entire Division was removed from Cumberland Ford.
The difficult duty of opening the blockade leading to Big Creek Gap had been assigned to Gen. SPEARS' Brigade some weeks before. While engaged in this duty KIRBY SMITH made an attempt to cut him off. Mrs. EDWARDS, a patriotic woman residing at Clinton, passed the mountains in the night and gave timely warning of his approach with a force three times as great as that of SPEARS, who was ordered to fall back. SMITH, cheated of his prey, returned to Knoxville, and SPEARS went back to work at the blockade.
DECOURCY'S Brigade had remained at the Moss House, building defenses, partly for show and partly with the expectation that they might be needed, from the 226. of May until the 8th of June. The position was in plain view of Cumberland Gap and the Brigade was in constant apprehension of an attack. Whole companies were kept on picket duty, and the entire Brigade slept on its arms, ready for immediate duty at any hour of the night. Bodies of Confederate cavalry frequently came down and skirmished with the Federal pickets, but as DECOURCY'S orders were to hold the position with as little loss as possible, the fighting was unimportant.
Finally, the time came for a general movement. SPEARS' Brigade had cleared the road to Big Creek Gap, and Rogers' Gap had been explored by scouts and found barely practicable for wheels. On the evening of the 7 th of June, orders were read on parade, announcing that everything was in readiness, the loyal people of East Tennessee were waiting anxiously for relief from the North, and that at four o'clock on the morrow the movement would begin. Promptly at the hour named the column moved, DECOURCY'SBrigade leading, with the Forty-Second in advance. The weather was fine, the climate bracing and healthy, and though there was known to be hard work and possibly hard fighting ahead, the troops marched gaily as though going to a review. The first days march was ten miles. The next morning the journey was resumed, the column coming within sight of Wilson's Gap shortly after leaving camp. Fifteen miles on that day brought DECOURCY to within two miles of the Tennessee line, and when at eight o'clock the next morning the line was crossed, the troops sent up cheer after cheer, while the bands played "Dixie," a Northern greeting to Rebel-ridden and suffering Tennessee.
That evening the column encamped at the foot of the mountain range. Companies "A" and "B" of each regiment in DECOURCY'S Brigade were detailed as a special detachment to push forward that night and occupy Wilson's Gap, five miles away, and two miles nearer than Rogers' Gap, where the main column was to cross. With four days rations the six companies, under command of Lieut.-Col. PARDEE, set out at dusk, marched the five miles in two hours, and, piloted by a trusty guide, began to ascend the pass. The road was a mere bridle path, very steep and rugged, but the moonlight was clear and bright, and the ascent was silently and rapidly effected. At eleven o'clock the detachment reached the summit, posted a picket a' few rods down on the further side and lay down beside their loaded muskets to sleep. At dawn the next morning they were roused, and as the sun rose beyond the distant hills, a panorama of exquisite beauty was opened before them. Away to the East, a blue line on the sunlit horizon, lay the mountains of North Carolina. Under their feet and stretching away to the Northeast and Southwest, were the Cumberlands, with clustering foot-hills at their bases on either side; behind them lay the hill region of Kentucky lit up by the morning sun into long billows of gold and azure; and before them, stretched along the foot of the mountains, as far as the eye could reach, lay Powell's Valley, green and luxuriant with the verdure of early Summer.
While lost for a moment in admiration of the scene, and forgetful of the rude business which brought them thither, the little battalion was startled by four or five rifle shots fired in quick succession, a few rods down the Southern slope. In a moment the men were in line, and moving down the path toward the scene of disturbance. The alarm was soon explained. In the early dawn a small squad of Rebel cavalry had left the camp in Powell's Valley and rode up to the summit of the Gap, where they had been accustomed to keep guard during the day. As they approached the top they were fired upon by the picket thrown out by Col. PARDEE on his arrival the night before. Three of the cavalry-men rolled off from their horses and scrambled into the bushes, leaving their horses, their hats and their weapons, which were captured. Two of the five, who were riding some distance in the rear, escaped and reported in the camp below that they had encountered a few Kentucky bushwhackers on the mountain. Even then there was no suspicion among the Confederates in Powell's Valley that MORGAN'S army had left its position at Cumberland Ford and was seeking to force a passage into Tennessee.
Toward noon another squad of cavalry from Powell's Valley was seen slowly coming up the pass. Twenty or thirty men were posted in the bushes near the path, a few rods below the summit, while the main body lay in wait behind the crest of the hill. The plan was to draw the horsemen into a trap and capture the entire party. They came cautiously along and the game seemed likely to succeed, when, just as they were passing the squad concealed in the bushes, Private SHATTUCK of Company "A," Forty-Second Ohio, seeing a good chance for a shot, fired without orders, and unmasked the trap. The cavalry-men wheeled, lay close to their horses, and spurred headlong down the hill. A volley was sent after them, killing one horse and wounding three men, but all managed to escape, and from that time they kept carefully out of range of Wilson's Gap.
By this time DECOURCY'S and BAIRD'S Brigades had reached the foot of Rogers' Gap, two miles further to the West, and the laborious ascent began. It may fairly be doubted whether there was in the whole War a more brilliant achievement of its kind than the crossing of those two Brigades, with thirty pieces of cannon, over that difficult pass. The ascent was two miles in length, with a sheer altitude of a thousand feet. Twelve horses were attached to each gun or caisson, and in places even this was insufficient. Prolonges were spliced and manned by regiments, and the guns dragged by main force up declivities which the horses could hardly climb. In other places the road had to be cleared and graded anew, but the pluck and zeal of the men were superior to all difficulties, and before evening of the second day DECOURCY*S Brigade, with the Ninth Ohio Battery, had crossed the mountain into Powell's Valley. BAIRD'S Brigade, with the First Wisconsin and Seventh Michigan Batteries, were close behind and crossed during that night and the following day. The detachment at Wilson's Gap remained in possession of that pass until the crossing was complete, when it marched along the crest of the mountain to Rogers' Gap, descended on the Southern side, and re-joined the column in Powell's Valley.
The first great step of the movement was now effected; it was necessary for BAIRD and DECOURCY to wait for the Brigades of SPEARS and CARTER, which without artillery were crossing the mountain at Big Creek Gap, fifteen miles further to the Westward.
The Rebel cavalry was still visible, galloping about the valley, two or three miles distant on the road to Cumberland Gap, and the Forty-Second was sent out to look after it. Lieut.-Col. PARDEE, who was in command, conceived a plan to trap some of them. Approaching as nearly as possible to their camp, he posted Company "A" in the road behind a small hill, and pushed the remainder of the Regiment forward among the bushes beside the road. After waiting in ambush several hours, eight mounted Confederates came leisurely down the way. At some distance behind them came a larger body, and, while waiting for the main force to come into the trap, the eight in advance saw something to arouse their suspicions, and in an instant they wheeled and fled across the valley. Two or three companies which were within range fired after them, killing two and wounding three. Several horses were captured, but the result fell so far short of Col. PARDEE'S hopes that his usually serene face was clouded for the rest of that day.
Toward evening word came from the rear that the whole Division had been ordered to re-cross the mountain to Williamsburgh, Ky. This was incomprehensible and disheartening. After all the waiting and preparation of the past two months; after all the hard work of crossing the mountain, Gen. MORGAN'S little army, when within striking distance of the enemy's rear, was now to be turned back empty-handed and without striking a blow! Officers and soldiers were alike disappointed and dismayed. The messenger who brought the order reported that Gen. MORGAN almost shed tears as he dictated the dispatch, and from this it was rightly conjectured that the order to turn back was from outside authority, from Gen. BUELL, perhaps, who in ignorance of the real situation, had formed new plans, not knowing that MORGAN was already in the enemy's rear. This conjecture, as was subsequently ascertained, was correct. Gen. BUELL had failed in his movement toward Chattanooga, and his failure had set free Gen. KIRBY SMITH and his entire force at Knoxville, to reinforce Cumberland Gap and invade Kentucky. The thing to be done, as Gen. BUELL thought, was to relinquish the attempt to capture Cumberland Gap and throw MORGAN'S force back upon the Cumberland river to oppose the march of the Confederate army into Kentucky. It was expected that the order would reach MORGAN before he could cross the Cumberlands into Tennessee, but his celerity distanced the expectations of his superior, and the summons to return caught him in the very moment of success.
But it was not in the hard fortune of war that a movement so adroitly planned and so boldly executed should be shorn of its fruit . During the day that the Brigades of DECOURCY and BAIRD lay resting in Powell's Valley awaiting the removal of the heavy artillery back across the mountain, a soldier named REYNOLDS, of the First Tennessee Infantry, had crept along the mountain tops and cautiously approached Cumberland Gap. To his amazement he discovered the whole Confederate garrison in confusion, destroying its tents and gun carriages, and preparing for precipitate retreat. The evacuation had indeed begun, and long columns of men were seen filing down the Gap and taking the road toward Knoxville. Hurrying back along the dizzy path, the intrepid mountaineer reached Rogers' Gap at mid-night, just as the head of DECOURCY'S Brigade had reached the summit, on its unwilling retreat. He told his story. DECOURCY, "taking the bits 'in his teeth," ordered a halt, and dispatched a courier to Gen. MORGAN, fifteen miles away, at Lambdin's farm. MORGAN in turn, hearing the news, assumed the responsibility, faced the Division about and marched for the rear of Cumberland Gap.
BAIRD'S Brigade, weary and disgusted, had just reached Lambdin's and CARTER'S troops were on the way, but the order to countermarch and re-cross the mountain was received with cheers. As rapidly as possible the four Brigades were again concentrated in Powell's Valley, near the foot of Rogers' Gap. Gen. MORGAN arrived at the rendezvous on the 14th, and on the following day BAIRD'S Brigade arrived, marching down the mountain to the air of "Dixie," played by the band of the Thirty-Third Indiana.
During the night, Gen. SPEARS captured a letter written by the the Adjutant of the commanding officer at Cumberland Gap. The letter showed that the enemy was restless and uneasy, alarmed by enormously exaggerated reports of MORGAN'S strength, and in a condition to be terrified by a bold display of the little force. The letter also spoke of troops moving to attack MORGAN in Powell's Valley, and heavy reinforcements coming from Knoxville.
CARTER'S and SPEARS' Brigades arrived utterly worn out, and a day of rest was imperative before offering battle. The enemy was reported in force at Thomas' farm, eight miles distant, on the road to the Gap, and it seemed inevitable that though the citadel had already been partially abandoned, the battle for its possession would have to be fought in the Valley.
With this expectation the Division, having sent back its provision train and all other encumbrances, started at three o'clock on the morning of the 18th, marching by two parallel roads so as to make a strong display of force and at the same time keep the two columns within supporting distance. At nine in the morning, DECOURCY'S Brigade, leading the right hand column, passed through the abandoned camps of at least a Division of the enemy. They had not made a stand where MORGAN had expected. The column was now within sight of the Gap, and moving on rapidly, reached the road at the foot of the Southern slope at noon. Not an enemy was there, and DECOURCY'S Brigade, the Forty-Second leading, marched up and took possession of the citadel, Company "C" raising the Regimental flag on the main parapet of the fortifications, while LANPHERE'S Battery fired a triumphant salute. Cumberland Gap had been taken without the loss of a man. The other Brigades followed rapidly up the pass, and long before night the troops were posted behind the Rebel works, batteries in position, and MORGAN prepared to defend the place against any army that the Confederates could send. He had come just in the nick of time, for the enemy's rear guard had not left until ten that morning. A day later, MORGAN'S weakness would have been discovered and the evacuation countermanded.
From the late headquarters of the Confederate commander, Gen. MORGAN sent to Gen. BUELL his congratulations and regrets for having been impelled by circumstances to disregard an implied order from superior authority. That the offence was promptly forgiven was shown by the following order issued by Gen. BUELL from his headquarters in Alabama:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
HUNTSVILLE, ALA., July nth, 1862.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 29.
The General commanding the Army of the Ohio, takes pleasure in announcing the success of an arduous and hazardous campaign by the Seventh Division, Brig.-Gen. GEO. W. MORGAN commanding, by which the enemy's fortified position at Cumberland Gap was turned and his forces compelled to retreat, as our troops advanced to attack. The General commanding thanks Gen. MORGAN and the troops of the Seventh Division for the ability displayed in the operations against this important stronghold, and for the energy, fortitude and cheerfulness which they exhibited in their struggle with difficulties of the most formidable magnitude for an army.
By command of Major-General BUELL.
JAS. B. FRY,
Colonel and Chief of Staff.
To this was added the following letter, embodying the thanks of the President and War Department:
WASHINGTON, June 22d, 1862.
Brigadier-General GEO. W. MORGAN:
This Department has been highly gratified with your successful occupation of Cumberland Gap, and commend the gallant conduct of your officers and troops, to whom you will express the thanks of the President and the Department. With thanks for your diligence and activity,
I remain, Yours truly,
E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
In analyzing the means by which this important though bloodless victory was won, it is impossible not to ascribe great credit to Gen. MORGAN for the masterly way in which he managed to move his little army of seven thousand men adroitly and rapidly, in spite of overwhelming difficulties, and to make it seem like a large and formidable force when occasion required. By the ruse of throwing up entrenchments at the Moss House, and replacing each night the one brigade and battery originally posted there with another, while the first was moved away under cover of darkness towards Rogers' and Big Creek Gaps, he managed to get his whole Division thirty miles on its way before the commandant of the Gap discovered that it had left Cumberland Ford Having by splendid exertion and perseverance crossed his troops with their provision train and artillery over into Powell's Valley, he spread out his force so as to make the most formidable appearance possible. The fact of his crossing the mountains in two points gave the impression that a large army was invading Tennessee from Kentucky. The Rebel cavalry in Powell's Valley, which kept the commandant at the Gap informed of the Federal movements in that quarter, reported Wilson's, Rogers' and Big Creek Gaps all simultaneously occupied, and three heavy columns of troops pouring into Tennessee. Gen. KIRBY SMITH jumped to the conclusion that MORGAN'S Division formed one of these three columns, and that the others were probably two corps from BUELL'S army advancing upon Knoxville. He, therefore, in order to save his headquarters at Knoxville, and the all-important railroad, ordered the Gap abandoned and its garrison to reinforce his own army at Clinton. The Confederate army of fourteen thousand men at the Gap spiked its guns, destroyed its tents, strewed its provisions over the ground, and retired Southward to Tazewell, twelve miles distant.
It turned out afterwards that Gen. KIRBY SMITH, hearing on the morning of the 18th more reliable accounts of the real size of MORGAN'S force, saw his mistake, and ordered the Gap to be re-occupied, and its late garrison even started from Tazewell, posthaste to obey that order, but the Yankees had been too quick for them, and when SMITH'S advance arrived at dusk within sight of the citadel, it saw the Federal camp fires gleaming along the hills and knew that the golden opportunity was gone. Nothing but a siege could recover what they had abandoned the night before.
Cumberland Gap is situated at the point of junction between Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. Standing upon the peak that overhangs the notch from the East, the spectator looks down upon three States, and sees in the blue distance the mountains of North Carolina. The Gap is merely a natural notch or opening in the top of the Cumberland range which for more than a hundred miles forms the boundary between Virginia and Kentucky. The pass is about a thousand feet above the valleys at either base of the range, and is overhung on the East by a peak nine hundred feet higher. To the Westward the ridge rises less abruptly to a height of seven hundred feet. The South face of the mountain is precipitous and impracticable, even for infantry, except by way of the road, which was built through the Gap many years ago, at State expense, and with considerable engineering skill. In a country where practicable roads are so rare, the military value of such a gateway will be obvious. The place is described by Gen. BRAGG in an official report as
the gateway to the heart of the Confederacy.
In June, 1862, when Gen. MORGAN captured it, the advance of BUELL Southeast of Nashville seemed to be checked; and it seemed likely that the main advance into the vitals of the Confederacy, failing at Chattanooga, would have to be made through Cumberland Gap to Knoxville, taking Chattanooga in the rear and opening a way into Georgia. Under instructions from Washington MORGAN immediately prepared to render Cumberland Gap an impregnable base of operations against East Tennessee. His troops were disposed to the best advantage in and about the pass, and the partially destroyed earthworks of the Confederates were repaired and armed with the artillery that he had brought across the mountains. Rifle trenches and covered ways were cut, and when, at the end of a few weeks, Lieut. W. P. CRAIGHILL of the U. S. Corps of Engineers arrived from Washington to superintend the fortifications, a large force of men was put under his direction, which in two months made the Gap simply impregnable against assault from its Southern front. Meanwhile, the road to Lexington, hardened and settled by the dry weather of Summer, was graded and repaired, and heavy trains of wagons were employed bringing supplies. An arsenal was built and stored with four thousand stand of small arms. Four thirty-pounder Parrott guns on siege carriages were brought and mounted in advantageous positions. The four sixty-eight-pounder smooth-bores and two seacoast howitzers, spiked and left by the enemy, were left where they lay, there being no ammunition for them, and they being so inferior to the rifled ordnance of our own service. A large magazine was built in the side of the mountain and stored with ammunition sufficient to withstand a long siege. Commissary and Quartermaster's depots were built large enough to contain six months supplies for twenty thousand men. Had those buildings been filled when KIRBY SMITH entered Kentucky in August the story of MORGAN'S Division during the next six months would have been different from the one that the historian is now constrained to write.
In all the work of fortifying and guarding the Gap during the months of June and July, the Forty-Second, which was always ready and always kept in advance, did its full share of watching and work. It first encamped at the summit of the pass, and then moved down into a thicket at the North base of the mountain where a spring of fresh water and clean, level ground offered admirable facilities for a pleasant and permanent camp. Here it remained until the middle of July, when, the Gap being threatened by an attack from the East along the top of the range, the Forty-Second was moved out three miles and encamped on what was known as the *Harland road. During the first two months at Cumberland Gap the life of the Forty-Second, though active and in some instances laborious, was serene and pleasant. Heavy details were made for fatigue duty on the permanent fortifications then in progress, and the entire Regiment was often on guard duty at night. Communication with Lexington was constant. Mails to and from home were regular and frequent; provisions, though not over-abundant, were of excellent quality; the berries which grew in enormous quantities on the foot-hills, contributed variety to the diet of the men, and in that high, bracing mountain air the health of the Regiment was perfect. Convalescents and recruits were brought up from the rear, and on the ist of July the Forty-Second was numerically as strong for duty as when it marched out of Camp Chase eight months before. It had had, moreover, some active and valuable experience; the men were beginning to comprehend what a serious task the war really was, and to nerve themselves up to the duty of fighting it through. Officers and men had come to know each other, not as civilian companions, but as comrades and allies in the serious business of war, one month of which develops more strength or weakness in a man's character than years of peaceful life. The citizen may be cowardly and mean and yet live for years under a close mask of culture and conventionality without being known for what he is; but one campaign strips off the disguise, and the man, be he generous or selfish, hero or craven, is revealed to those around him.
There was also in the Forty-Second that sentiment of security which comes from mutual reliance between officers and men. When in April, Col. GARFIELD, promoted to a Brigadiership for his successes in the Sandy Valley, had been transferred to another army, a feeling of bitter disappointment had naturally been felt by the Regiment. There might be other officers as brave and even more skillful than he, but he had been from the first the creator and the inspiration of the Forty-Second, and his transfer to the command of a brigade of unknown troops, seemed to the unseasoned sensibilities of his old Regiment an unnecessary defiance of personal preferences. But the men soon learned to regard their bereavement philosophically. Col. SHELDON had developed rapidly into an admirable commanding officer. He was cool, brave, even-tempered, and besides his excellent qualities as a fighter, he was one of the best administrative officers that ever commanded a brigade or regiment. He knew personally every man in the Forty-Second, and his firm, quiet administration of justice in all the details of duty, promoted thorough harmony and confidence.
Lieut.-Col. PARDEE had, from the first time that he was with the Regiment under fire, evinced the qualities of a resolute and impetuous fighter. His military education had made him an iron disciplinarian, but behind and with that was that strength and readiness in emergencies, that tenacity and power of command, which wins from soldiers a respect which no lighter attributes can inspire. In all the hard fighting hours of the Forty-Second, from first to last, the clarion voice of Col. PARDEE was its inspiration and guide.
Major WILLIAM H. WILLIAMS, promoted to that rank from the Captaincy of Company "B" during the Summer at Cumberland Gap, was, from the first, a brave, popular and efficient officer. It was often his province to command a battalion of two or three companies detailed from the Regiment for a special duty, and on these occasions never failed to acquit himself with excellent credit.
Thus officered, and enjoying the special confidence of its Brigade . and Division Commanders, the Forty-Second passed at Cumberland Gap fa comparatively pleasant and interesting Summer.
Soon after the occupation of the stronghold by MORGAN'S Division, the enemy took up a strong position in the passes of the Clinch Mountains, fifteen or twenty miles to the Southward on the road to Morristown. MORGAN was anxious to take the offensive, and, with the Gap as a base, invade East Tennessee. The people of that country were, to a large extent, still loyal to the Union, and only needed an opportunity to rise and aid a Union Army in driving the Confederates beyond their borders. Already in MORGAN'S Division were five Tennessee Regiments, made up of men who had fled from their homes to escape conscription or assassination. They had left their families defenseless, and in many cases unprovided for, and they were eager to return as part of an army capable of defending their State and homes. MORGAN repeatedly begged for reinforcements and permission to advance into East Tennessee. He argued that the occupation of that district and the destruction of the Virginia railroad would be a severe blow to LEE, if indeed it did not force the evacuation of Northern Virginia. It would cut off an important foraging ground and destroy an interior communication between the head and body of the Confederacy.
On the 2 2d of June, being in secure and complete possession of Cumberland Gap, he telegraphed as follows to the Secretary of War and Gen. BUELL:
I might as well be without eyes as without cavalry. The enemy is said to have taken up a strong position in the Clinch Mountains in the direction of Morristown. I would advance if authorized, but this place would be threatened from the enemy's present position if I pursued another route. One strong brigade, with five hundred cavalry to act as foragers and scouts, should be left here. I should be strengthened by two brigades of infantry, one battery of artillery, and two regiments of cavalry. With such a force I could sweep East Tennessee of every Rebel soldier.
On the 1st of July he again telegraphed,
I believe that the enemy's force in East Tennessee has been more demoralized by his evacuation of Cumberland Gap than it would have been by an unsuccessful battle. I am certain that with three more brigades I could sweep East Tennessee from Abingdon to Chattanooga. Reinforcements were not sent, and Secretary STANTON directed MORGAN not to advance without orders.
The whole attention of the War Department was concentrated upon Gen. BUELL, who was operating with an immense army South and East of Nashville, and permitting BRAGG and FORREST to escape through Middle Tennessee into Kentucky. MORGAN was restricted to the simple duty of holding Cumberland Gap.
About the 10th of August KIRBY SMITH moved Northward and invaded Kentucky. SMITH'S army marched in two columns--one crossing at Rogers', the other at Big Creek Gap. The Federal magazines and supply depots were captured and MORGAN'S sources of supply entirely cut off. His trains were captured and destroyed, and instead of being able to augment his reserve supplies during the season of harvest and plenty, he was obliged to fall back upon the scanty store already accumulated. At no time during MORGAN'S occupation of Cumberland Gap did his troops have full rations, and during much of the time they subsisted on less than a third of the prescribed allowance. On the 10th of August, after repeated appeals for more food and forage, he telegraphed to Secretary STANTON:
I have only three weeks supplies and these are half rations. That was his last direct communication with Washington. That night JOHN MORGAN'S cavalry, the advance of KIRBY SMITH'S army, struck the telegraph near Cumberland Ford, and from that time Gen. MORGAN and his Division were lost from the records of the War Department until they emerged in October from the wilderness near the mouth of the Big Sandy.
Early in August, as a mask to the Northward movement of Gen. KIRBY SMITH, Cumberland Gap was invested on the South side by Gen. C. L. STEPHENSON with an army variously reported at from sixteen to twenty thousand men. This was to defend Knoxville against a raid from Cumberland Gap and blockade MORGAN in his citadel, while SMITH invested his rear and made his capture secure. In order to hasten MORGAN'S surrender, Gen. STEPHENSON drew his lines close around the Gap so as to restrict MORGAN'S foraging territory to the small area under range of his guns.
Before this investiture was made complete, the garrison had displayed great zeal in raking Tennessee within a radius of fifteen or twenty miles, of every pound of food or forage that could be reached. One of these foraging expeditions, made in force early in August, resulted in a sharp encounter with the enemy.
THE TAZEWELL EXPEDITION.
The Federal force engaged included the effective men of three Regiments--the Sixteenth and Forty-Second Ohio and Fourteenth Kentucky Infantry, and a section of FOSTER'S Wisconsin Battery, in all about thirteen hundred men. The expedition was under command of Col. DECOURCY of the Sixteenth, and convoyed a train of two hundred wagons, in which to gather and bring back provisions and forage.
It started on the morning of Saturday the 2d of August and at four o'clock in the afternoon reached Tazewell, a small village twelve miles South of the Gap. The Brigade encamped for the night in the neighborhood of the town, and in the morning proceeded Southward about four miles to a point known as Big Springs, where there was a live stream of water. Near the crossing of this stream was a fork in the road--the right hand branch leading up the valley of the creek in a Westerly direction; the other bearing off to the Southeast across the Clinch Mountains to Bean's Station. A mile or two up the first of these roads from, the junction above mentioned, was a mill reported to contain several thousand bushels of corn, which last it was the purpose of the expedition to secure. It was therefore necessary to pass the fork of the road with the wagon train and to guard that point from capture so that the train could return. Col. DECOURCY with the Sixteenth and Fourteenth Regiments and half of the Forty-Second, went on with the wagons, leaving Lieut.-Col. PARDEE with Companies "A," "B," "C," "I," and "K," of the Forty-Second, and FOSTER'S two guns, to hold the junction of the roads. It was already evident that there were enemies in the vicinity, and Col. PARDEE made his dispositions for defense with great care and judgment. One gun was planted in the road near the junction, in a position to rake the approach from Bean's Station, it being from that direction the attack was expected. The other gun was placed to the right and farther to the rear, on some higher ground, from which it commanded the approach from either direction. Company "C," fifty-four men, under Capt. BUSHNELL, was sent forward a quarter of a mile on the Bean's Station road as an out-post. The Company took position on a thickly wooded hill which overlooked the road and commanded a view some distance beyond. Part of Company "A," under Sergeant HENRY, was posted in a cedar thicket in front of and near the junction of the highways; the remainder of the Company^ under Capt. OLDS, supported the gun planted in the road. The remainder of the Companies under Col. PARDEE, were posted in squads along a line at right angles with the main road and nearly a mile in length, to give the most exaggerated impression of his defensive strength. In order to improve his opportunities for observation, Col. PARDEE detailed Sergeant O. J. HOPKINS of Company "K," a zealous and clever soldier, to ascend a high hill to the left and front of the main position, and communicate the results of his observations by means of signs previously agreed upon. Certain gestures and attitudes were specified to indicate the approach of infantry, cavalry or artillery. HOPKINS climbed to his perch and mounted watch. This was shortly before noon. About one o'clock, he began to display extraordinary activity. First he made the sign to indicate the approach of cavalry, then infantry was signaled, and finally artillery. All the signals were repeated with great vigor for some minutes, when a column of cavalry appeared, winding down the road to where Company "C" was posted. Capt. BUSHNELL reserved his fire until the horsemen were within easy range, when he gave them a volley which emptied a number of saddles, and wounded and killed several horses. The fire was kept up for several rounds as fast as the men could re-load, and the enemy, confused and demoralized by an attack which could not be returned, broke into a precipitate and disorderly retreat . The cavalry was, however, promptly supported by the Confederate infantry, a brigade of which came up in line of battle and evidently prepared for fight. Capt. BUSHNELL reported this to Col. PARDEE, and Company "C" was withdrawn from its exposed position to the main line at the fork of the road. A Rebel battery then came up within perhaps three-fifths of a mile, and taking position, and opened fire upon FOSTER'S two guns. These replied promptly, and with their accustomed accuracy, the result being a very picturesque artillery duel which lasted until night with little result on the Federal side beyond that of warning DECOURCY and his force up the valley to return to Tazewell by another road, and 'thereby avoid re-passing the point at which PARDEE was fighting. By the most adroit and skillful display of his two hundred men, marching and re-marching them in single rank so as to make companies look like battalions, Col. PARDEE managed to hold in check until nightfall a whole division of Gen. KIRBY SMITH'S army, under Gen. STEPHENSON, while the wagons were loaded and returned to Tazewell. It was one of the handsomest maneuvers of its kind in the whole record of the War. STEPHENSON thought that he had encountered the whole of MORGAN'S army on its way to attack the Virginia and Tennessee railroad. He accordingly chose a defensive position and awaited attack.
To the rear of Col. PARDEE'S position, and between Big Spring and Tazewell, lay a high ridge, across which ran the main road along which the expedition had advanced. Soon after dark, Col. PARDEE retired to this ridge and remained on guard during the night. Enough of the strength of the enemy had been seen during the afternoon to suggest the necessity of strong and alert picket duty at night.
Early in the morning Col. PARDEE and his five Companies were relieved by Company "B" of the Sixteenth Ohio and one Company of the Fourteenth Kentucky. The men thus relieved retired and joined the remainder of the Brigade with the wagons at Tazewell. The two Companies on picket duty stacked their arms and began to regale themselves with berries which grew in great quantities in the woods. While thus engaged, Company "B" of the Sixteenth was surrounded by a regiment of the enemy advancing under cover of the fog, attacked, and Capt. EDGAR, its commanding officer, killed. His men made a gallant effort to rally and recover their muskets, and partly succeeded, but most of the Company was killed, wounded or captured. The survivors, with the Company from the Fourteenth Kentucky, abandoned the ridge and retreated across the valley to the main body near the village. STEPHENSON moved up his advance brigade and occupied the position from which the Federal pickets had been driven.
A broad, open valley now lay between the hostile forces. It was evident, to Col. DECOURCY that he was confronted by a vastly superior force, and it became an object with him to make the utmost display of his strength, and thereby keep the Confederates in check until his long train of wagons, now laden with forage, could be got well in motion towards Cumberland Gap.
About nine o'clock in the morning the fog lifted, and a regiment of the enemy was seen to come out of the woods on the hill where the pickets of the Sixteenth had been captured, and advance down into the valley towards the town. At the foot of this slope and at right angles with the advance of the regiment was a lane following the general course of the brook in the valley. At the point where this lane debouched into the main road, one of the guns of FOSTER'S Battery had been posted the night before, and had not retired when the infantry pickets had retreated in the morning. The gun and its horses were concealed from the view of the advancing regiment by a fringe of bushes which skirted the lane. Sergeant HACKETT, in command of the piece, double-shotted it with canister and trained it so as to rake the lane. On came the Confederates down the slope in line of battle, with colors flying, and, without breaking their line, attempted to cross the lane. At that moment, when the narrow passage was filled with men, HACKETT'S masked gun blazed out of the bushes, sweeping the lane with a hail of canister. How many were killed and wounded is not precisely known, but the slaughter, as related afterwards by members of the Rebel regiment, was enormous. The whole force was thrown into disorder, and, under cover of the momentary panic, the gallant Sergeant limbered up his gun and, with his horses at a gallop, made good his escape to the main body. This daring little exploit had been watched with anxious interest by DECOURCY and his command from the hills above the town, and Sergeant HACKETT and his squad received on their return the congratulations due to their success, and a warning not to take such a risk again.
The enemy now appeared in still increasing force on the farther hill, and it became a matter of doubt whether he could be held in check until night. Col. DECOURCY had learned from scouts and prisoners that the force opposed to this little brigade was a full division of four brigades, and numbering in all not less than seventeen thousand men. The disparity was so great that in the face of such odds he dared not retreat by daylight. Repeating Col. PARDEE'S tactics of the day before, he spread out his Brigade in single rank, counter-marching companies over exposed points to give the appearance of an army corps taking position for battle. Gen. STEPHENSON watched the scene through his glass from his position a mile away, held his division in readiness to meet an attack, and so threw his opportunity away. As darkness settled down over the hills, DECOURCY wheeled his Regiments into the road behind the town, and, marching rapidly, reached Cumberland Gap at three o'clock in the morning, without the loss of a wagon or a man except Capt. EDGAR and those of his Company who were killed, wounded or captured through being surprised while on picket duty. Every wagon was brought back loaded, and a large quantity of supplies was thereby added to the stores of the garrison. The* management of the expedition had been so competent and successful, and reflected such credit upon the officers and men engaged, that it was made the subject of a congratulatory order by Gen. MORGAN.
THE SIEGE AND EVACUATION OF CUMBERLAND GAP.
DECOURCY had in fact run against the head of an army moving to the invasion of Kentucky. STEPHENSON followed him to within range of the heavy guns on the peaks of Cumberland Gap, and from that time the investiture was complete. Still MORGAN did not give up the effort to eke out his scanty supplies. A few thin cornfields were ripening in Powell's Valley, inside the cordon of the enemy, and these were fought for and gathered acre by acre. Twenty-pounder Parrotts were taken out and posted on Poor Valley ridge, a large foot-hill a mile or more South of the Gap, and these drove the enemy back, while a brigade of infantry with wagons could swoop down and gather a few acres of corn. Often a sharp skirmish would be kept up in the edge of a field, while the corn was rapidly harvested in the rear. Movements of this kind were controlled by signals from the Gap, where an officer looking down upon the scene, could see every movement of the enemy, and by flagging frequent messages could keep the Federal force constantly at an advantage. The amount of food and forage to be gained in this way was of course limited, and as all communication with the rear was cut off, the supply at the Gap dwindled day by day.
The army of KIRBY SMITH had invaded Kentucky, as already stated, about the ioth of August. His two columns, commanded respectively by Gens. CLAIBORNE and CHURCHILL, numbered together twenty-five thousand men. At the same time HUMPHREY MARSHALL, with seven thousand five hundred men, had entered the State from Southwestern Virginia by way of Pound Gap. Gen. SMITH established his headquarters at Barboursville, thirty miles Northwest of Cumberland Gap, and Gen. MCCOWN, with two divisions, occupied Cumberland Ford. MCCOWN soon after his arrival sent a flag of truce to MORGAN with a demand for the surrender of the Gap. He received the reply that if he wanted the place he must come and take it, a task that he did not seem inclined to rashly undertake.
On the 16th of August MORGAN sent a scout through to the Ohio river with this telegram for the Secretary of War:
KIRBY SMITH cannot remain in my rear three weeks, while I can hold this place five weeks with my present command. He held the Gap four weeks and five days after the date of this message.
Three days afterward the Federals at Big Hill in Kentucky were defeated and driven back by SMITH'S advance. On the 30th he gained another decisive victory over ten thousand raw troops at Richmond, and on the 2d of September occupied Lexington. Frankfort was evacuated, and not a single Union soldier remained between Cumberland Gap and the Ohio river, a distance of two hundred and fifty miles. Gen. HALLECK had promised MORGAN reinforcements, but they never came. In order to save the artillery and quartermaster's horses from starvation and at the same time to reinforce the Federal column at Lexington, Col. GARRARD had been some days previously ordered by Gen. MORGAN to mount four hundred of his infantry and, united with MUNDY'S Cavalry, to proceed to Lexington and report to the General in command at that place. As KIRBY SMITH had advanced toward Lexington he overtook at Loudon and attacked Col. HOUCK, who had occupied that place with a battalion of the Third Tennessee. HOUCK succeeded in escaping to Cumberland Gap. The other battalion of the same regiment did good service at Big Hill, and three battalions of the Seventh Division participated in the action at Richmond.
The question of holding Cumberland Gap was now reduced to one of subsistence only. The fortifications were complete, ammunition was abundant, and no enemy would dare attack it. But how subsist the garrison until the Rebel occupation of Kentucky could be broken? Still continuing his battle for food, MORGAN, on the 8th of September, started DECOURCY'S Brigade with the Seventh Michigan Battery towards Manchester, thirty-eight miles Northward, and about ten miles East of the main road to Lexington. The Brigade marched at five in the afternoon, leaving all its tents and camp equipage except what the men could carry, but taking in convoy a hundred and nine wagons, of which thirty-nine were loaded with fixed ammunition. The Forty-Second was in advance, and at four o'clock the next morning the Brigade halted and slept in its old quarters at Cumberland Ford. At five p.m., the march was resumed, and on the evening of the nth the column reached Manchester and camped in a pleasant spot North of the town. The purposes of this movement had been, to reduce by four thousand the number of mouths to be fed at the Gap, secondly, to endeavor to gather and send back food and forage, and, lastly, to have an advance guard and ammunition train thrown out well in advance in case evacuation of the Gap should prove unavoidable. The first and last of these points were gained, the second was lost. The country about Manchester was poor, and it had been already stripped. DECOURCY could find nothing to send back to MORGAN; it was with difficulty that he could subsist his own men and the teams. On leaving the Gap, his Brigade had drawn three biscuits per man, to serve as five days rations, and when corn and sour apples failed they fell back upon paw-paws, the one natural product of that desolate country which could sustain human life. The weather was intensely hot and dry, and JOHN MORGAN'S Cavalry, foraging and recruiting through the country, hovered near enough to keep DECOURCY'S men continually under arms. It was evident that MORGAN knew the position of DECOURCY'S wagon train and was determined to capture it. Nevertheless the defenders maintained a reasonable serenity, and on days when the cavalry was less pressing than usual, the time was improved in brigade and battalion drill.
In order to employ the troops at the Gap, Gen. MORGAN, in the hope that KIRBY SMITH would be defeated in Kentucky, had sent detachments to blockade the roads leading to Rogers' and Big Creek Gaps, with the purpose of falling upon the retreating enemy as he was endeavoring to clear away the obstructions. Various other expeditions were made to pick up small detachments and stragglers from SMITH'S army, in the direction of Barboursville and Loudon. These little forays, otherwise unimportant, resulted in the killing of one hundred.and seventy of the enemy, and the capture of five hundred more, with trifling loss to the Union side.
Meanwhile, the suspense at Cumberland Gap was growing serious; unless the enemy were dislodged from Central Kentucky and communication re-opened within a few days, the Gap must be surrendered with its garrison or evacuated. The first was not to be thought of, the latter would be a desperate alternative. MORGAN'S Division was two hundred miles from the Ohio river and the only practicable road thither was held by the enemy.
On the 12th of September the Quartermaster reported to MORGAN that the mules could no longer be fed, and advised that they should be sent to the Ohio river by way of Manchester. To do so would be to give our artillery to the enemy in event of evacuation. The wagons would have to be buried, and the Quartermaster's advice was rejected. For six days the troops had been without bread, and all other supplies were being rapidly exhausted. If MORGAN continued to hold the Gap until compelled by hunger to leave, he would transfer to the enemy thirty-two guns, more than twelve thousand stand of small arms and four hundred wagons. In addition to the Division proper there was a large Quartermaster's force, and a much larger number of East Tennessee refugees who had taken shelter within our lines. All had to be fed.
On the 14th of September a council of war was held. The following are the minutes of the proceedings:
HEADQUARTERS, CUMBERLAND GAP,
September 14th, 1862. A council of war, convened by Brig.-Gen. MORGAN, commanding the forces at Cumberland Gap, assembled at the Headquarters at n a.m., to-day. Present--Brig.-Gen. MORGAN, commanding, Brig.-Gen. SPEARS, Brig,-Gen. BAIRD, and Brig.-Gen. CARTER. The Brigade of Col. DECOURCY absent on detached service. The proceedings were opened by Gen. MORGAN stating in detail the information in his possession relating to the position and numbers of the Union and Rebel forces in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, and as to the probabilities of succor, both men and supplies, reaching this post, and of the condition of the troops, as to supplies of food, clothing and ammunition. Gen. MORGAN stated that the council was convened to consider the question of remaining at the Gap or evacuating the position, and that he should be governed by the decision of the council as far as that question was concerned. After a free interchange of opinion it was agreed unanimously that in view of all the circumstances of the case, the position should be evacuated.
|Signed by GEO. W. MORGAN,||Brigadier-General.|
|J. G. SPEARS,||"|
|S. P. CARTER,||"|
|W. P. CRAIGHILL,||1st Lieut, of Engineers, U. S. A.,|
|Recorder of the Council.|
The following statement shows the total supplies on hand, estimated for twelve thousand men on the day of the evacuation:
STATEMENT OF SUBSISTENCE STORES ON HAND ON THE SEVENTEENTH OF SEPTEMBER, THE DAY OF EVACUATION.
|50,384 lbs. Bacon, ------------12,||000 Men,---------||5 1/4 days rations.|
|336 bushels Beans, ---------------||"--------------------||15|
|9,000 lbs. Rice, -------------------||"--------------------||7 1/2|
|1,300 " Sugar, ---------------------||"--------------------||3/4|
|19,250 " Coffee,-------------------||"--------------------||16|
|11,890 " Mixed Vegetables------||"--------------------||17|
|3,631 " Desiccated Potatoes-----||"--------------------||3 1/2|
|5,650 " Soap.|
|75 barrels Salt|
|295 gallons Vinegar.|
(Signed,) G. M. ADAMS,
Commissary of Subsistence, U. S A.
There was but one practicable line of retreat, and that lay through a wilderness destitute of supplies, and sometimes without water for a distance of thirty miles. It was the opinion of Capt. LYONS, who had been the Deputy-Surveyor-General of Kentucky, that that route was impracticable for artillery or a wagon train. There was nothing to do, however, but attempt it. Every instant from the adjournment of the council was devoted to preparation. On the night of the 16th of September a large train was sent towards Manchester, under convoy of the Thirty-Third Indiana Infantry, two companies of the Third Kentucky Infantry, and the Ninth Ohio Battery.
In order to throw the enemy on the Tennessee front off his guard, on the 17th, MORGAN sent Lieut.-Col. GALLUP to the hostile picket line with dispatches for Gen. STEPHENSON relative to the exchange of prisoners, and requesting an answer by the next morning. While GALLUP was entertaining the officers of STEPHENSON with gossip and enjoying with them a cigar, some indiscreet bungler set fire to the buildings of the Quartermaster. One mile South of the Gap is the Poor Valley Ridge, which rises abruptly from the plain and extends across the entire valley at the base of the Gap, but leaving two narrow defiles through which run an East and West as well as a North and South road near the base of the mountain. This ridge forms a complete mask to Cumberland Gap on the South side, but thick smoke from the burning buildings began to curl over its crest and excited the suspicions of the enemy. These were allayed by GALLUP, who ascribed the smoke to the burning of brush on the mountain side. After dark the regular pickets were withdrawn, and GALLUP with two hundred picked men undertook the delicate duty of holding the narrow defiles which flanked the Poor Valley Ridge. At dark the Brigade of SPEARS with FOSTER'S Battery, crossed through the Gap with orders to deploy at the Northern base in line of battle, facing the Westward approach from Baptist Gap, and to hold position until the entire command had passed towards Cumberland Ford.
At length the enemy seemed to suspect what was going on, and his pickets pressed forward in the defiles already described. They were met by a sharp fire from GALLUP'S detachment and fell back. CARTER'S Brigade then (10 p.m.) passed the Gap, closely followed by BAIRD. The night was dark, and the slow, dangerous and difficult descent was lighted by fires kindled on the mountain side, and by the glare of the now burning buildings. The road leading up to the Gap on the South side had been heavily mined, and as soon as the rear of MORGAN'S column had gone forward, Capt. PATTERSON exploded the mines, and the principal buildings containing quartermaster stores were given to the flames. GALLUP kept out his pickets until nearly morning, when he hurriedly retreated, burned the remaining buildings at the summit of the Gap, and with his own hand fired the train, which with a tremendous explosion that shook the earth for miles, blew up the principal magazine.
STEPHENSON, even when he knew the Gap was evacuated, feared to occupy it for several hours, and MORGAN'S little army marched away securely, and in as perfect order as though on parade. For more than five miles along the valley road streamed the column of infantry, wagons and ambulances, field and siege artillery, the rear being covered by GALLUP'S gallant little force and a small squad of cavalry. As the silent column, lit up by the blazing beacons on the mountain, marched away into the darkness to an uncertain fate, the scene was one which might have inspired a painter or poet.
The march made during the first night was extraordinary for so cumbrous a column. By daylight, the advance had reached Flat Lick, twenty miles from the Gap. From that point the division advanced Northeastward by two parallel roads along the valleys of Goose and Stinking Creeks, to the vicinity of Manchester, which point was reached on the night of the 19th. The enemy's cavalry now hovered on our rear and flank, and made a dash at one of our trains, but was repulsed by Col. COOPER. A day's halt was made at Manchester, to more fully prepare for the ugly march before us, and to enable the men to recover from the labor and fatigue which they had undergone.
While there, a sad and unusual episode occurred--the execution of a soldier for murder. A private named STIVERS had the evening before, while intoxicated, quarreled with a comrade, and shot him with his musket. A Court Martial was convened at nine the next morning; at ten the murderer was sentenced to be shot at five in the afternoon. The Division was to start at six in the evening, and at the hour appointed for the execution, DECOURCY'S Brigade, on drill as usual, formed the sides of a hollow square. Just outside the center of the enclosed space was a shallow grave, and to this there came a detachment with the prisoner, followed by an open farm wagon, containing a plain wooden box rudely stained with lampblack. This was placed beside the grave, the death warrant read, and the eyes of the prisoner blindfolded with his handkerchief. He then knelt upon his coffin; the firing squad--a detail of twelve men from the Sixteenth and Forty-Second Ohio--took their places, and the Lieutenant in command [Lt. William Ross, Co. G, 16th Ohio], drew his sword.
READY !--the twelve rifles were raised and cocked;--
AIM !-- they were leveled;--
FIRE! There was a report as from one musket, and the poor fellow, pierced through the breast and neck by every bullet, sprang into the air and fell dead! The band struck up a march, the regiments filed by the flank past the open grave, and the Brigade, without halting, took the road toward the North as rear guard of the Division.
With the departure from Manchester began one of the most arduous and perilous marches of the War. Thus far the Division had had a reasonably practicable road for its retreat, and it had moved rapidly and without serious obstacle. Thenceforward it had to literally cut and dig its way through nearly two hundred miles of broken, mountainous country, almost wholly barren of supplies, and in many places, for long distances destitute of even water. The interior of Kentucky being occupied by a powerful Confederate army, MORGAN'S only chance of saving his valuable trains and artillery lay in avoiding contact with the enemy, and fighting only what opposition was thrown in his way. Two routes to the Ohio lay open to him from Manchester: one through Irvine, Jeffersonville and Mount Sterling to Maysville; the other by West Liberty and Grayson to Greenupsburgh, (now Greenup) a small town nearly opposite Ironton, Ohio, and twenty miles below the mouth of the Big Sandy. The Maysville route offered the better road, but it would lead to inevitable conflict with a heavy force of infantry and cavalry posted on that route to intercept MORGAN'S retreat and capture his trains. The route by West Liberty and Grayson was one of stupendous difficulties. It was, in fact, so bad that the Confederates, knowing the country well, considered it impassable and ambushed their heavy force on the road to Maysville. The Grayson route ran Northeasterly across the rugged ridges along the headwaters of a series of small creeks that flow Eastward into the Big Sandy. The few roads that exist in that country run East and West, leading from the interior of the State to the Sandy Valley and Virginia, and following, as is natural, the valleys of the streams which flow in that direction. But MORGAN'S route was across the country, through a region so barren and inhospitable that even the mountain corn-cracker and ginseng gatherer had abandoned it to desolation. There was nothing to do, however, but make the effort; and on the night of the 22d of September, as already related, the Division left Manchester for Proctor, on the Kentucky river, at which point the roads to Maysville and Greenupsburgh diverged. The difficulties of the route began immediately. Within sight of the town, the road lay through a deep and narrow defile, just wide enough to admit a wagon. The chasm was filled with large boulders; its slaty bed was so cut and channeled by the stream which ran through it, that there was scarcely sufficient footing for the teams. Strong details of men accompanied the wagons and gun carriages, and held them from capsizing as they were dragged through the gulch. So serious was this first obstacle, that, although the head of MORGAN'S column started before sunset, it was midnight before DECOURCY'S Brigade, the rear guard, was in motion. Soon after passing this gorge the road forked, and from that ppint the Division advanced to Proctor in two columns. Capt. ADAMS, the Division Commissary, had been sent forward with a Cavalry escort to seize what supplies could be found at Proctor. He moved rapidly, but the Confederate raider, JOHN MORGAN, was in his front with a brigade of cavalry, intent upon blockading the road and destroying every vestige of subsistence. MORGAN held Proctor until ADAMS approached, when he burned a large flouring mill there, destroying a large quantity of flour, and retreated down the river to Irvine, on the road to Maysville. The main Federal column marched all night of the 22d, all day of the 23d, halted at 9 p.m., bivouacked until 2 a.m., when the reveille sounded, and the troops again moved forward. Just at dusk on the 23d, a caisson belonging to the Ninth Ohio Battery was capsized into a creek. The shock exploded a percussion shell, which ignited the powder in the chest, tearing the carriage to atoms, wounding four men, and killing a mule.
The Rebel cavalry now appeared in MORGAN'S rear in considerable force. One evening a squad made a dash and captured nine men of the Third Kentucky Regiment, who had straggled off in search of something to eat. They came on again, and were handsomely repulsed by the Forty-Second, which was still guarding the rear. After marching all night, SPEARS' and DECOURCY'S Brigades, which had taken the hill route, reached Proctor, nearly famished for water. Finding the mill burned and all supplies destroyed, they halted only until noon; then, crossing the river, they took to the hills again, marched all night, and until late in the afternoon of the next day, when they emerged from the hills into a wide, clear, though but partially cultivated valley. They were five miles from Hazel Green. Pushing on, they entered the town at nine o'clock in the evening, capturing a Confederate colonel and captain, who were recruiting in perfect security as they thought--no one for a moment supposing that the Yankees at Cumberland Gap would endeavor to escape through that region. SPEARS and DECOURCY encamped their men in the pleasant meadows about the town, collected and slaughtered the few cattle and sheep that could be found, and awaited the arrival of BAIRD and CARTER, who, with the wagon-trains and the heaviest artillery, were coming from Manchester by the river road, which, though worse cut and destroyed than the road over the hills, afforded an abundance of water. They arrived about noon of the 25th, and the whole Division, reunited in a pleasant spot, rested until the following morning. Hazel Green was a hotbed of secession, there being but five Union men in the county. The Federal troops gave the shiftless inhabitants a novel entertainment by raising the stars and stripes on a hickory pole that stood in the main street, and the band played patriotic airs, which, being neither appreciated nor understood, fell upon stony ground. During the day the valleys about the place were thoroughly searched for cattle, and when the column moved next morning, it had a drove of about sixty head, which were herded and driven in the rear, guarded by the Twenty-Second Kentucky under Lieut.-Col. MONROE. Before the Federal column had been gone from Hazel Green an hour, a company of Confederate cavalry came in, raised sixty recruits in half an hour, and started on to recapture the cattle. They came up with the rear guard just before dusk, caught MONROE'S men in a moment of carelessness, rushed in, killed the herdsmen and stampeded the cattle through the woods. MONROE rallied his men promptly and drove the raiders back with a loss of three killed, but the cattle were scattered, night was at hand, the rest of the column moving rapidly along, and the beef was lost. Word was immediately sent forward, and the troops halted and lay down in the road without fire until morning.
The Division was now surrounded with foes and had to be prepared to fight at any moment. As before stated, the enemy had counted upon Gen. MORGAN being obliged to retreat toward Maysville. They therefore withdrew from his front at Proctor, and prepared to make a stand at Irvine. By pushing his main column and trains to the East of Proctor via Boonville, and sending SPEARS' and DECOURCY'S Brigades through Proctor, and thence off across the hills to Hazel Green, MORGAN had completely eluded the enemy. It only remained to be seen whether the Confederate commander could yet move an infantry force Eastward quickly enough to reach West Liberty or Grayson before MORGAN, and thus intercept his retreat.
The Confederate force was put in motion, and the Rebel JOHN MORGAN sent with his cavalry to blockade the road in front of the Federal column and impede its march. He did this zealously but his men were no match in digging and wood-cutting for PATTERSON'S Pioneers. In MORGAN'S supply train were a number of wagons laden with the axes and shovels which had been used in fortifying Cumberland Gap. These were distributed among the men so that the entire command became a force of pioneers, When the enemy's cavalry blockaded the road with rocks and fallen trees, the beleaguered column either cut the logs away in a few hours or built a new road round the obstruction. In one case the Rebels had spent nearly a day in filling a rocky gorge nearly two miles in length, with fallen trees. They rightly calculated that the logs could not be cut out and the way cleared in less than twenty or thirty hours. But Capt. PATTERSON laid out a new path along the side-hill above the blockaded road, the shovels and picks were brought into requisition and in three hours the column marched through. The advance guard came upon and dispersed the blockaders, who, counting upon the inability of MORGAN to get through in less than a day, had gone into camp in a valley beyond.
Thus alternately fighting and digging, the Division' moved on. The ordinary hours for labor and rest were disregarded. Some part of the column was always in motion. The only rest of the advance brigades was while waiting for the trains and rear guard to pass an obstruction. The only real rest of the rear brigades was while waiting for the advance to dislodge the enemy or clear the blockaded or impassable road. The whole command was reduced to the very verge of famine. The little corn that could be gathered along the way became the only resource of the Division against absolute starvation. The ears were carefully gathered and if soft, roasted and gnawed from the cob; or if hard, rasped into coarse meal upon rough graters, made by punching holes in tin plates with a bayonet point. Each company or mess detailed a man to ride in one of the wagons and grate corn during the march. Each battery had its squad of corn-graters riding on caissons and limber chests, and the monotonous rub, rub of the crackling ear against the perforated tin plate became the only music of the dreary march. For days and days together horses were not unharnessed nor cartridge boxes unslung. The men slept in their clothing by the roadside, in the woods, wherever the command halt! met them; they rose and fell into their places mechanically when the bugle sounded the advance.
By the evening of the 27th, the head of the column had reached West Liberty. More than two-thirds of the distance from Cumberland Gap to the Ohio had been traversed, and the belief began to grow general that we would somehow get through. Not one in five had any such expectation when the Division left Manchester. From the two recruiting officers captured at Hazel Green, Gen. MORGAN had learned that a strong infantry force was marching to join JOHN MORGAN at West Liberty.
Having now reached that point in advance of the enemy, Gen. MORGAN felt that an important point had been gained. If the enemy came, he would have to fight us on our own ground, while the trains could be sent forward out of danger. Both officers and men were indignant and savage at being obliged to retreat at all. They had been dogged and harassed by the enemy's cavalry until they were ready and eager for a fight. Gen. MORGAN determined to give the force said to be marching from Mount Sterling a chance. Three miles West of West Liberty, on the road from Mount Sterling, is a stream, said to be the only running water in that direction for a distance of more than twenty miles. On reaching Mount Sterling, a brigade was sent out to cross that stream and take up a strong position beyond it . In this position Gen. MORGAN waited two days for his Division to close up, rest, and give the enemy time to arrive. BAIRD and CARTER, with the two rear brigades, arrived in good condition after an exceedingly toilsome march, but the enemy did not . appear. Then the report came that the Confederates had turned still further North, and were marching with all speed to head us off at Grayson, fifty miles further on our road. The men had become excessively weary with their long march and hard labor, and in order to lighten their task as much as possible, orders were issued to burn all clothing, blankets and other baggage that could be spared. Fires were kindled, and great numbers of overcoats and blankets were burned.
On the afternoon of the 29th, Gen. SPEARS' Brigade moved out six miles, in order to permit the trains to start during the night and overtake the advance by daybreak. DECOURCY'S Brigade followed, and bivouacked four miles from the town. Early next day the whole column started again, but at ten o'clock the advance encountered another heavy blockade, which required several hours to clear away. This constant blockading gave color to the theory that the enemy's cavalry was still trying to detain us until a heavier force could reach and occupy the road in our front.
On the evening of the 29th, a foraging party of twenty-one men belonging to SPEARS' Brigade was captured, with some horses and cattle. SPEARS sent out a detachment and recaptured the lost cattle, and a number of others which the Rebels were trying to drive away. Next day the Division moved at two o'clock in the morning, but encountered two heavy blockades, one of which was cut away, and the other evaded by cutting a new road nearly a rrlile in length. After twenty-two hours hard work, the troops bivouacked without fire or water and with very little food, having made but eight miles.
The next day was even worse. Starting at two o'clock, after only four hours' rest, the command came before daylight to where the road ran through a deep, rocky gorge, which had been completely obstructed with huge rocks and fallen trees rolled into it from above. Putting a brigade at work upon it, MORGAN sent . several regiments forward, which soon found other equally serious obstructions. Seven blockades were found and overcome during that memorable day, and a road built round a bridge that had been burned. At this bridge the advance came upon the blockaders and attacked them sharply. Two prisoners were captured, one of whom (a captain) was splendidly mounted and equipped. He was captured by an artillery sergeant and a private of the Forty-Second. In the pockets of his saddle were two pieces of corn-bread. The captured property was divided into two lots-- the horse and saddle forming one, the bread the other--and the private was given his choice. So famished was the poor fellow that he chose the bread.
During the day, a captain in a Tennessee regiment was shot through both lungs by a bushwhacker, small gangs of whom had begun to harass the column night and day. The march was continued without halt or rest until three o'clock next morning, when, having arrived within two miles of Grayson, the column halted while an advance regiment went forward to reconnoiter. It was known that the enemy was in possession of the town, but in what force could not be learned. While the advance proceeded cautiously on its mission, the remainder of the column, staggering with weakness and fatigue, lay down in its tracks and slept . For twenty-five hours the troops had been marching and working, and in that time not one in five of the men had tasted a morsel of food. Even the paw-paws had failed; and as the soldiers marched under oak trees, they picked up the bitter acorns and ate them like famished animals.
At sunrise, after two hours sleep, the bugles again sounded, and the Division marched along the now excellent road into Grayson. The rebels had just gone, driven out at daybreak by our advance. The Division poured forward rapidly, a strong guard was posted on the road leading in from the West, and once more the weary troops were permitted to snatch a few hours' sleep.
The Rubicon was now passed. Grayson was the last point at which an enemy could intercept the retreating column, and that was already in our hands. The tremendous labor of the two preceding days had enabled Gen. MORGAN to pass the blockades in half the time that the enemy calculated, and the Division had reached Grayson two days in advance of their expectations. Those two days purchased safety. The cavalry that we had driven out of Grayson retreated Westward, met a division of Rebel infantry, told the commander that he was too late, the Yankees were already at Grayson, and there the pursuit ended.
It was but fifteen miles further to the Ohio river, and worn out though they were, the troops were eager to be once more on the way. At four in the afternoon, DECOURCY'S Brigade, the advance guard, moved out on the Northern road, followed by the trains and the remainder of the Division. Just as the rear of the column was leaving the village, the alarm was given that the enemy was coming by the road on which the Union troops had arrived in the morning. A brigade was quickly thrown into position. FOSTER'S Battery was run out into a field, unlimbered and double-shotted with canister, and for a few moments the troops were on the defensive. The Rebels, however, did not come. They were only a small troop of cavalry, which intended to occupy the town after the Yankees had left it, but had no idea of hurrying them away.
Four miles from Grayson, the road passes a place known as "The Narrows." At this point the way is cut along the face of a cliff, overhanging the river. The road is just four inches wider than the tracks of an ordinary wagon, and there is a precipice both above and below. To drive four inches out of the way is to throw wagon and team down the steep into the river. Naturally, such a pass as this, several hundred yards in length, was a serious obstacle. Skillful as the drivers of MORGAN'S Division had become, they were not all equal to the task of passing "The Narrows" safely by night. The first two wagons passed over safely. The third and two others went over the cliff and down into the river. Then the column stopped and waited until daylight, when, with careful and deliberate management, the batteries and the remaining wagons passed over in safety. This was the last trial that beset that memorable march. The weary troops were within ten miles of the Ohio, where food, rest, clothing, and, better than all, news from home awaited them. Their last letters from Ohio had been dated early in August, and it was now the 3d of October. There was no lagging or straggling for nuts and corn that day.
[SAFE ARRIVAL - THE MARCH ENDS]
Every man was in his place, and the march was rapid and joyous. Shortly after noon, the advance emerged from a rugged gorge into the valley of the Ohio river, and saw before it, half a mile away, the little town of Greenupsburgh, its white walls and spires bright in the October sunshine. The people, as we approached, came out to welcome the lost Army of Cumberland Gap. They had read in the Cincinnati papers of its confinement and probable capture; and when, that morning, a courier sent on ahead announced that the lost Division, with its trains and artillery, was coming, they hurried to prepare food, and came out to welcome us as men resurrected from death. The troops poured into the little town and spread out into the surrounding meadows. The Ohio regiments stacked their arms on the shores of the river, and look*ed longingly across to the fertile hills of their native State. To those ragged, brown, weary men, Ohio seemed at that moment like an enchanted land. After such a-night of sleep as could come only with utter exhaustion, the Division next morning began to cross the Ohio. The batteries were ferried over in large barges, the horses being made to ford and swim. DECOURCY'S Brigade, with the Forty-Second, marched six miles down the river, and embarked on three small steamers, which dropped down the river and landed the regiments at Wheelersburgh--on their native heath at last, on loyal ground, amid friends who honored their bravery and pitied their sufferings, among people who cheered their tattered battle-flags and welcomed them to a Union State. It was a bright, warm, Autumn Sunday, and the march of the tattered troops was everywhere an ovation. Congregations assembled at church with great baskets of food; and instead of the ordinary service, they thronged the roadside and fed the soldiers as they passed. Farmers loaded their tables with the best that their land afforded and considered themselves honored by the hungry, ragged and unknown guests who shared their hospitality. It was a day never to be forgotten by any soldier of the Seventh Division.
At Wheelersburgh the troops took trains as fast as they could be provided and were transported to Oak Hill, in Jackson County, where they formed a camp of re-organization and rest. Gen. MORGAN issued an order, congratulating the officers and men of the Division upon the courage, patience and endurance evinced by them during the entire campaign, and for their successful retreat of more than two hundred miles through a mountain wilderness, in the face of enemies and obstacles, dragging through their siege and field artillery and heavy trains laden with valuable Government property.
Major Gen. A. G. WRIGHT, Commanding the Department of the Ohio, forwarded the report of Gen. MORGAN with the following endorsement:
Gen. G. W. CALLUM, Chief of Staff,
Headquarters of the Army of the United States:
GENERAL,--I have the honor herewith to transmit a copy of the report of Brig.-Gen. GEO. W. MORGAN, dated the 12th instant, detailing the circumstances of the withdrawal of his forces from Cumberland Gap. While the evacuation of the Gap is to be regretted, I do not see, with starvation staring him the face, and with no certainty of relief being afforded, how he could have come to any other conclusion than the one arrived at.
The march of Gen. MORGAN from Cumberland Gap to the Ohio river was most successfully accomplished, and reflects much credit upon him and his officers for the skill with which it was conducted, and upon the men for the cheerfulness with which they bore the hardships of a toilsome march of some two hundred miles on scanty fare over a country affording little subsistence, and often for long marches without water.
H. G. WRIGHT, Major-General Commanding.
The evacuation of Cumberland Gap, though variously criticized at the time and censured by Gen. HALLECK, was long ago shown to have been the one course left, by which Gen. MORGAN could save his army, after the occupation of Kentucky by BRAGG and KIRBY SMITH in the Summer of 1862. The testimony of Col. VANCE, who commanded a brigade of STEPHENSON'S army and wrote to Gen. MORGAN in 1864, describes the plan by which STEPHENSON within forty-eight hours more would have surrounded the Gap, blockaded and occupied all the roads, and made MORGAN'S escape with his train and artillery impossible. Col. VANCE says:
It was the opinion of every officer of rank in our army that you moved at exactly the proper time, and with great skill and judgment.
Gen. BRAGG, in his official report of the operations of the Confederate army in Kentucky during the Summer of 1862, gives this interesting and significant testimony:
Orders had also been given for a close observation of the enemy at Cumberland Gap, and that he should be intercepted in any attempt to escape. On my arrival at Bardstown, I learned from Gen. SMITH that the enemy was moving from Cumberland Gap endeavoring to escape by the valley of the Sandy river in Eastern Kentucky, and that he had sent his whole available force in pursuit . A sufficient force to prevent this escape and compel the enemy's surrender, had been ordered and confidently expected from another quarter to have followed Gen. SMITH'S movements in time for this purpose. Circumstances in the then isolated position, and over which I could not control, had prevented this consummation so confidently relied on, and so necessary to success. The delay resulting from this pursuit of the enemy by Gen. SMITH, prevented a junction of our forces and enabled Gen. BUELL to reach Louisville before the assault could be made upon that city.
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