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The Cumberland Gap Campaign
May to October, 1862
Morgan's Evacuation of Cumberland Gap
Described in the New York Times
October 11. 1862
Web Author's Notes:
Below is an article which appeared in the New York Times newspaper on October 11, 1862, describing the situation of Gen. Morgan's garrison at Cumberland Gap and their astounding but arduous escape to Ohio in September, 1862.

Note: It is believed this text, from The New York Times archives, was generated by automated means, the software placing "[???]" in place of words or phrases it could not decipher. The webauthor has taken the liberty to replace many of these instances with the correct words, as found in other sources, or, if a "?" remains, a best guess at the intended word.

The New York Times

Reason of the Evacuation of the Gap?
Bril-Strategy of Gen. Morgan?
His Army Nearly Starved to Death?
The March Over the Mountains to the Ohio?
Eloquent Order of the Commanding General.

Published: October 11, 1862

[The following private letter from an officer who was present with Gen. MORGAN when he captured Cumberland Gap, who was with him when he evacuated it, and who accompanied his army in its march from the Cumberland Mountains to the Ohio River, puts in a clear light the reasons for its evacuation, and shows the masterly skill displayed in this most successful movement]

GREENUPSBURGH, Ky., Friday, Oct. 3, 1862.

You have already, [???] at the evacuation of the great [???] stronghold of the Southwest by the army of Gen. MORGAN, and our terrible march of sixteen days from Cumberland Gap to the Ohio River. [???] idea of the causes which induced this [???].

On the evening of the 17th of August, the Confederate General, STEVENSON, with a force of twenty thousand strong, arrived in front of Cumberland Gap, and at the same time Gen. KIRBY SMITH passed through Rogers and Big Creek Gap, with an additional force of twenty-five thousand men. The advance of SMITH was rapid and well executed, and in a few days two divisions of his army reached Cumberland Ford, and thus we who held the Gap, where perfectly cut off from Lexington and the North, and completely shut in. The rebel journals proclaimed, as apparently they well might, that MORGAN's whole Union Army were already prisoners, and as our supplies were cut off, our surrender was looked upon by them as a mere question of days. Indeed, the rebel General at that time informed his government that we could not hold out a week. The week, however, passed away and we still held out -- so SMITH was compelled to march toward Lexington to obtain supplies for his men.

Regarding the immediate destruction of KIRBY SMITH'S army by the Union forces in Kentucky as inevitable, our commander determined to try and obtain enough supplies to keep us alive, from the north side of the mountain, and hold on to the Gap. The rebel force of STEVENSON, also, we would thus hold in position. On the 5th of September, Gen. MORGAN sent the Third Kentucky Regiment, mounted on artillery and wagon horses, and Lieut.-Col. MUNDY's Cavalry, to reinforce the Union army then organizing at Lexington, under Gen. LEW. WALLACE. On the next day, DE COURCEY's Brigade was sent by Gen. MORGAN to Manchester, to secure subsistence. On the day following that, another part of our diminished force was sent against Baptist Gap, which surprised and captured Acting Brig.-Gen. ALLSTON, of South Carolina, and cut his troops to pieces. On the 8th of September, still another expedition was sent against, Rogers' Gap, where the enemy was again surprised, and his entire force -- one man excepted -- were either killed, wounded, or captured. A few days afterward, another expedition was sent against Rogers' and Big Creek Gaps, which blockaded both of them killed or wounded 30 of the enemy, and captured 110 of their men. In the meantime, the battle of Richmond, (Ky.,) between the forces of Gen. NELSON and those of KIRBY SMITH, was fought; and in that engagement, as you know, the Union forces of NELSON were routed.

All hope of our line being opened from the front, was soon gone. We were on the eve of being starved out. Our troops holding the Gap had been on short rations for a month; our small stock of captured supplies was being rapidly exhausted, and the last stalk of corn had been devoured by the mules. Our hungry but indomitable regiments would rather have starved than abandon the Gap. But Gen. MORGAN, who has proved himself as skillful and careful as he is daring and persevering, saw, I suppose, that our starvation in the mountains would do the country and the cause no good, if, after our death and dispersion, our thirty-two pieces of splendid artillery and fourteen thousand stand of small arms, fell into the hands of the enemy. Evacuation or surrender were the alternatives which presented themselves to our chief. But how could our troops evacuate, when a rebel army, stronger than our own, (STEVENSON's,) was within cannon shot of our lines? The enemy occupied a lookout at Baptist Gap, from which he could see down directly into our works. Death soon became the penalty for such information, and Cumberland Gap had to be abandoned. So Gen. MORGAN made preparations for this desperate bit of strategy. Of this I can say but little just now. But if the capture of the tremendous stronghold of the Cumberland Mountains three months ago by Gen. MORGAN was, as I think it was, the most adroit and splendid manoeuvre of the war, its successful evacuation under the difficulties that surrounded us, surpassed even that as an exhibition of military genius. Mines were exploded, rocks tumbled down, and the mountain gap blockaded so as to prevent the retreat of KIRBY SMITH's army from Kentucky in case of his defeat by the Union forces there. The sick we had to leave behind were all carefully provided for, and supplied with thirty days' provisions and plenty of medicines, under the care of a good surgeon and proper nurses.

At dark on the night he marched from Cumberland Gap. The regular pickets were called in and Lieut.-Col. G.W. GALLUP, with two hundred picked men, assumed that difficult and dangerous duty. When the mines began to explode the enemy's pickets at once advanced toward us on two roads, but were driven back with loss. Lieut.-Col. GALLUP, Capt. MCNISH and Corporal REYNOLDS, the best scout in this army, rendered great service. GALLUP set fire to the train which blew up the main magazine. On our march Capt. PATERSON, commanding a corps of mechanics and engineers, first brought up the rear of the column, blockading as we marched. Afterward, when the rebels attacked us and blockaded our front, he passed to the head of the column and cut the blockade.

The guerilla and rebel war under JOHN MORGAN, harrassed us on our way through the mountains of Kentucky. He had with him his entire brigade, represented by his men to be 5,000 strong, but probably not half that number. He reports that he killed or wounded 500 of our troops on the march; but the truth is, that our entire loss during the match, including killed, wounded and prisoners, did not amount to 80 men. His loss was much greater, as in one or two instances, our artillery raked his columns.

Our march from Cumberland Gap through Eastern Kentucky to the Ohio lasted sixteen days and nights, and was over a distance of more than 250 miles of hills and mountain and wild regions too terrible for my feeble pen to describe just now. We suffered enough, but the men all bore it heroically. During the march we sometimes threaded our way over mountain ridges so narrow that a solitary horseman could not pass the wagon train; and at other times through deep defiles, with towering perpendicular cliffs on either side, and these occupied by the enemy. Sometimes we drove him from his position by shells and sometimes by skirmishes. There were intervals in the march of sixteen or eighteen miles without water, and for three days we had to drink from stagnant pools, and could find but few of them.

The men here made graters by punching holes in their tin-plates, and thus powdered their own corn, which they gathered on the march. At every [stop?], day and night, you heard the "Armstrong mills", as they were called. The cannon were dragged the whole distance by oxen and mules. According to an account given us by a rebel whom we captured, a Major BEECKINRIDGE stationed himself in ambush at one point on the march, to shoot our commander with his revolver, but, when about to fire he was ordered to desist by his men, lest his fire should [make known?] the whereabouts of the rebels, and they should all be captured.

On our arrival on the Ohio River, from our [???], dreary and solemn [???] march. Gen. Morgan issued the following spirited address to his army:


GREENUPSBURGH, Oct. 3, 1862.

GENERAL ORDER No. [???]. -- COMRADES: At midnight on the [17th] of September, with the army of STEVENSON three miles on your rear, with BRAGG on your left, MARSHALL on your right flank, and KIRBY SMITH in your front, you marched from Cumberland Gap, mid the roar of exploding mines and magazines, and lighted by the conflagration of the store-houses of the Commissary and quartermaster. Since then you have marched two hundred and nineteen miles, overcome difficulties as great as ever obstructed the march of an army, and with your field and siege guns have reached the Ohio River.

The rapidity of your marches, in the face of an active for, over ridges regarded impassable, and through defiles which a hundred men ought to hold against a thousand, will hereafter be regarded with astonishment and wonder. Although on the retreat, you constantly acted on the offensive, so hotly did you press the enemy sent to retard your march, that on three successive days you surprised the hungry rebels in their supper, and fed upon the hurried meals which they had prepared.

With an effective force of less than eight thousand men, you had manoeuvred against an army eighteen thousand strong, and captured Cumberland Gap without the loss of a man. By your labor you rendered it impregnable, and an enemy four times your strength dared not attack you.

When Kentucky was invaded you sent two regiments to aid in driving out the invader, and such was your confidence in your strength, that while threatened by superior forces, you sent out five expeditions, captured three hundred prisoners, and killed or wounded one hundred and seventy of your foes. At length, when it became evident that your services were needed in the field, you marched boldly from your stronghold, hurling defiance at the foe.

One and all, you are entitled to the thanks of your countrymen; and I pray you to accept the assurance of my profound gratitude. In my official report your services and your sufferings will be properly noted.

Although you have done well, let it be your determination to do better, and always remember that discipline is the life-blood of an army.

Soldiers! as a friend and brother, I hail and greet you.

Brigadier-General Volunteers,[George W. Morgan]

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