Saturday, May 27, 2006

Evacuation of Cumberland Gap, Sept 1862

As I'm studying the 1862 Kentucky Campaign, I am fascinated by its drama and wide-ranging military operations all across the Bluegrass State. Three Confederate armies in six weeks (15 August-1 October 1862) manage to control all of Kentucky east of the L&N Railroad (today roughly I-65), except for Louisville and the northern suburbs of Cincinnati. On 4 October the Confederates inaugurate a pro-CSA government, which was promptly thrown out of Frankfort by General Joshua Sill's 20,000-man force. Had the Confederates been allowed to firmly grasp the levers of power, in short order they would have begun conscripting Kentuckians into the Confederate Army. Four days later (8 October) a Federal Army under Don Carlos Buell meets the Confederates in battle outside Perryville and forces them to retreat, eventually back to Tennessee.
For more info on Perryville and the Kentucky Campaign, see www.perryville.net or www.battleofperryville.com.

One of the great untold stories of this operation, indeed of this war, is George W. Morgan's evacuation of the Federal garrison at Cumberland Gap. Much of his force included East Tennessee regiments, and they were itching to liberate home. Nine thousand Confederates under Carter Stevenson (from Fredericksburg VA) arrive at the Gap in mid-September and lay siege to the place. Morgan's supplies run low, and he begins an epic retreat through the eastern mountains of Kentucky to the Ohio River, reaching there on 1 October after going 219 miles in 13 days.

Morgan's report of this action is in OR Volume XVI, p. 991-996, with additional correspondence following. (Some of that correspondence and reports contain interesting facts about East Tennesee in 1862.) Even in the dry language of a military report, the epic nature of this movement comes through; Morgan conveys the tension as the Confederates nipped at his heels while his men raced against dwindling supplies to the Ohio. Here's the link where it can be found online:
http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/browse.monographs/waro.html

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