Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Big Creek Gap

Marker ID:  
Location: intersection of N. Indiana Ave (US 25 W) and N. Tennessee Ave, La Follette, TN
County: Campbell
Coordinates: N 36° 23.274    W 084° 7.524
  36.3879    -84.1254
Waymark: None


Big Creek Gap
Natural Opening

The road in front of you winds through Big Creek Gap, one of the few natural openings through the Cumberland Mountains in the region. During the Civil War, this corridor was much narrower and steeper, and even lightly loaded wagons found travel extremely hazardous. Cumberland Gap, one the main migration route from the eastern states to the west and a strategic gateway during the Civil War, is about thirty miles northeast of here.

Early in the conflict, Confederate military engineers ringed Cumberland Gap with defensive works and considered the pass impregnable from the north and east. East Tennessee citizens who supported the Union alerted Federal commanders to the possibility of flanking the fortifications via Big Creep Gap. After a rigorous march, a detachment of Union soldiers, including a company of Campbell County men under Capt. Joseph A. Cooper, first penetrated the narrow passage here in March 1862 and routed the Confederate cavalry posted nearby. A more substantial offensive effort under U.S. Gen. George W. Morgan occurred in June, producing a bloodless Confederate withdrawal from Cumberland Gap. Subsequently, control of the Gap changed hands several times.

Across the highway, on a small knoll above and the right of the old rock quarry, are remnants of the earthworks that defended Big Creek Gap. They are the only know Civil War—era fortifications in Campbell County. In the summer of 1861, the 19th Tennessee Infantry (CS) and other units stood watch here to guard the state border and prevent local men from joining the Union army in Kentucky. Rifle pits, gun emplacements, and ammunition dumps used by soldiers from both sides are still extant.

(Inscription under the photo in the upper right)
"Drawing Artillery Across the Mountains" Harper's Weekly, Nov. 21, 1863.

(Inscriptions under the portraits in the lower right)
Gen. Joseph A. Cooper-Courtesy www.generalsandbrevets.com. and Gen. George W. Morgan, Leslie's Illustrated History.

Erected by Civil War Trails.