Historic Markers Across Tennessee



Lincoln and Cumberland Gap - Passage to the West



Marker ID:  
Location: adjacent to the parking lot for the Abraham Lincoln Museum, on on University Boulevard (Mars-DeBusk Parkway), Harrogate TN
County: Claiborne
Coordinates: N 36° 34.832    W 083° 39.443
  36.58053333    -83.65738333
Waymark: None
 



Text:

Lincoln and Cumberland Gap
Passage to the West


Cumberland Gap became the principal passage between the eastern and western theaters of operation in the Upper South during the war. Whichever side held the high ground here held the Gap.

In 1861, Confederate Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer's men occupied Cumberland Gap and began erecting fortifications, some of which still exist today. The work was backbreaking and the terrain unforgiving. "It is the roughest place in the world," a soldier wrote, "but we are going to stick the mountain full of cannon to prevent the Lincolnites from crossing."

President Abraham Lincoln expressed concern for the Unionists here."[O]ur friends in East Tennessee are being hanged and driven to despair," he wrote, "and even now I fear, are thinking of taking rebel arms for the sake of personal protection." In April 1863, at a conference with Gen. Oliver O. Howard, Lincoln spoke to Howard about the welfare of the Unionists. According to Howard's reminiscences, Lincoln put his finger on the Gap on a wall map and asked, "General, can't you go through here and seize Knoxville?" Eventually, other generals achieved Union control of East Tennes Cumberland Gap became the principal passage between the eastern and western theaters of operation in the Upper South during the war. Whichever side held the high ground here held the Gap.

In 1861, Confederate Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer's men occupied Cumberland Gap and began erecting fortifications, some of which still exist today. The work was backbreaking and the terrain unforgiving. "It is the roughest place in the world," a soldier wrote, "but we are going to stick the mountain full of cannon to prevent the Lincolnites from crossing."

President Abraham Lincoln expressed concern for the Unionists here."[O]ur friends in East Tennessee are being hanged and driven to despair," he wrote, "and even now I fear, are thinking of taking rebel arms for the sake of personal protection." In April 1863, at a conference with Gen. Oliver O. Howard, Lincoln spoke to Howard about the welfare of the Unionists. According to Howard's reminiscences, Lincoln put his finger on the Gap on a wall map and asked, "General, can't you go through here and seize Knoxville?" Eventually, other generals achieved Union control of East Tennessee.

After the war, Howard recalled Lincoln's concerns for the area. After founding Howard University in Washington and presiding over it from 1869 to 1873, Howard came to Cumberland Gap in 1895, acquired the failed Four Seasons Hotel, and helped establish Lincoln Memorial University on this site in memory of his former commander-in-chief. The stone wall at the museum entrance is virtually all that remains of the hotel.

Erected 2010 by Tennessee Civil War Trails.