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Harrogate in Claiborne County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

Lincoln And Cumberland Gap

Passage to the West

 
 
Lincoln And Cumberland Gap Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Porter, September 15, 2010
1. Lincoln And Cumberland Gap Marker
Inscription.  

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
Marker as seen from the Abraham Lincoln Museum parking lot image. Click for full size.
By Bill Porter, September 15, 2010
2. Marker as seen from the Abraham Lincoln Museum parking lot
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.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: EducationWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the Tennessee Civil War Trails series lists.
 
Location. 36° 34.832′ N, 83° 39.443′ W. Marker is in Harrogate, Tennessee, in Claiborne County. Marker is on University Boulevard (Mars-DeBusk Parkway), on the right when traveling west. The marker is adjacent to the parking lot for the Abraham Lincoln Museum. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Harrogate TN 37752, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Lincoln Memorial University (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Democrat Hollow (approx. 0.3 miles away); Harrow School (approx. 1.4 miles away);
Abraham Lincoln Museum on the Lincoln Memorial University campus image. Click for full size.
By Bill Porter, September 15, 2010
3. Abraham Lincoln Museum on the Lincoln Memorial University campus
Marker is located at the side of the building. (Left side of this photo.)
Cumberland Gap (approx. 1.4 miles away); Lee County/Tennessee (approx. 1.4 miles away in Virginia); Three States Cornerstone (approx. 1˝ miles away); Iron Furnace (approx. 1.6 miles away); Named for a British Lord (approx. 1.8 miles away in Virginia). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Harrogate.
 
Regarding Lincoln And Cumberland Gap. The first Lincoln quote on the marker ("[O]ur friends in East Tennessee...") was in a letter to Buell on January 6, 1862. (See "McClellan's War" by Ethan S. Rafuse, Indiana University Press, Nov 23, 2011 and other sources.)

 
Also see . . .  Oliver Otis Howard and Lincoln Memorial University. This summary document from LMU shows that Howard and Lincoln probably met three times, but most likely not as early as April, 1863 which would have been before Howard's disappointing role in the Battle of Chancellorsville of May 2, 1863. After this battle Howard and Lincoln supposedly met for the first time, as it was a chance for Howard to explain his actions there. They met again in August and on September 27, 1863. It was this September meeting that Howard remembered
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in 1896 as when Lincoln expressed his concern for the area. (Submitted on June 19, 2020.) 
 
Additional comments.
1. Factual Errors
The marker has two factual errors.

First, Oliver talked to Lincoln in late Sept. 1863 while he was in Washington moving his troops from the Manassas area to Louisville, where they would eventually help in the relief of the siege of Chattanooga. (Which was why they were talking about East Tennessee in the first place.)

Second error is in the section of wall that was described as being from the Four Seasons Hotel. The hotel was actually a few hundred feet to the west and a dorm was located on the site the wall is on from the early 1900s until the late 1960s. (Also, I went to school at LMU from 1989-94 and that wall wasn't there then. Not saying it wasn't a part of the hotel, but that wall was not where hotel was located when I went there.)
    — Submitted September 15, 2010, by Bill Porter of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 19, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 15, 2010, by Bill Porter of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 1,592 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 15, 2010, by Bill Porter of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.
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Jul. 10, 2020