“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
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.
Photographed By Bill Porter, September 15, 2010
1. Lincoln and Cumberland Gap Marker

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.

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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. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1863.
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. The Lincoln Cairn (within shouting distance of this marker); Lincoln Memorial University (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Democrat Hollow (approx. 0.3
Lincoln and Cumberland Gap Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Porter, September 15, 2010
2. Lincoln and Cumberland Gap Marker
miles away); History of Lincoln Memorial University (approx. 0.6 miles away); Cumberland Gap Veterans Memorial (approx. 1.3 miles away); Boone Trail Highway Marker (approx. 1.4 miles away); Harrow School (approx. 1.4 miles away); Cumberland Gap (approx. 1.4 miles away). 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,
Abraham Lincoln Museum on the Lincoln Memorial University campus image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bill Porter, September 15, 2010
3. Abraham Lincoln Museum on the Lincoln Memorial University campus
The marker is located at the side of the building, the left side of this photo.
1863. It was this September meeting that Howard remembered in 1896 as when Lincoln expressed his concern for the area. (Submitted on June 19, 2020.) 
Additional commentary.
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 May 4, 2021. It was originally submitted on September 15, 2010, by Bill Porter of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 2,019 times since then and 153 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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Dec. 3, 2023