Few areas were of more obvious strategic significance during the Civil War than the Cumberland Gap. A gap in the Cumberland Mountain chain at the juncture of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, it had to be taken by the Union in any drive south in this rugged region. Brigadier General George W. Morgan led four brigades to attack Confederate fortifications in the gap that were referred to at the time as the American Gibraltar.
The approach march to the gap over some of the most rugged terrain the Western Theater was a nightmare and took two weeks. Morgan was cut off from his supply lines and had to use foraging to supply his men. The “battle” itself was anti-climactic, the Confederate force under Brigadier Carter L. Stevenson withdrawing in advance of the Union arrival. Morgan would hold the gap until September, abandoning it when Bragg invaded Kentucky. The gap was taken by the Union again and for good when General Ambrose Burnside took it during September 7-9, 1863, along with 2300 Confederate prisoners.
Here is the report of General Morgan announcing the capture of the American Gibraltar:
The enemy evacuated this American Gibraltar this morning at 10 o’clock, and De Courcy‘s brigade took possession at 3 this afternoon. The enemy destroyed a considerable amount of his stores, and precipitated several cannon over the cliffs, spiking others, and carried a few away. I believe, however, that seven have been found in position. The tents were left standing, but cut into slits. He had not time to destroy or take a portion of his stores and they have been taken possession of by the proper officers. The Stars and Stripes were raised by De Courcy, and a national salute was fired in honor of the capture of this stronghold of treason. Each brigade, in the order of its arrival, will on successive days plant its flag at sunset upon the pinnacle of the mountain, accompanied by a national salute. In my hurried dispatches of this morning I neglected speaking in terms of just praise of the valuable services of Lieutenant Fisher and his brother officers of the Signal Corps, and also of the energy and devotion of Lieutenant-Colonel Mundayand hisiendful of cavalry; but every officer and every soldier has nobly discharged his duty.