War of the Rebellion: Serial 023 Page 0158 KY., M. AND E. TENN., N. ALA., AND SW. VA. Chapter XXVIII.

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I have frequently urged upon the War Office the great importance of having an experienced ordnance officer sent to this command, and if it is not done the public interest will immensely suffer. The person sent should have had some years of experience and not be just from the Academy.


Brigadier-General, Commanding.

CUMBERLAND GAP, July 15, 1862.

Brigadier General JOSEPH G. TOTTEN,

Chief Engineer U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:

GENERAL: Having now spent two or three days in examining this position and it surroundings I am prepared to state in a general manner the plan of defense by fortifications of a temporary character which seems to me suitable, and which I shall carry out if it meets the approbation of the Engineer Department.

The importance of the position in a political and military point of view cannot be overestimated. It is very strong naturally, as I remarked in a former communication, but its strength can be a hundred the place, both in its horizontal and vertical dimensions, is such that the defensive system must be of considerable extent; it cannot be erected in a day or a week; it will require to be occupied by a large number of guns and the permanent garrison should not be less than 5,000 men.

The three principal roads converging to this point from the east are the Virginia road, which skirts the mountain toward the north, the road to Tazewell, and that to Jacksborough. Of these the two last meet just before reaching the Gap and on a level some 350 feet below it, the former coming in nearly at the level of the Gap itself. Just at the Gap in the mountain range the heights on either side are 800 or 1,000 feet higher.

The Cumberland Range is very well defined as a whole, but its details are very irregular both in horizontal and vertical view. The roads are very tortuous within defensive limits form this position.

In the first place the lowest ground, upon which the lower roads meet before reaching the Gap itself, must be thoroughly swept of not very heavy caliber places en barbette, open embrasure or timber casemates, as the position may justify or require. The secondary heights immediately in the vicinity of the lowest ground must be occupied to prevent their occupation by the enemy, the result of which would necessarily be the abandonment by ourselves of the low batteries. These low batteries are necessary because the secondary heights are too high to afford advantageous positions for the batteries, which must sweep the roads. The highest points are too high to have any bearing upon the near defense of the roads, but they are necessary to holding the secondary heights, the importance of which I have shown, and by arming them with guns and mortars of the heaviest caliber an enemy can be kept at a distance.

From the extreme irregularity of the ground there will be necessarily many slopes which cannot be seen by the fire of artillery unless be number of guns is greatly and, as I think, unnecessarily increased. These slopes I shall occupy as far as possible by timber block-houses, taking care of course to place them out of view of the artillery of the