AN IMPORTANT GAP IN HISTORY
(The following on Cumberland Gap is taken from a paper read by Robert L. Kincaid, of Middlesboro, Kentucky,before the Filson Club in 1940. It is reprinted here by permission of THE TENNESSEE CONSERVATIONIST.)
WITH REBELLION SENTIMENT running strong in the
Southern States, the majority of the people in the mountain belt in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, remained loyal to the Union ideal.
Cumberland Gap became an outlet for harried union men in East Tennessee after Governor Harris and pro-southern legislature embraced the cause of the confederacy. Zollicoffer, a former Congressman, was placed in charge of the Southern forges in East Tennessee, with instructions to put down "this rebellion against the rebellion", and he immediately fortified the Gap, more to prevent the wholesale flight northward of the mountain men than to repel any forward movement into the South, then threatened by the Northern forces.
The first soldier to enter the age-old passway of the Gap, early in June, 1861, ahead of the regular soldiers, was.the chaplain of the 19th Tennessee C. S. A. , Rev. D. Sullins, who was later to be the founder of Sullins College, at Bristol, Tennessee.
The Confederate flag was planted on the crest of the Pinnacle on the Virginia side, and early in August, a squad of Confederate cavalry captured T. A. R. Nelson, of Jonesboro, Tenn., and fifteen or twenty Union men, trying to slip across the mountain into Kentucky. Nelson was on his way to Washington, as Congressmanelect from the first district of Tennessee, and became the first prisoner of war of that section.
Thus began the military action around Cumberland Gap, which was to become a strategic point of contest between contending armies. Zollicoffer entered Kentucky through the pass on