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Cumberland Gap Civil War Reenactment ~ Cumberland Gap, TN

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On a gorgeous spring day in April, we headed out early to Cumberland Gap Tennessee for a Civil War reenactment. Red buds were fading to green, dogwoods blooming in brilliantly, lighting up the woods. This tiny town is sidled up next to the famous Cumberland Gap, on the Tennessee side, where Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky meet.


Abraham Lincoln wanted the Cumberland Gap secured for the Union, thinking it impenetrable. The Confederates took the Gap early in the war, and tried their best to maintain it. It changed hands 4 times during the Civil War.

The Confederate Army was encamped in the middle of town, in a park shaded with huge trees. White tents, campfires and tethered cavalry horses stood in contrast to the neat little town.

The mountains towering over the gap were filled with Union soldiers during the war. They pushed their cannon up the mountains, and trained them below. Thousands of soldiers guarded it, with nothing to eat for the men and animals. They froze and starved up there. Supplies were rare, so the Union was forced to come down the mountain to forage for food and supplies.

The town of Cumberland Gap was full of hardworking women, with their husbands at war. 

The Confederate Army was aware of the troop movement, and were bustling around preparing for the assault. Cavalry thundered through town on horses, from both armies, shooting. General Lee stood in the center of town, getting his troops ready for the battle, encouraging the troops, urging them on to bravery, honor and dignity.

The battle started with Union forces lobbing cannon fire from the base of the mountain, near the trees.....

One of the most important things we learned at this living history event was from a devoted park ranger who is passionate about living history. She explains things quite well - how the war really impacted the people of the Cumberland Gap, living in the hard scrabble Appalachian mountains. Choices had to be made, difficult choices based on each individual's heart.

Life was rocky mountains and landscapes, not lush plantations filled with slaves and so the choices were different. They were fighting for their homes, their farms and their families, each with a myriad of reasons, not merely "slavery."

All over the Southern Appalachians, one of the biggest challenges was how to protect their personal farms from troops from both sides and how to continue to provide for their own families. Though often torn, if they had loved ones, hoping someone was feeding them.