The Old Wilderness Road cutting through the Gap was a natural invasion route. For the Confederacy, it led to the rich Kentucky bluegrass country to the north. For the Union, it led to the Northern sympathizers of East Tennessee, and to an opportunity to cut rebel supply lines. In late summer of 1861, the Confederacy seized the Gap and made it the eastern anchor of a defense line extending to the Mississippi River. Brigadier General William Churchwell was placed in command, and fortified the garrison during the fall of 1861. He built seven forts on the north facing slope, and cleared the mountains of all trees within one mile of each fort. Needed more elsewhere, the Confederates abandoned the Gap in June 1862.
Union Brigadier General George W. Morgan soon arrived to take possession of the Gap. The 20,000 men under his command began building nine south-facing batteries to repel an invasion. But none came. The Confederates under Lt. General Kirby Smith by-passed the Gap with 12,000 men and moved into Kentucky, severing Morgan's supply line. Without food and still fearing an attack, General Morgan boldly led his men north through enemy territory to safety.
The Confederates returned to the Gap, cleared up the mess Morgan and his men left behind, and strengthened the forts. Many skirmishes took place, as Unionists from Tennessee raided the garrison. In September 1863 a Union force under Maj. General Ambrose E. Burnside moved toward the Gap. On September 7, the Yankees destroyed provisions stored at the Iron Furnace. Burnside also deceived the Confederate commander, Brig. General John W. Frazer, into believing that his force was stronger than it actually was. Believing his Confederates to be out manned, and short of provisions necessary for a long siege, Frazer surrendered his garrison on September 9.
Lining up along the Harlan Road, the Confederates were amazed to see the small force to which they had surrendered. The Gap remained in Union hands until the end of the war. Except for a garrison inspected by Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant in January 1864, when he labeled the Cumberland Gap the "Gibraltar of America," there was little excitement. Meanwhile, the war fought to its end in the South and East.
By the end of the war the Gap had changed hands four times, yet no major confrontation took place here.
The war of the Gap is every April the 3rd weekend...photos
Our Log Cabin, built in the 1700's
The single pen is the basic log house. To make a single pen, builders join four walls by cutting or notching the log ends in such a way that they interlock when laid horizontally. There are variations on these notches, but the most common are the v-notch, the full-dovetail, and the half-dovetail. Henry Glassie identified two basic shapes of single pen structures, the square and the rectangle. The square single pen derives from British tradition and has a gable roof parallel to the front with an end chimney at one of the gable ends and single door on the front. The rectangle pen is Scots-Irish in origin and also has a gable roof parallel to the front with an end chimney in one of the gables. The rectangle pen, however, has both a front and back door and, usually, a window to one side of the front door. John Morgan found the rectangle to be the most common shape in his study of log houses in East Tennessee. These pens had dimensions ranging between eighteen by thirteen feet and thirty-six by eighteen feet. Most commonly, they had one and a half stories, but a few were one story, and fewer still had two stories. In some cases, the first story was divided into rooms by a partition made of boards laid vertically or horizontally. Limestone is easily available in much of the Upland South, and builders in Morgan's study usually chose this stone for their chimneys, although they sometimes built chimneys of brick and, in a few surviving examples, of sticks and mud.
Oldest Standing Building in Cumberland Gap!
Built in the mid 1800's the Olde Mill Inn has seen a lotof History. A lot of it, its very own. Thought to be, probably originally used as a boarding house for the Pinnacle Wagon works (c 1905) , that was across the street. It was built by J.B. Cockrill and his wife Ruth, they were the first ones ever to sale it. It was sold to Mrs. Elisabeth Thacker and Children in 1905. We are pretty sure she was a widow, as it would have had her husbands name first on the Deed. The owner of the Pinnacle wagon works Russel married one of her daughters Addie Lenor Thacker October 6, 1907 and lived with her and there family here. The whole house is built out of tongue and grove wood, and set on a field stone foundation, the Olde Mill inn is a strong and sturdy home. Still heated by a coal furnace almost as old as the house (update~ NEW high efficiency wood and coal furnace added summer 2011, no more $2,000 utility bills!) The towns Rail Station was just down the block and they probably used The Olde Mill inn to put up its travelers. It was a local land mark long before it even became the Mill.
Cumberland Gap has seen a lot of its own history. The old iron foundry, Civil War, Feast, Famine, Boom, Bust, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Indians, "White lightning" running (ever watched the movie Thunder Road? that was us!), Al Capone, real gangsters, over 300,000 pioneers past through the gap, the gateway to the west. Cumberland Gap has been no stranger to fires, war, and disasters. But through it all the town and The Olde Mill Inn has survived it all.
The Mill works were added in the 1940's and were built by the Fitz Water Wheel Co. out of Hanover, PA. Complete with massive grinding stones imported from England. About that time the Log Cabin was added, it was saved from burning, when they were building where L.M.U. stands today. Check out some of the logs, some have musket ball holes! It is said to have stood where the Victorian resort "the Four Seasons" was being built in the early 1800's. Arthur and the American Association spent some two million dollars developing Harrogate, the jewel of which was the Four Seasons Hotel, a 700-room structure believed to have been the largest hotel in the U.S. at the time. The hotel included a lavish dining hall, a casino, and a separate sanitarium ~ aka "Spa". The economic panic of the early 1890s and the subsequent collapse of Arthur's London financial backers doomed the American Associates, however, and the Four Seasons was sold and dismantled.
The Olde Mill Inn has been a Museum, Wedding Chapel, Cookie Shop, Restaurant, Ice Cream shop, has been rumored to have been a "Bordello" or "Cat House as we like to say around the grand kids...The mill in the 1940's, Art School in the 80's and a private home.
Today it is our families Bed and Breakfast. We like to say it has a split personality...the mill and the cabin...that just fit perfectly together. You feel the history throughout the Inn. Our beautiful wood floors, our tongue and grove walls...hand hewn walls in the cabin, with some logs over 30" wide...whispers to you the past, if you stand still long enough... All of the original Milling works are still in place and make a wonderful "cool" factor for the house.
The mills wheel melody, sooths the most frazzled, as it turns, reminding us to slow down, relax and enjoy this extraordinary little town and National Park ...Stress just seeps away from you here, you just feel so relaxed and warm here. There is just something about the place. We feel it is just seems to be happy being our bed and Breakfast. You will feel it too when you stay with us.
So come sit out on the bridge and feed the trout, sip some tea, walk the trails, stretch out on your wonderful pillow topped bed...Quite is in the air. No crowds, no traffic, no stress... just peace and beauty....come see for yourself....