Another of our stops during the recent vacation was Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. While the park’s interpretation is largely focused on the story of migration and settlement, there are a few sites for those with Civil War interests.
Pinnacle road provides access into the saddle of the gap and up to Pinnacle Overlook. Along the route are pull-offs to view restored sections of the Wilderness Road and Fort McCook.
Rifled 6-pdr Field Gun, produced by Marshall & Company in 1861, stands guard over remains of Fort McCook. The view of Middlesboro is impressive (offering a view of the crater of an ancient meteorite strike). But the works have suffered from exposure, time, and footsteps (unfortunately). The marker there provides a map indicating the locations of other works defending Cumberland Gap during the Civil War.
Fort McCook covered the western approaches to the Gap. A little further up, and on the right side of the map, is Fort Lyon.
Fort Lyon overlooked the eastern approaches and the saddle of the Gap. Fort Lyon is better preserved of the two positions and boasts a 20-pdr Parrott Navy Rifle.
The park offers an extensive and attractive trail system. A few sources mention additional earthworks on the other ridge lines around the gap. Unfortunately I did not have time to hike and explore those sites. So I’ll have to plan another visit, before saying for sure if more earthworks still stand in the Gap.
Certainly, the main attractions to Cumberland Gap are the overlooks and the Wilderness Road. And the story of exploration and westward expansion trump the Civil War events. For the battlefield stomper, Cumberland Gap offers a few sites – and a great starting point for explorations into southwestern Virginia, northeastern Tennessee, and western Kentucky.