History of Campbell County, Tennessee

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Union, Confederate Forces Faced Off Skirmishes At Big Creek Gap, Jacksborough

By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. 

Most Campbell Countians know that for a short period the entire area of LaFollette (Big Creek Gap) and Jacksboro (Jacksborough) were involved in the Civil War. At this time we shall review the happenings of the local skirmish between the Union and Confederate forces as outline by Col. James P.T. Carter, of the U.S. Second East Tennessee Infantry: date, March 23, 1862.

The Colonel and his troops were ordered on March 8, 1862, to proceed to Big Creek Gap and Jacksborough, Tennessee and capture or route the Confederate forces that were reported to be in that vicinity. The charge was that the Confederates were blockading roads and molesting the Union citizens.

Colonel Carter left with his command on the morning of March 10, accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel James Keigwin of the Forty-ninth Indiana Volunteers. The Union force consisted of the Second East Tennessee Regiment (Companies C and H were from Campbell County); Company A (also from Campbell county) of the First East Tennessee Regiment, Captain Cooper; Company B of the Forty-ninth Indiana Regiment, Captain Thompson; and a detachment of Lieutenant Colonel Munday's First Kentucky Cavalry.

The soldiers arrived at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, on the north side, on March 12, at 6 o'clock p.m. It was then learned that two companies of the Confederate First Tennessee Regiment Cavalry were encamped at Big Creek Gap. With the road completely blocked, the Union cavalry unit was detached and sent around another road. Securing the services of a guide, the command was divided, placing one portion under charge of Lieutenant-Colonel Keigwin.

The line of march was taken up at 9 o'clock p.m., with the intention of meeting at a point on the other side of the mountain about daybreak. The marching distance was about 9 miles, with the ascent of the mountain made only with superhuman effort. The troops bore the climb patiently and moved on eager for the proceedings.

With night time being upon them, and darkness at its gloomiest, marching single file through the narrow ways caused some troops to get lost and not arrive in time for the skirmish.

About 1,300 of the infantry came upon the camps of the Confederates, which was under command of Lieut. John F. White. The time was about 6 o'clock a.m. on the 14 th, and after a sharp skirmish of about 15 minutes. The Confederates were completely routed. Their loss was 5 men killed, 15 wounded, and 25 taken prisoners, among of whom was Colonel White and Lieut. Hoyl.

Captured were 86 horses (27 killed), 7 mules, and several wagons. Also confiscated was a large quantity of powder and a large amount of quartermaster and commissary provisions, a sufficient supply of the latter to supply the command during their stay. It being impossible to transport the quartermaster stores, Col. Carter ordered them, along with the powder, to be destroyed.

Because of total darkness of the night, and the impassibility of the roads, the cavalry did not arrive until after the skirmish. Had they arrived in time the Colonel stated that he was satisfied that they could have succeeded in capturing the whole force.

Upon the arrival of the cavalry, the troops marched to Jacksborough, distance 5 miles, and there over took the rear guard of the Confederate cavalry. One man was killed and Capt. Edward Winton, of the Corps of the Sappers and Miners, was captured.

The Stars and Stripes were raised over Jacksborough, and on March 15th troops marched to Fincastle, and from there to Woodson's gap, where they camped for a few days.

Learning that there was manufactory of saltpeter in the neighborhood, a detachment of cavalry was sent with orders to destroy the facility. Demolished was about 1,000 pounds of saltpeter, kettles were broken up, the shed burned, and about 11,000 pounds of bacon and 20 sacks of flour was ravished.

Col. Carter wrote that the men behaved admirably, and proved that they were ready and willing at all times to meet the Confederates. The locals throughout the section of country were truly loyal in all the sentiments and hailed the arrival and conquest of the home troops with great enthusiasm. All their possessions were offered in good will for the soldier's service.

Woodson's Gap was, according to Col. Carter, a very strong position. They could have held against a large force if they had been permitted to stay. Confederate forces were sent out to attack the Union troops, and the position at the gap would have a good stronghold.

However, Col. Carter received an order to report to headquarters with his command at the earliest possible moment. Leaving on March 20, the Colonel and men arrived on the 23 rd without the loss of a single man


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