Lincoln Memorial University must be in
Illinois or Washington, D.C. or Kentucky, right? No, no, and no,
Lincoln Memorial University is in one strongest of Confederate
Ah, but located where in
confederate state of Tennessee? Lincoln Memorial is in East
Tennessee of course, and more specifically in the Cumberland Gap.
The new $300 million dollar highway US 25E tunnel from Tennessee to
Kentucky goes within a whisker of the campus of Lincoln Memorial
How did a college named after the
leader of the enemy, Abraham Lincoln get started in Tennessee?
Several people were involved but the most recognizable to us Civil
War buffs is Union General O.O. Howard. Howard remembered his
commitment to fulfill Lincolnís request in 1863 that after the war
he build a great university in the gap for the people of the area.
The University received its charter
from the State of Tennessee naturally on February 12, 1893. The
college today prospers with about 700 students but Lincoln would be
surprised to see his University of Illinois 30 times larger.
One of Lincolnís biggest tactical
errors in the Civil War was that he committed thousands of men and
material to take and, more important, hold the Cumberland Gap. He
thought you could not win the war without controlling the Gap.
At the beginning of the War, he
sent telegram after telegram telling Kentucky commanding General
William T. Sherman to take and occupy the Gap. Sherman asked field
General George Thomas to do it. Thomas said he had green troops and
no supplies to do the job.
After 4 months of inactivity, the
Confederates made the first move. They marched 3,000 men into the
Gap and dug in. Lincoln was furious. He made Shermanís life so
miserable that Sherman gave up his Kentucky command and went home to
Ohio very depressed.
Lincoln thought he had a big break
three months later when the 3,000 Confederates troops, for no
apparent reason, pulled out of the Gap and returned to Knoxville. It
was now a year into the War and with Sherman not blocking Lincolnís
fury George Thomas had to act. He took 5,000 men into the Gap and
dug in. At first, Thomas was surprised that the Confederates did not
attack. However, after three weeks he understood why the
Confederates had left. The enemy became food and supplies. The
mountain roads were but twisting ruts not roads that could support
thousands of troops. After a heavy rain, supplies might not arrive
for two weeks.
Thomas finally got the War
Department to let his troops cover the flank of Buellís invasion of
Tennessee and marched his troops off to Nashville.
Burnside's Army occupying Cumberland Gap - Sketched by
Sergeant Brennan, Eighth Michigan Cavalry" - Harper's
Weekly, October 10, 1863
In the spring of 1863, Ambrose
Burnside came through the Gap with his Ninth Corps (which included
Cleveland units). He did not stop but proceeded to Knoxville. Yes,
this same Ninth Corps that had such a hard time taking the bridge at
Antietam Creek in 1862. This would prove to be the only large
troop movement through the Cumberland Gap during the Civil
During the balance of the War, both
Confederates and Union troops occupied the Cumberland Gap for short
periods. At the end of the war in 1865, a few hundred colored Union
troops occupied the clearly militarily worthless Gap. By then,
Lincoln and the War department had learned that new technologies,
such as railroads and steam-powered ships, had made the Cumberland
Quick Facts About LMU
- Founded February 12, 1897, as a living memorial to Abraham
- Harrogate, TN, where Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia merge
at the Cumberland Gap, approximately 55 miles north of
- Beautiful, historic, 1,000-acre wooded campus with 35
academic, administrative, and residential buildings.
- 3,255 (1,482 undergraduates; 1,773 graduate students)
Class Size - 13