A news item and an editorial in the New York Times report the occupation of the Cumberland Gap by Union forces under General George W. Morgan. This crucial pass through the Appalachians was a key point for controlling movements between the eastern theater in Virginia and the west in Kentucky and Tennessee.
The editorial overstates the strategic consequences of this victory, because Morgan, without support and with tenuous supply lines, would be unable to move on from the Gap in any major way.
The War Department has received the important information, through a dispatch from Gen. MORGAN, dated the 18th in st., that Cumberland Gap, leading into East Tennessee. has been occupied by the National forces. Gen. MORGAN states that after great difficulty he reached a position near the Gap, and at 1 o’clock on the morning of the 18th he advanced to the Gap to attack the rebel forces, but was just in time to learn that their rear guard had left about four hours before his arrival.
THE GATEWAY OF EAST TENNESSEE. Our
troops are truly and actually in possession of Cumberland Gap at last. On Wednesday morning, at 1 o’clock, while all New-York and all the country were asleep, four brigades of our gallant Southwestern soldiers took up their line of march, amid darkness, solitude and the wild mountains, for the famous Gap — the key of East Tennessee. They arrived there probably in the gray dawn of the morning — for they had not a very long march to make — expecting to find the foe; but they found that the foe had fled, and that this important position was ours without a battle.
A year ago the capture of this position would have thrilled the country with joy. Its capture a year ago would have saved the life of many a Unionist in East Tennessee. It does not, at first sight, look so important in its bearing upon the war now as it did then; but, if we mistake not, it will be found to be vitally important still. In the first place, in its relations to East Tennessee.
Our troops will, doubtless, advance at once upon Knoxville — for there is no purpose whatever in our holding Cumberland Gap itself — and in conjunction with Gen. MITCHEL, who is near Chattanooga, will scatter and destroy the detachments of rebel troops who are still in East Tennessee; and thereby give liberty to that long-persecuted people, and bring the whole State, from the mountains to the Mississippi River, under the loyal rule of Gov. ANDREW JOHNSON.
The capture of the Gap is vitally important, considering its proximity to the Virginia and East Tennessee Railroad, and considering the relations of that road and the country through which it threads, to the rebel army at Richmond. The holding of that railroad will cut off one of the most feasible lines of retreat of the rebels, and by advancing eastward upon it some distance from Knoxville, we will dry up a great source of their supplies, and in conjunction with the forces of FREMONT, BANKS and SIGEL, can operate directly upon their rear.
Our troops did not, of course, spend a single day at the Gap. but doubtless pushed forward at once to Jonesborough or Knoxville, and are now probably in a fair way of achieving both these important objects. We shall probably soon see the effect of this and other quiet movements now being made, upon JEFF. DAVIS’s main army at Richmond.