“Cumberland Gap”


Stories of the settlement of Cumberland Gap. Texts may have a variety of verses, about exploration or the Civil War. The chorus is diagnostic: "Lay down boys and take a little nap; (Fourteen miles to the) Cumberland Gap."

Supplemental text

Cumberland Gap
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

From Harvey H. Fuson, Ballads of the Kentucky Highlands, pp. 176-178.
No source indicated.

The first white man in Cumberland Gap,
The first white man in Cumberland Gap,
The first white man in Cumberland Gap,
Was Doctor Walker, an English chap,
Lay down boys and take a little nap,
They're raising hell in Cumberland Gap.

Daniel Boone on the Pinnacle Rock,
Daniel Boone on the Pinnacle Rock,
Daniel Boone on the Pinnacle Rock,
He killed Indians with an old flint lock,
Lay down boys and take a little nap,
They're raising hell in Cumberland Gap.

(8 additional stanzas)


This melody is played as a dance tune throughout the southeast. - PJS

Fuson's unusually long text has also been heavily localized: "September morn in Sixty-two... Morgan's 'Yankee' all withdrew." "They burned the hay, the meal, and meat... And left the rebels nothing to eat." "Braxton Bragg with his rebel band... He run George Morgan to the bluegrass land."

Union general George W. Morgan (1820-1893) had occupied the Gap on June 18, 1862 with a division after the oversized brigade of James E. Rains withdrew. (Rains, incidentally, did his own burning of stores as he pulled out.)

In September 1862, though, two Confederate armies under Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith were moving into Kentucky (the Perryville campaign). Kirby Smith's force threatened Morgan's communications, and on September 17, he conducted an orderly evacuation. There was no battle, but it would be another year before the Union recaptured the Gap. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1750 - Thomas Walker explores and names Cumberland Gap
  • Jun 18, 1862 - Union troops under G.W. Morgan occupy the Gap after James Rains (who is outnumbered by two to one) evacuates the pass
  • Sep 17, 1862 - Morgan evacuates the Gap, his retreat having been cut off by Bragg's and Kirby Smith's campaigns in Kentucky
  • Oct 22, 1862 - Confederate troops from Braxton Bragg's army occupy the Gap
  • Sept 10, 1863 - Confederates forced from the Gap by troops under Burnside. The Gap will remain in Union hands thereafter

Cross references


  • Dock Boggs, "Cumberland Gap" (on Boggs3, BoggsCD1)
  • Jack Burchett, "Cumberland Gap" (on WatsonAshley01)
  • Rufus Crisp, "Cumberland Gap" (on Crisp01)
  • The Hillbillies, "Cumberland Gap" (Vocalion 5024, rec. 1926)
  • Frank Hutchison, "Cumberland Gap" (OKeh 45570, 1932; rec. 1929)
  • Buell Kazee, "Cumberland Gap" [fragment] (on Kazee01)
  • Land Norris, "Cumberland Gap" (OKeh 40212, 1924)
  • Fiddlin' Powers and Family, "Cumberland Gap" (Victor, unissued, 1924)
  • Don Reno & Red Smiley, "Cumberland Gap" (King 5002, c. 1956)
  • Fiddlin' Doc Roberts Trio, "Cumberland Gap" (Conqueror 8239, 1933)
  • Rutherford & Burnett, "Cumberland Gap" (Gennett 6706/Supertone 9310 [as Southern Kentucky Mountaineers], 1929 -- a primarily instrumental version; on BurnRuth01, KMM)
  • Pete Seeger, "Cumberland Gap" (on PeteSeeger07, PeteSeeger07a)
  • Arthur Smith, "Cumberland Gap" (on McGeeSmith1)
  • Uncle "Am" Stuart, "Cumberland Gap" [instrumental] (Vocalion 5035/Vocalion 14839, 1924)Gid Tanner & Riley Puckett, "Cumberland Gap" (Columbia 245-D, 1924)
  • Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers, "Cumberland Gap" (Columbia 15303-D, 1928)
  • Gordon Tanner, Smokey Joe Miller & Uncle John Patterson, "Medley: Cumberland Gap/Gid Tanner's Bucking Mule/Hen Cackle" (on DownYonder)
  • Wade Ward, "Cumberland Gap" [instrumental] (on Holcomb-Ward1)
  • Williamson Bros. & Curry "Cumberland Gap" (OKeh 45108, 1927)


  1. Randolph 498, "Cumberland Gap" (1fragment)
  2. BrownIII 329, "Cumberland Gap" (1 text)
  3. Fuson, pp. 176-178, "Cumberland Gap" (1 text)
  4. Silber-CivWar, pp. 62-63, "Cumberland Gap" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 274-276, "Cumberland Gap" (1 text, 1 tune, composite)
  6. Lomax-FSNA 80, "Cumberland Gap" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Arnett, p. 31, "Cumberland Gap" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Botkin-SoFolklr, p. 714, "Cumberland Gap" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. PSeeger-AFB, p. 67, "Cumberland Gap" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Silber-FSWB, p. 49, "Cumberland Gap" (1 text)
  11. ST R498 (Partial)
  12. Roud #3413
  13. BI, R498


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1924 (recording, Uncle "Am" Stuart, followed in the same year by recordings by Land Norris, Gid Tanner & Riley Puckett)
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So)