Dug Gap is located on Pigeon Mountain

White Oak Gap is located on the eastern side of Sand Mountain overlooking Trenton in Lookout Valley below. The area is shown on the New Home, GA/AL/TN quadrangle of the U.S. Geological Survey maps.

White Oak Gap on Sand Mountain approaching Trenton.
White Oak Gap on Sand Mountain approaching Trenton.


White Oak Gap is a natural break that provides access to Lookout Valley from the rugged heights of Sand Mountain west of Trenton. Several divisions of the Federal Army of the Cumberland used this gap in their invasion of Georgia in September 1864. Captain Francis W. Perry, Company I, 10th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment later wrote: I shall never forget the laborious and hazardous march as we approached the southern declivity and commenced the descent The night was dark, and as we commenced our descent the valley was one expanse of impenetrable darkness, except for the camp-fires of advanced regiments dotting the darkness hundreds of feet below, like so many stars scattered along the valley, forming a grand and most beautiful site. The descent was hazardous for heavy teams. Wheels were chained, fires or other lights placed at every dangerous angle, and every precaution taken for safety. Yet, some loads became unmanageable and went over the precipices below to meet destruction, or broke down and had to be rolled out of the way."

One after another, the regiments of soldiers in blue uniforms passed through the gap on their way to the Battle of Chickamauga. Two divisions of General George Thomas' 14th Army Corps of the Federal Army of the Cumberland and one division of General McCook's 20th Army Corps used this route. Two months later, General William T. Sherman brought his army from Mississippi to aid the besieged Federals at Chattanooga. Sherman feared that his army would come under attack while on the march along the railroad to Chattanooga. As a diversion, he sent a division led by his brother-in-law, General Hugh Ewing, over Sand Mountain and through White Oak Gap into Lookout Valley.

Near where Federals shelled Trenton in November 1863.
Near where Federals shelled Trenton in November 1863.

Colonel James Cooper Nisbet had returned to Dade County for a visit to his home at the same time General Ewing's Federals came off Sand Mountain. "As I rode into Trenton," he later wrote, "I saw two old citizens watching a signal flag that was being waved in the White Oak Gap on Sand Mountain opposite the town. After greetings, they asked me if I knew what that flag meant, and said they had heard that morning that there was a force of Yanks advancing from Bridgeport, Alabama, which had camped on Sand Mountain the previous night. While we were talking, a regiment of cavalry was seen in the gap. They wound down the mountain road, and then a Battery appeared, halted and planted a gun on an open bench, and directly a shell came shrieking over us. I was cut off from going home via the valley road. I watched a blue regiment of cavalry until they reached the outskirts of the town."

Colonel Nisbet was able to escape, and even visited his parents in the south of the county before returning to his command. General Ewing burned Trenton and made the Confederates think that all of Sherman's Army was with him before proceeding on to Chattanooga to take part in the Battle of Missionary Ridge. For the rest of the war, White Oak Gap was used as a regular landmark by military patrols on periodic visits to Dade County.

References: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
Archive and files Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Raymond Evans, The Civil War in Dade County

Significant Views: A good viewshed for this feature exists along modern State Highway #301 that comes off Sand Mountain through the gap.

Setting: The site is located in an area of residential housing and overlooks the modern commercial section of the town of Trenton. There are no period structures or features visible from the road.

Documented Structures, Sites and Features: The only features are the natural attractions that the men saw during the war.

Presumed Wartime Features: This was the major route for troop movements during the Chickamauga campaign. A short term artillery position was set up here during General Ewing's invasion of the valley in November 1863.

Original Terrain: The general terrain in the vicinity of the gap has been heavily impacted by highway building and residential housing. Aside from this, however, the area is still rural and has much of its wartime appearance

Related Sites: Trenton and Johnson's Crook.


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