The Ballad of James E Rains Liner Notes

Dr. Thomas Walker first named Gap Cave in his written description of the area in 1750. There has been 18.5 miles of cavern mapped, lying underneath the Pinnacle Overlook. There are 6 known entrances. Gap Cave has been called by different names through time, “King Solomon’s Cave” during its first iteration of a commercial touring venture and later “Cudjo’s Cave”, named for a fictional slave character that James T. Trowbridge wrote of hiding there during the Civil War.
In actuality, during the Civil War, Gap Cave was used by soldiers. Both sides held Cumberland Gap twice, but there was not a major battle there. The “Soldier’s Cave” area was used as a hospital, an ammunition dump, a place of shelter, rest, and a place of exploration. They discovered if they poked a candle to the end of a long stick, the smoke from the flame would stain the limestone and would leave their names behind on the high walls and ceilings.
James E. Rains was one of those soldiers. His name appears there today just as clearly as it did in 1862.
Personally against the concept of succession, Rains chose to side with his native state of Tennessee and join the Confederate Army. He had not been a practicing lawyer very long, graduating Yale in 1854 and elected Nashville city attorney in 1858. He and his young bride, Ida, welcomed the birth of their daughter, Laura, in 1859. He enlisted as a private in 1861 and found himself promoted to colonel by the end of the year and leading the guarding Confederate garrison at Cumberland Gap by the winter of 1861-62. He was noted as being a skilled battle leader, successfully repelling Union forces from taking the Gap several times.
“The Ballad of James E Rains” explores what could have been going through this young man’s mind as he inscribed his name in Gap Cave. Later in 1862, he was transferred from East Tennessee and ended up in Murfreesboro. His life ended in the battle of Stones River on December 31st. His last words were “Forward my brave boys, forward!” He had been field promoted to brigadier general.
You can see James E. Rains’ signature and all the other wonders of Gap Cave through guided tours with The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park service.