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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Battle of Perryville, Kentucky

We began our day by returning to Heaven Hill where I splurged and bought Evan Williams 18 year old! It is just too wonderful to pass up and I do like to sip bourbon on really cold nights when the cabin here has drafts sending chills through my body. It is far from air tight, this place! LOL Abe had nothing on me--well, maybe I do have a few more luxuries--like electricity when the power doesn't go out! From Bardstown we took a sort of Southeasterly swing to Perryville and then a semi circular Northwesterly swoop to Frankfurt, the capital of Kentucky and home of Buffalo Trace. Again the day was splendid though windy and cooler so that at the Battlefield in Perryville my lightweight blouse did not serve me well and I had to don a jacket. I'd long ago gone back into shoes rather than sandals. Arriving at Perryville the welcome sign had another next to it welcoming us to his home town, Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry, which meant absolutely nothing to me, but sounded like county and western music group types. Sure enough I googled Montgomery Gentry and that's what they are--a pair of male singers whom I may or may not have heard--none of their songs' names meant anything to me. However, Mr Gentry is a real country bumpkin jerk and none of their stuff will ever mean anything to me. He bought a bear on a game preserve for $4000 + and then while it was caged he shot it to death with a bow and arrow. He then had the video, which he had shot, of the murder doctored to look like he'd taken the bear in the wild, tagged it and reported it. A real big game hunter he is and a man's man---Ech, Ugh, and Gag. Just an a-hole with a pea brain in my opinion. Wouldn't spend one penny to help him make a living! But none of this was known to me as we enjoyed the wonderful day and a tour of a little known but vitally important Civil War battle. Bill joked that the Rebs were attempting to take Ky's bourbon stores for their own, but in actuallity they truly hoped to control some really major waterways that would have caused great problems for the Union. The Confederates were very demoralized after their defeat in Shiloh and decided to take a more offensive approach. They had reports of plentiful supplies and a sympathetic population in Ky and so they decided to invade. Starting in August of 1862 the Southern armies marched into Ky and took Lexington, Frankfort, Louisville and were within miles of Cincinatti within a month. On Oct 8 the armies met in Perryville and basically engaged because there had been a severe draught and water was at a premium. Perryville sits along Doctor's Creek and the Chaplin River into which it feeds. Needless to say both sides needed what water was available. Although members of both armies met in pre-dawn hours the battle didn't truly begin to rage until about 2 pm. The Union commander, Major General Don Carlos Buell, who was headquartered only two miles west of the battlefield did not know about the engagement until 4 pm when he received a message from the field! This area is so convoluted and contorted with intertwining hills that a phenomenon known as an acoustic shadow is formed and he could not hear the sounds of battle--it is an eerie situation --but though the valleys are not deep like the hollers of West Virginia they are situated in such a way that sound waves must show interference rather than reinforcement. It is sort of like a mirage in the case of light waves and was a factor in several Civil War battles--resulting in the lack of reinforcements being sent to support troops at the front lines! There is even a book written about it : Civil War: Acoustic Shadows by Charles D. Ross. Don't think that will be high on my reading list but one never knows! At any rate, this battle raged for 5 hours and of the 20,000 Union troops, 890 died, 2,893 were wounded and 437 were captured or missing. Of the 16,000 Southerners, 532 died, 2,641 were wounded and 228 were captured or missing. The Union dead were eventually taken to a National Cemetary but the Confederate dead were left where they fell. The townspeople and the students from a local school came to the battlefield and buried the Southerners in a mass grave which now has a monument and a nice stone fence but only two headstones. Without the use of dogtags most of the soldiers from either side are unknown. Those that died later of disease or wounds are those most often identified.The average age of the men was 25, although one fellow was 70 and a Union Medal of Honor winner was 16. General Douglas MacArthur's father, Lt Arthur MacArthur fought in this battle as did Sam Watkins, the author of Company Haitch, which I read last year. And that shorty, who became quite famous later in the war, especially at Gettysburg, Phil Sheridan was here. Three things about this site which fascinated me: first the battlefield is pretty much intact with few changes such as some power lines and a few homes and barns that post date the battle, second that this is a STATE site and not National and thirdly, that it is the only site where I have seen documentation about the soldiers' reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation. It is interesting to note that men from BOTH sides found it to be an overstepping of authority for the government to decide the issue of slavery. My history classes have always led me to believe that Northerners were adamantly against the institution to a man! Even as the mill owners made their fortunes using the cotton picked in the South by slaves. In the book I'm reading Kate also says that Northern men resented the change in their mission--that they now saw themselves fighting for the black man's freedom when they had volunteered to preserve the Union. It gives a whole new perspective, for me, of the attitudes of the times in both parts of the country. But at any rate,though the Rebs won a tactical victory at Perryville, they were outnumbered and retreated by way of Harrodsburg toward Tennessee where Buell eventually drove them. They did not hold Ky nor did they try to reclaim it, though there were a few calvary incursions from time to time. As a result the battle is considered to be a Union strategic victory. In Union army records this is the Battle of Chaplin Hills, since the Union used geographic features to name battles while the South used nearby towns to name battles. This can be a touch confusing at times! After taking the auto tour around the site we followed Braxton Bragg's route to Harrodsburg and where he turned southerly toward Tennessee we continued Northwest to Frankfort but arrived at Buffalo Trace at just 3 pm and the last tour time as well as quitting time for the employees. We recrossed the Kentucky River and ate at Johnny Carinos--my favorite Italian restaurant of all time and stayed at a Days Inn, don't do it!!, since there were no Choice properties in Frankfort. And so another beautiful Kentucky day ended.

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