Special thanks to the Perryville Enhancement Project for pictures and numerous other historical resources.
In 1862, less than 300 people lived in Perryville. Many of these people evacuated when the troops started coming. After a failed attempt to install a Confederate Governor in Frankfort, the confederate army moved through Harrodsburg toward Perryville. The union army was behind them. The Battle of Perryville was basically a one day battle on October 8, 1862. After this battle the Confederate army retreated. This marks the last major attempt of the Confederacy to claim Kentucky. After this battle, Kentucky stayed firmly in Union hands for the rest of the war.
It's believed that 7500 people were killed or wounded in this battle. Some of the dead were buried in a mass grave where the State Battlefield Park is today. Most local homes became field hospitals for the wounded.
Today a little more than 800 people live in Perryville, but things always change around the weekend of October 8. The commemeration weekends have brought thousands of people to this small town over the years. KET's Electronic Field Trip to Perryville includes video from a commemeration weekend along with some out of the way historical sites most visitors to Perryville never see.
A Perryville resident probably describes the effect of this battle best....
This event, this battle, this day changed the area forever. We think of this ground now as being hallowed ground. This was blood spilled by Americans for Americans. Many lessons to be learned here. It should never be forgotten.
Primary Sources: What soldiers said about the battle:
"With closed columns and the Rebel Yell, which we then heard for the first time, they came like veterans and the onslaught was terrible." Union soldier, member of the 33rd Ohio Infantry Regiment.
"...such a storm of shell, graph, canister, and Minie balls was turned loose upon us as no troops scarcely ever before encountered. Large boughs were torn from the trees, the trees themselves shattered as if by lightening, and the ground plowed in deep furrows." Colonel W. Frierson, Confederate soldier 27th Tennessee Infantry Regiment
"Such obstinate fighting I never had seen before or since. The guns were discharged so rapidly that it seemed the earth itself was in a volcanic uproar. The iron storm passed through our ranks, mangling and tearing men to pieces." Private Sam Watkins, Confederate soldier, 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment
Primary sources: What was said after the battle:
"Here we saw the first evidence of real war. I can never forget the groans, wails and moans of these hundreds of men as they lay side by side, some in the agony of death." William Caldwell McChord, 12 year old boy from Springfield who toured the battlefield.
"Perryville and Harrodsburg were already crowded with the wounded besides these, large numbers of sick and wounded were scattered about the country in houses, barns, stables, sheds or wherever they could obtain shelter sufficient to protect them from the weather." Union surgeon G.G. Shumard
"I passed on northward, and saw on either hand dead men and dead horses....All round lay dead bodies of the soldiers......I reached my home, praying to God that I might never again be called upon to visit a battle-field." Perryville doctor Jefferson J. Polk