MACKVILLE COMMUNITY CENTER
Two Confederate armies invaded Kentucky in 1862, The Army of Kentucky, under Lt. Gen. E. Kirby Smith, marched from Knoxville, Tennessee, through Williamsburg, London, Crab Orchard, Richmond and Lexington. The larger Army of the Mississippi, commanded by Lt. Gen. Braxton Bragg, moved from Chattanooga to Munfordsville where he changed his route to effect a meeting with Kirby Smith’s Southerners at Frankfort.
Union general Buell raced to Louisville from Nashville with his Army of the Cumberland. He regrouped his Army and gathered up the federal troops there. Then he turned in pursuit of Bragg, In four columns, headed toward Bardstown, Shepherdsville, Taylorsville and Shelbyville.
Major General Charles Gilbert’s Union Corps, which had moved through Shepherdsville, Bardstown and Springfield in a forced march with men and horses desperate for water, caught up with Bragg’s Southerners near Perryville at sundown October 7, 1862. A furious charge was made for the few stagnant water holes in Doctor’s Fork of the Chaplin River. General William J. Hardee, in command of this rear guard saw a major battle coming and sent Bragg at Harrodsburg for help.
Another converging Union Corps, under major General Alexander McDowell McCook, had moved from Taylorsville to Mackville and here made a dry camp. At daybreak they marched with dry canteen toward the battle. This march of McCook’s Union soldiers you will retrace.
General McCook’s Corps. coming from Mackville at this point first spotted Confederate Cavalry in the range of hills off to the left.
ILLINOIS SOLDIERS’ MARKER
You are now entering the Perryville Battlefield. At this point, the battle ended at dark.
About 200 yards down the road you will find the Russell House historical marker. This house was used by General McCook as his headquarters and later as a hospital after the battle.
McCook’s Corps formed their line of battle on this ridge west of the creek, while the Confederates massed their infantry and artillery on the hill east of the stream. Bragg’s Confederates charged across Doctor’s Creek and up the western bank driving back the outnumbered Federal troops. Both sides took heavy losses.
Below stands the original Bottom House which was used as a hospital after the battle.
The trail now follows the Union line to its extreme left where the battle began on October 8.
STATE PARK – UNION MONUMENT
Here on this spot the two Armies first clashed on the afternoon of October 8. Bragg’s right, under the command of Benjamin Cheatham, drove back the Union left, under General Alexander McCook, with each side suffering heavy losses.
To Cheatham’s left, other Confederate forces now entered the fight, driving in the Union center. The battle ended at darkness with the Southerners in possession of the field.
In October, 1862 there were in Kentucky 61,000 Federal and 42,000 Confederate soldiers. At Perryville 22,000 fought on the Union side and 16,000 for the Confederacy. About 20% of each side were killed wounded or captured. Federal losses were 4,241: 845 killed, 2,851 wounded and 515 missing. Confederate losses were 3,396: 510 killed, 2,635 wounded and 251 missing.
Many of the Confederate dead were buried by Squire Bottom at the present cemetery inside the State Park. The Union dead were temporarily buried along the Springfield Pike and were later removed to the National Cemeteries at Camp Nelson and Lebanon.
The wounded of both sides, nearly 5,500 men were cared for as best they could. The people of Harrodsburg sent every possible conveyance of help while Perryville and the farm houses on the battlefield became one great hospital.
History says October 8, 1862, was the turning point for the South. The Confederates won the battle but lost the war. Buell’s Army weakened the Southern force fatally. Bragg had no choice but to retreat. Both Generals were blamed for failure to destroy the opposing Army. Buell was tried by court martial and relieved of his command. Bragg was severally criticized in the South.
QUESTIONS FROM DRY CANTEEN TRAIL
Checkpoint #1 What is meant by a Dry Camp?
Checkpoint #2 Who commanded the Union 1 Corps?
Checkpoint #3 Who was the Confederate General who got on the wrong side of the line?
Checkpoint #4 During the afternoon, how many commanders did the 15th Kentucky have?
Checkpoint #5 Where were the Union soldiers permanently buried?