Battle of Perryville Reenactment October 8 & 9, 2016
The 154th Anniversary of the Battle of Perryville will see thousands of Civil War reenactors descending on Perryville to reenact parts of this epic battle. On Saturday, October 8, 2016 the “Fight for the Cornfield” will be re-created at 2 p.m. This scenario will attempt to simulate the events that took place at approximately 2 p.m. on Wednesday, October 8, 1862. While General Daniel Donelson’s brigade was moving forward into attack position, Brigadier General William R. Terrill’s Union Brigade was in the process of forming their line on the “Open Knob”. Maney’s Brigade, assisted by Wharton’s Cavalry, attacked with vigor, rolling over Terrill’s regiments as they arrived on the field piecemeal. The first Union position on the Open Knob was overrun and the Confederates moved up their artillery as their infantry line moved forward into the cornfield. Here, the Confederates met Colonel John Starkweather’s veteran brigade. The retreating Union Forces were pressed across the Dixville Road and a hand-to-hand fight erupted on the front slope in front of Starkweather’s cannon. The Union forces were driven from the hill, but regained it in a counter-attack. General Terrill was killed on the reverse slope of “Starkweather Hill”. With the deaths of General Jackson, General Terrill, and Colonel Webster, the Union 10th Division lost all its commanders. This was the only time in the Civil War that this happened to a Division in a single battle. The corn planted in the same cornfield where the battle is taking place today, is an heirloom corn breed, developed in Wisconsin in 1847. This breed of corn, Wisconsin Red Dent, was chosen and planted by the Friends of Perryville to honor the Wisconsin regiments involved in the Battle of Perryville.
On Sunday, October 9, 2016, the troops will re-create “The Fight for Bottom’s Barn.” This scenario will attempt to simulate the events that took place at approximately 3 P.M. on Wednesday, October 8, 1862. Since about 10:00 in the morning, William H. Lytle’s brigade had taken up position on the right flank of Union 1st Corps commanded by General Alexander M. McCook. The 3rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, supported by the 15th Kentucky infantry, were positioned in Henry P. Bottom’s barn yard overlooking Henry Bottom’s House. They were on the extreme right flank of 1st Corps. Suddenly, the calm was broken by a fusillade of Confederate artillery shot and shell landing all around. Soon after, two heavily supported Confederate Infantry brigades came out of the woods and attacked towards the 3rd Ohio and the 15th Kentucky, driving the hapless 42nd Indiana in a panic from the creek bed. The Confederates became mixed and disorganized by the cliffs along the creek, just to the north of the road as well as other terrain features. At the same time, another Confederate brigade under the command of Daniel W. Adams was approaching the area from the southeast. Both Johnson and Adams began their coordinated attack on the 3rd Ohio and the 15th Kentucky. There were just over 1,000 Union soldiers in the barn yard, being attacked on three sides by almost 3,500 veteran Confederates. As the 3rd Ohio was desperately trying to hold the line, Confederate artillery fire caught Henry Bottom’s barn on fire. The strong southerly wind blew the smoke right up the Union battle line. Many wounded from the 3rd Ohio were too weak to pull themselves out of the barn and perished in the flames. Not only was the barn on fire, but the drought-starved vegetation on the whole hillside was also in flames. The battle lines were only 100 yards apart. The Confederates were protected by a stone wall, but the 3rd Ohio was protected only by a post and rail fence. The 3rd Ohio held the line. All the time, messengers from the 15th Kentucky were offering to advance from their reserve position and relieve the 3rd Ohio on the firing line. After about 30 minutes of horrendous fire, the 3rd Ohio then acquiesced to the wishes of the Kentuckians and withdrew. The 15th Kentucky held the line behind the post and rail fence, the smoke from the burning barn still choked and blinded them. After another 30 minutes, the 15th Kentucky was forced back when some of Daniel Adam’s men, using the creek for cover, positioned themselves behind the Yankees. Bushrod Johnson’s supporting brigade, commanded by Patrick Cleburne, at about the same time, broke the Union positions more towards the north, forcing the entire Union line in that area to crumble and fall back. The Confederates forced the Union soldiers back another third of a mile west to the Dixville Crossroads, where darkness ended the battle. The two Union regiments suffered almost 400 casualties (40%). These battle simulations will take place on the original ground, with the reenactors portraying the actual units that originally held that same ground 154 years ago.
Along with the battle simulations, there are many other activities going on throughout the weekend. There will be Paranormal Investigation Tours on Friday and Saturday evenings, starting at 6 P.M. In addition, many speakers, book signings, performances, and historical demonstrations will be offered throughout the weekend. Military camps will be open to the public along with a small “village” set up to show civilian life of the 1860s.
For ticket and event information, please visit http://parks.ky.gov/parks/historicsites/perryville-battlefield/reenactment-schedule.aspx