For Immediate Release: 10/08/12
Preservation Successes Mark 150th Anniversary of Battle of Perryville, Kentucky
Civil War Trust has helped preserve nearly 600 acres of the battlefield in the last 12 months; proceeds from Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site march and reenactment benefit preservation and interpretation
(Perryville, Ky.) – As we mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Perryville, the Civil War community has cause to celebrate following a string of preservation victories at the site of the largest Civil War battle fought in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In the past year, the amount of permanently protected land on the battlefield has swelled by 572 acres, thanks to the efforts of the Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization, with additional opportunities on the horizon. All told, the Trust has now helped preserve 957 acres at Perryville.
“The great strides made to protect battlefield land at Perryville are among our greatest successes as an organization,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “Working with our stalwart partners at the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, we have made immense progress in ensuring that a critical mass of significant historic land is set aside for generations yet to come.”
Among the most recent Trust successes at Perryville is the purchase of a conservation easement, held by the Bluegrass Conservancy, on 311 acres to the immediate north and east of the current state park. This core battlefield land, which includes historic road traces and the antebellum Walker House, a site on the National Register of Historic Places, is where Confederate Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham massed his troops to launch the battle’s first attack. The transaction was made possible through private donations and federal matching grant funding from the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program.
Additionally, on September 27, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis announced nearly $2.5 million in federal matching grant funding for future preservation efforts. Among those potential projects was a Perryville acquisition being pursued by the Trust, which is now eligible for a $43,000 federal contribution.
In the past 12 months, the Trust also participated in the protection of four other properties at Perryville, three outright purchases and an additional conservation easement. The largest project was the purchase of 141 acres containing the site of Henry Bottom’s “burning barn” — a much written-about landmark of the battlefield. Among these efforts, fundraising toward the purchase of 121 acres southeast of the existing state park, an area dubbed the “Slaughter Pen” by those who fought there, is still ongoing. It was on this site that the 22nd Indiana Infantry sustained 65.3 percent casualties, the highest rate of any regiment at Perryville.
“Even though we have already signed the deed on this property,” said Lighthizer, “I don’t consider a piece of ground fully ‘saved’ until we own it free and clear. That’s why I’m incredibly grateful to our partners on the ground at Perryville, who are donating money from their sesquicentennial commemorations toward the project.”
This weekend, thousands of spectators watched authentic living historians reenact the battle and the period. As part of the lead-up to the engagement, individuals had the opportunity to traverse this newly protected land — among the first times it has been available for public access — with reenactor contributions being donated toward its purchase price.
“This land hasn’t seen a soldier on it since 1862,” said Joan House, preservation specialist for Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site. “It’s a great honor to get on this property for the 150th anniversary. It’s a big deal — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Properties at Perryville previously preserved by the nonprofit organization have subsequently been incorporated in the state park, most recently with the transfer of 54 acres to the Commonwealth during a ceremony as part of its 2010 Annual Conference in Lexington. It is a pattern that the Trust hopes to continue with its more recent acquisitions.
“Our goal is always to see that historic battlefield land be placed in the care of a responsible steward who can interpret it and provide an outstanding visitor experience,” said Lighthizer. “We remain eager to work with our partners in the state government to facilitate the growth and expansion of Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site now and in the future.”
By early October 1862, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's autumn invasion of Kentucky had reached the outskirts of Louisville and Cincinnati, but he was forced to retreat and regroup. On October 7, the Federal army of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, numbering nearly 55,000 men, converged on the small crossroads town of Perryville in three columns. Union forces first skirmished with Rebel cavalry on the Springfield Pike before the fighting became more general with the arrival of Confederate infantry on Peters Hill. At dawn on October 8, fighting began again around Peters Hill, as a Union division advanced up the pike, halting just before the Confederate line. After noon, a Confederate division struck the Union left flank and forced it to fall back. When more Confederates joined the fray, the Union line made a stubborn stand and counterattacked, but finally fell back, with some troops routed. Once reinforced, the Union left flank stabilized and the Rebel attack stalled. A final Southern assault was repulsed and the Yankees pursued, with skirmishing occurring in the streets until dark. Bragg, short of men and supplies, withdrew during the night, and, after pausing at Harrodsburg, continued the Confederate retrograde by way of Cumberland Gap into East Tennessee. The Confederate offensive was over, and the Union controlled Kentucky. Learn more about the Battle of Perryville, its personalities and its legacy at www.civilwar.org/perryville.
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 34,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including 957 at Perryville. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.