Heading to Perryville      

 

 

          On Independence Day, 1862, Colonel John Hunt Morgan left Knoxville, Tennessee with 1,100 men, to pursue the ‘liberation’ of his native Kentucky from Union forces.  With extreme speed and deception, ‘Morgan’s Raiders’ took seventeen towns, cut off rail and telegraph lines, and captured 1,200 prisoners.  Morgan, as with many other Southerners, believed that thousands of Kentuckians would join the Confederacy if they could rid the state of Union forces.  Upon returning back to Tennessee, Morgan pressed General Kirby Smith for an attack on Kentucky.  Agreeing with Morgan, Smith developed a plan.(mountaingrown)

          Originally, General Smith was supposed to take Cumberland Gap from Union forces, however he planed to bypass the gap, leaving the federals cut off from the North.  He would then move on Lexington, a move he claimed would have extraordinary results.  However, he would need the help of General Braxton Bragg to protect his left flank from General Don Carlos Buell’s Union forces.  On August 14th, 1862, General Smith left Knoxville for Kentucky with 21,000 men.  Traveling into Kentucky, Smith successfully cut off the federals in the gap, however the people of Eastern Kentucky were very unfriendly to the southern liberators due to their strong Union ties.  Meanwhile, General Braxton Bragg began his invasion of Kentucky to the west of Smith occupying Glasgow a few days after crossing the border.(Harrison 43)  Bragg then decided to move north to Louisville with wagon trains carrying thousands of rifles to arm the expected entourage of confederate recruits in Kentucky.(47)  The Unionists in Kentucky were thrown into distress by the invasions of the Confederates and hurried new, untrained armies from the North into the state.  The army attempted to stop General Smith at Richmond but was crushed by the Confederate forces, suffering 75% casualties in killed, wounded, and captured.  Smith went on to capture Lexington and Frankfort.(mountaingrown) 

          To the west, Buell was trying frantically to catch up to Bragg as he was moving north to the undefended city of Louisville.  When Buell finally did catch up to Bragg’s rebel army, neither cautious general wanted to fight.  Instead of taking Louisville, General Bragg changed his direction to the northeast towards Bardstown, while Buell continued on to Louisville.  Under pressure from Washington to attack the Confederates, Buell left Louisville on October 1st, 1862.(mountaingrown)

Meanwhile, Bragg and Smiths’ armies were widely scattered across Central Kentucky and were not in any way united.  It was beginning to come to light that Kentuckians were holding back their loyalty to the South, waiting to see if the Confederate forces were strong, and would not retreat back into Tennessee, despite the obvious Confederate sympathy of many of the state’s population.(Harrison 47)  Many Confederate sympathizers wanted a victory first.(48)  General Bragg traveled to Frankfort to establish a Confederate government of Kentucky, in hopes that it would encourage enlistments.  The ceremonies began at noon before a large audience of civilians and soldiers to put Governor Hawes of Virginia into office.  However, Union troops were quickly approaching the capital, and by midafternoon the Confederates were evacuating the town.  The Confederate government of Kentucky was in exile for the remainder of the war, mostly with the western armies.(49)  The confused commander decided to retreat to Harrodsburg where General Leonidas Polk, commander of the Right Wing of the Confederate army, would join him.(mountaingrown)  Bragg believed that the decisive battle would take place at Versailles, west of Lexington, where he would work with Smith to stop Buell’s army.  However, Buell’s army was heading to the south of Harrodsburg in great numbers.  Bragg, unaware of where Buell was heading, ordered General William Hardee, commander of the Left Wing, to halt his troops around Perryville were water was available.(Harrison 50)  The Summer of 1862 was accompanied by a terrible drought with no relief in sight.  When the fighting first broke out around Perryville, it had been between two armies in search of water, so desperate to find relief, even if it meant encountering an enemy of unknown size and strength.(civilwar)  The next day, Hardee reported Union troops in the area of Perryville and he wrote Bragg that fighting would probably take place the next day.  Not worried, Bragg ordered a division to go and help Hardee take care of the enemy before going on to Versailles.  On October 8th, Union forces had started to increase in size around Perryville, and Bragg ordered an immediate attack on what he thought to be a small opponent.(Harrison 51)  Bragg, at Harrodsburg, became impatient when he could not hear the sounds of the battle, and rode to Perryville to personally look over matters.  Buell’s orders did not get to his commanders on schedule and his army was not aligned in time because he too, could not hear the sounds of battle.  He originally planned to attack by mid-morning, but because his troops were not ready, he decided to attack the next morning, October 9th, 1862.  However, the battle would take place that day, October 8th, 1862.(mountaingrown)                     

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