The Battle of Perryville

 

 

          When Confederate General Braxton Bragg arrived at Perryville on October 8th, 1862, he became distraught that his army, under the leadership of General Polk, had taken a defensive stand.  Unaware of the size of the Union army, Bragg ordered a shifting of his troops for an attack that he hoped to begin about one o’clock that afternoon.  Polk would begin the battle by sending General Benjamin Cheatham’s division to attack the Union forces that occupied the valuable shallow pools of water in Doctor’s Fork.  Both armies would suffer from extreme thirst as the day would go on.  Then General William Hardee would attack at the center of the line and the Yankees would be crushed.  However, Union commander, General Buell, had concentrated most of his army, some 50,000 men, at that point.(Harrison 51) 

The morning’s events mostly consisted of small skirmishes, artillery fire, and a failed effort by the Confederates to take Doctor’s Fork.(53)  At two o’clock, the Confederate advance began.  The dense forest kept the Union commanders from knowing of the approaching Confederates until they attacked.  Federal artillery, positioned on hilltops and ridges inflicted heavy damage on the advancing Confederates.(mountaingrown)  General George Maney’s Tennessee brigade charged on the Federals under General Alexander McCook, was slowed, then surged forward and broke the Union line.  McCook’s division was thrown into confusion, then regrouped and eventually slowed the Confederate advance.  Pushed back nearly a mile, McCook asked for help, but no reinforcements were available.(Harrison 53)  By this time, it was about four o’clock, and Buell still did not know of the fight taking place.  When he finally heard the sounds of rifle and artillery fire, he sent someone out to see what was happening.  When the news came back, he finally realized that a major battle was well under way and that his army was having trouble.  In response, Buell sent additional forces, but it was too late.(Randall 408)  As darkness fell, both sides were exhausted.  The Rebels had battered the Union forces and caused heavy casualties, but could not breakthrough the federal line.(mountaingrown)

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