The Battle of Perryville was fought on October 8, 1862. It was the climax of a campaign that lasted almost two months and affected the entire state of Kentucky. The campaign started when Edmund Kirby Smith's Confederate army entered Kentucky on August 13, 1862. Smith's army by-passed the Union stronghold at Cumberland Gap and smashed a hastily assembled Union force at Richmond, Kentucky on August 30. Smith's army then occupied Lexington and Frankfort by early September.
Braxton Bragg's Confederate Army of the Mississippi began its march into Kentucky on August 28, 1862. This army bypassed Buell's Union Army of the Ohio in middle Tennessee and captured Munfordville, Kentucky on September 17, 1862. Bragg initially intended to capture Louisville but instead, marched his army to Bardstown. This allowed Buell free access to Louisville. Arriving there on September 29, 1862, he reorganized his 80,000 strong army into four columns. On column marched straight towards Frankfort as a diversion, while the other three marched to the southeast on parallel roads. Bragg, thinking the objective of the Union army was Lawrenceburg, ordered both his and Smith's armies to concentrate at that place. As the Army of the Mississippi moved towards Lawrenceburg, its line of march brought it through Perryville. One of Buell's columns, called III Corps, was in almost constant contact with the Confederates moving east. The Confederates believed that III Corps (numbering 22,000) was the only Union force in the area. In reality, two other Union columns (I Corps and II Corps) were close by, bringing the total Union force to almost 60,000 men. Bragg concentrated three quarters of his Army of the Mississippi (about (16,000 men) in Perryville. The remainder of Bragg's army continued its march toward Lawrenceburg where Kirby Smith's Army awaited. In the bloody battle that followed, almost 8,000 Americans were killed, wounded, or missing.
6:00 AM, The Battle Begins
Union III Corps attacked Peters Hill to secure the water supply in Doctors Fork. They had orders to hold their position and wait for Union I Corps and Union II Corps to arrive before bringing on a major battle.
8:00 AM to Noon, Confederate Deployments
The Confederate Battle Plan was to mass their troops in the Sq. H.P. Bottom House area, attack down the valley of Doctors Fork, and hit III Corps in the flank. At about 10:30 AM, Union troops were encountered in that area so the Confederates moved farther to the north to get around the Union flank. These troops were units from Union I Corps arriving from Mackville. By 12:30 PM, Benjamin Cheatham's Division (one third of the Confederates present) were in position at the Walker House. The only fighting during this time was done with sporadic artillery at long range.
1:45 PM, Wharton's Cavalry Sweep
Colonel John Wharton of Terry's Texas Rangers, was assigned the task of making sure the Union flank was where it was supposed to be. He led his Cavalry brigade along the Benton Road but left the road and proceeded behind a large hill and did not see two Union Brigades with 20 cannon setting up farther north than expected.
2:00 to 4:00 PM, Confederate Attacks
Daniel Donelson's Brigade led the attack. Because of the Union brigades Wharton did not see, the 16th Tennessee Infantry, lead unit of the brigade, lost 54% of their men. The Confederates re-deployed to meet the new threat and their entire line erupted, forcing the hapless Union I Corps back at every place along the line. The troop symbols on the map represent positions occupied at approximately 2:45 PM.
Union II Corps Vs. Joe Wheeler
Confederate Cavalry Commander Joe Wheeler was assigned the task of keeping the 12,000 Union soldiers of Union II Corps out of the battle. Wheeler had about 1,200 cavalrymen and two small smoothbore cannon under his command. Using hit-and-run tactics, he successfully kept Union II Corps from being a factor in the battle of Perryville.
5:30 PM, Gooding Saves the Day
Colonel Michael Gooding's Brigade was sent from III Corps just before sundown to assist the embattled I Corps. He slammed into the Confederates at the intersection of the Mackville and Benton Roads. The Confederates had just captured this intersection and had almost completely isolated Union I Corps from the rest of the army. Gooding recaptured the intersection and stabilized the Union line before darkness ended the battle. Gooding was wounded and his brigade lost one third of its men in the desperate struggle that lasted less than 30 minutes. One of Gooding's regiments, the 22nd Indiana Infantry, lost 65% of their men.