— The Battle for Kentucky October 8, 1862 —
The six guns of Union Captain Peter Simonson's 5th Battery, Indiana Light Artillery were posted on this ridge. These Hoosiers had a commanding view of the Confederate advance, and their battery anchored the center of the Union battle line.
Prior to the Confederate attack, Southern artillery posted on the far hills in front of you fired on Simonson's battery and Captain Cyrus Loomis's Union artillery, which was deployed to your right. Simonson's rifled guns could shoot farther than the Confederates' smoothbore cannon, and the Rebel guns were quickly silenced.
At 3:00 pm., more than an hour after the artillery duel ended, Confederate infantry commanded by Colonel Thomas M. Jones advanced against the Union center. Simonson's guns blasted the attacking Southerners with canister rounds, which turned the cannon into giant shotguns. Although Simonson's gunners and supporting Union infantry stifled the initial Confederate advance in this area, Jones's troops hit the artillerymen hard. As Union soldiers to your right fell back, Simonson's guns were in danger. The battery was then ordered to a position 300 yards behind you to high ground located southeast of the Russell House (no longer standing), which was a Union headquarters building.
At that new location, Simonson' battery again endured waves of attacking Confederate infantry. Furthermore, a Confederate artillery round struck one of Simonson's limbers, which held an ammunition box. Union Private Ormond Hupp wrote that "a shell from the enemy struck me on the left arm and passing on, struck the ammunition chest, exploded and caused the cartridges in the chest to explode. It was all done in an instant and resulted in the instant death of [soldier Frederick Ehrich] who was struck in the head with a piece of shell and the wounding of four others, C. Miller, burnt, [Abraham Forry], arm broken and badly burnt on head and face; A. Pettit, lip cut and wounded slightly in the head and myself cut in the left arm, right arm, and face. When the chest blew up it took me in the air about ten feet?I jumped up and saw that I was badly wounded, my clothes were all torn off, and the burn from the powder set me near crazy."
The battery ran out of ammunition after firing 755 rounds. They then retired from the field. Simonson's ninety men lost two killed, fourteen wounded, and five missing, nearly a quarter of the command.
"Shot & shell from Rebel Batteries howled and shrieked over & around, now tearing up the dry earth and again ?ricocheting' with a wild unearthly shriek again [to] strike or explode with terrible effect. This was our first real battle and we soon began to realize what a battle means?"
Daniel H. Chandler, 5th Battery, Indiana Light Artillery
At the Battle of Perryville, the rolling terrain frequently put enemy regiments in close proximity to one another. When the troops were a short distance apart, Union and Confederate artillery fired canister rounds. Canister is an artillery projectile that consists of a tin can packed with many (usually thirty to fifty) lead or iron balls. When fired, the balls scatter out of the cannon's muzzle. The blast from a canister round would cut down large swaths of advancing infantry.
Robert C. Carden, a member of the 16th Tennessee Infantry, fought in the fields off to your left. At Perryville, Carden witnessed firsthand the savage results when Simonson's battery fired canister. He wrote, "There was a battery on our left that was giving us grape and canister and the bullets were singing around us. A man was standing just in front of me while I was loading my gun and I happened to have my eyes on him just as a canister struck him in the breast and I saw the white flesh before it bled. He was a dead man."
Canister was a short-range projectile, with a maximum effective range of about 400 yards. It was used effectively at Perryville.