In the early autumn of 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg led a troop of soldiers north into Kentucky. The Bluegrass State was a border state at the time that was considered part of the Union. Bragg invaded Kentucky to try to help recruit southern sympathizers, to raid the land for supplies and to help pull Union forces away from the battle fronts at Chattanooga and Vicksburg.
In late September 1862, Bragg’s forces had made it as far north as Cincinnati, Ohio and then headed back south. At the same time, Union General Don Carlos Buell was commanding around 55,000 troops which had been diverted to Kentucky because of Bragg’s invasion.
On October 7, 1862, Buell’s Union forces arrived in the open rolling hills just north of Perryville, Kentucky. There, they encountered the Confederate troops of Bragg. Several minor skirmishes erupted that day.
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On this day, October 8, 1862, the Battle of Perryville commenced when a division of the Union forces began to advance up Peters Hill toward a line set up by Confederate soldiers. About noon, another Confederate division arrived and attacked the Union forces on their left flank, causing the Union forces to fall back after a failed counter-attack.
Buell and his main force was several miles away and was unaware of the situation of his Union troops engaged with the Confederates. However, two Union brigades did arrive to reinforce those in the fight and the Union line was strengthened and managed to hold off the Rebel attack. The Confederate forces then retreated into the town of Perryville, about 2 miles south, southeast of the battlefield.
The Confederate forces tried to attack Union forces at Perryville, but were not successful. During the night, Bragg moved his Confederate troops south. Bragg’s hope of recruiting southern sympathizers to join the Confederate cause had failed. He was now short of men and supplies and ended up retreating back into Tennessee. Braggs Confederate invasion of Kentucky had ended with the Battle of Perryville and Kentucky remained a Union state throughout the Civil War.
Perryville is located about 35 miles southeast of Lexington and 55 miles southwest of Louisville and 75 miles north of the Tennessee border. Today, the battlefield is preserved as a State Historic Site in the gentle open rolling hills of Kentucky.