Today, we have a chance to do something truly rare, even in our line of work. We have the chance to substantially complete the preservation of one of the most important battlefields of the entire Civil War.
The 128 acres currently at stake at Perryville – scene of the bloodiest Civil War battle ever fought in Kentucky – represent the largest remaining unprotected part of the battlefield. If we and our partners succeed in saving this hallowed ground, it will mean that 90-95 percent of that battlefield is preserved forever!
These 128 acres truly are the “hole in the donut” needed to connect the various parts of the preserved battlefield. This land, located in the eastern section of the battlefield, offers a tremendous opportunity for historical and recreational tourism, while preserving a unique historical resource that will benefit the citizens of the local community, state and nation.
Walk the Perryville Battlefield with Actor Steve Zahn
Perryville Battlefield is already – thanks in large part to generous supporters like you – one of the best-preserved battlefields in America, with more than a thousand acres under protection. However, if we cannot save this land, the tracts may be lost to development, preventing future public access and compromising the rest of the preserved battlefield.
The reality is that while there are still unprotected areas that would fall on our wish list of ground to save, if we preserve these 128 acres, we’ll leave a proud legacy of preserving nearly all of a major Civil War battlefield in the western theatre.
Best of all, thanks to generous matching grants, we only need to raise $177,761 to achieve this remarkable feat. While the purchase price and closing costs for the land total $1,040,523, if we can raise 17% of that amount, or $177,761, we can match a $462,762 from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program. A grant from the generous HTR Foundation for another $400,000 will get us to the finish line to save this critical history forever.
On October 8, 1862, two weary, thirsty armies confronted each other outside of Perryville, Kentucky. In the midst of the region’s worst drought in memory, the Union Army of the Ohio, commanded by Major General Don Carlos Buell, faced off against the Confederate Army of Mississippi, commanded by General Braxton Bragg. The location wasn’t a coincidence. According to historian Ken Noe, Bragg chose to reunite his force in Perryville, “taking tactical advantage of the hills west of town but also guarding a series of springs as well as the puddles in the bed of the Chaplin River."
The first attack of the day unfolded on the property we hope to save in this campaign. After a midday bombardment, Confederate Major General Benjamin Cheatham’s mostly-Tennessee brigades began their fateful advance toward the Union position. All of these troops, three brigades, crossed this property in grand lines of battle, some climbing steep banks and cliffs along the Chaplin River to get into position. As Cheatham’s men approached, Union troops lined up to meet them, extending their flanks to a prominent hill known as Open Knob. Cheatham’s lead brigade got caught in a terrible crossfire in an area known ever since as the Valley of Death.
As Confederates attempted to gain the Union flank, inexperienced troops, mostly from Illinois, advanced across a portion of the target property and clashed with regiments from Tennessee and Georgia. Cheatham’s men and other Confederate divisions advanced, driving all before them, over one ridge and then another, but they eventually ran out of steam (and ammunition) just as Union resistance (and counterattacks) began to exact a high toll.
Outnumbered, Bragg believed he had little choice but to abandon the field. The Battle of Perryville had lasted just five hours and been among the most ferocious of the Civil War. While Perryville was a tactical victory for the Confederacy, it was an important strategic victory for the Union that left Kentucky in Union hands for the remainder of the war.
Please consider making your most generous gift today to help raise the $177,761 we need to preserve this precious American history forever.