Banners to the Breeze: The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth, and Stones River

By Earl J. Hess | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE Perryville

The Kentucky campaign came to a bloody climax outside the sleepy little town of Perryville at midafternoon on Wednesday, October 8. It was the first battle the Army of the Ohio fought by itself and, even though he did not yet realize it, the only battle Buell would fight alone, without the cooperation of other armies. It also was Bragg's first engagement as an independent commander. Ironically, neither general was fully informed about the circumstances of the developing battle or completely in charge of his own forces. The outcome of the engagement was in the hands of the rank and file.

On Cheatham's far right, the Tennessee brigade of Brig. Gen. George E. Maney moved out in two battle lines over a low wooded ridge after it crossed the Chaplin River. Only three hundred yards away was Terrill's brigade, just settling into its position. The Federal infantrymen were stunned when they saw the Confederates cross the crest of this ridge, but the gunners of Parsons's Battery quickly aimed their pieces and opened fire. As Maney's men moved down the modest slope, individual battalions could shoot over the heads of their comrades in front. These hard-bitten veterans of Shiloh were blazing away as they marched. They easily sent the 123d Illinois reeling back in confusion when it wag sent forward by Terrill in an effort to blunt the assault. The green Illinoisans did not stop when they reached Parsons's guns but fled in panic toward Starkweather's position on the hill to the rear, leaving only the 105th Ohio to support the artillery. Division commander James Jackson was mortally wounded while standing next to Parsons's guns, forcing Terrill to take charge of the division as well as his brigade.

Maney's first line halted for breath at a fence in the valley between the two ridges. Crouching here, the men found little shelter from the canister rounds that were fired at them from a distance of only one hundred yards.

-92-

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