The Battle of Perryville was the culmination of the Confederate invasion in October 1862 of the crucial border state of Kentucky, where it was believed that tens of thousands of Southern supporters awaited to join the military ranks. Confederate General Braxton Bragg won a tactical victory, driving the smaller Union army under General Don Carlos Buell more than a mile until reinforcements stabilized his lines. With the threat of a Union counterattack eminent, Bragg withdrew his troops into Tennessee, giving the Federal troops a strategic victory. It was the last serious Confederate threat to Kentucky, and the Union maintained their control over the Bluegrass State for the remainder of the Civil War. Statistically, the Battle of Perryville was one of the bloodiest of the war: The two sides suffered more than 20% combined casualties--just slightly less than the total casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Survivors remember the battle as one of the most evenly matched of the war, but it was not one in which the commanders excelled. Bragg was criticized by his generals and troops, and second-in-command General Leonidas Polk showed hesitancy at a critical stage of the battle. Buell was criticized for not sending reinforcements to the corps of General Alexander McCook, whose men withstood the brunt of the battle. Even General Phil Sheridan, who would become one of the Union's ablest commanders by war's end, was slow to act in this fray.
The Battle of Perryville, also known as the Battle of Chaplin Hills, was fought on October 8, 1862, in the Chaplin Hills west of Perryville, Kentucky, as the culmination of the Confederate Heartland Offensive(Kentucky Campaign) during the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi won a tactical victory against primarily a single corps of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's UnionArmy of the Ohio. The battle is considered a strategic Union victory, sometimes called the Battle for Kentucky, since Bragg withdrew to Tennessee soon thereafter. The Union retained control of the criticalborder state of Kentucky for the remainder of the war.
On October 7, Buell's army, in pursuit of Bragg, converged on the small crossroads town of Perryville in three columns. Union forces first skirmished with Confederate cavalry on the Springfield Pike before the fighting became more general, on Peters Hill, when the Confederate infantry arrived. Both sides were desperate to get access to fresh water. The next day, at dawn, fighting began again around Peters Hill as a Union division advanced up the pike, halting just before the Confederate line. After noon, a Confederate division struck the Union left flank—the I Corps of Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook—and forced it to fall back. When more Confederate divisions joined the fray, the Union line made a stubborn stand, counterattacked, but finally fell back with some units routed.
Buell, several miles behind the action, was unaware that a major battle was taking place and did not send any reserves to the front until late in the afternoon. The Union troops on the left flank, reinforced by two brigades, stabilized their line, and the Confederate attack sputtered to a halt. Later, three Confederate regiments assaulted the Union division on the Springfield Pike but were repulsed and fell back into Perryville. Union troops pursued, and skirmishing occurred in the streets until dark. By that time, Union reinforcements were threatening the Confederate left flank. Bragg, short of men and supplies, withdrew during the night, and continued the Confederate retreat by way of Cumberland Gap into East Tennessee.
Considering the casualties related to the engaged strengths of the armies, the Battle of Perryville was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. It was the largest battle fought in the state of Kentucky.