This is seriously one of the most important battles of the Civil War, that people seem to forget about it. This was the largest battle fought in the state of Kentucky, and it actually helped change the course of the War, just as Antietam, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg did. In fact, this fight occurred just about three weeks after Antietam. It all started when Confederate General Braxton Bragg decided to launch an invasion of Kentucky during August of 1862.
Perryville, Kentucky is a very small town located in Boyle County of no more than 800 people. It was here that one of the Civil War's bloodiest engagements took place. At the time of the Battle of Perryville, the central Kentucky area had been experiencing a severe drought for several months. As a result, the battle had an interesting start: the fight started over getting water. Several pools of water were found at a small creek known as Doctor's Creek, a small tributary of Kentucky's Chaplin River, and the skirmishers of the opposing forces ran in to each other here on the night of October 7, 1862.
The battle occurred the next afternoon on October 8. At this time, there were over 16,000 Southern Confederates, and more than 58,000 Midwestern Federals on the field. The entirety of the fighting happened on the Union Army of the Ohio's left flank (or end). This was the 1st Corps of around 22,000 Union soldiers. Lined up along a ridge, these were mostly green, inexperienced recruits. The battle began at about 2:00 PM in the afternoon, with the attacks of Confederate brigades (large groups of infantry/foot soldiers) under General's Maney, Donelson, and Johnson being carried out until nightfall. They were all under the command of Major General Benjamin F. Cheatham, who led the entire division. The Rebels were also reinforced by the brigade of General Liddell during the final hours of the engagement. Unlike most of the Union troops, these Confederates were seasoned veterans.
The Confederates pushed Union brigades back off the first ridge, and then another, until the forces finally stood their ground backed by artillery guns and halted the advance of the tired Southerners. The fighting was also more intense here then a lot of battles and skirmishes of the Civil War. In one account, it was said that "the fighting became so heavy that the slopes of the hills became slippery with blood."
One of the most shocking aspects about this considerably-unknown fight is that the other two Union Corps of about 36,000 men were actually held at bay and never entered the fighting because of skirmishing by 1,000 Southern Cavalrymen under Joseph Wheeler. His presence was actually enough to prevent those Union soldiers that more than doubled the Rebels from swinging around and crushing them. The Confederates finally withdrew on the night of October 8th when they realized they were outnumbered by several times the size of their force. Casualties where very high: The Union defenders lost an estimated 845 killed, over 2,800 wounded, and around 500 captured. Southern Confederate casualties, though a little bit lighter, were still quite much: They suffered roughly 510 killed, 2,600 wounded, and more than 200 captured as prisoners-of-war.
This would not only of had the potential to change the course of the war, but even decide the fate of the Nation if the situation continued to progress in favor of the Southern Rebels. Even President Abraham Lincoln himself declared that "To lose Kentucky, is to lose the whole game."
(I KNOW THAT THIS WAS LONG, BUT I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE GOOD TO EXPLAIN THE BATTLE IN DETAIL AND THE SITUATION AT THE TIME.)