Sunday, November 22, 2015

Trail Guide - Progress

I have been slowly working on a Perryville trail guide with a purpose to encourage more folks to get beyond the visitor's center and Confederate Cemetery and explore the battlefield and its surrounding areas a bit more thoroughly.  Many times while I am at Perryville, I see plenty of folks stopping at the park, but very few of them get beyond the core area.  I do believe that the trail map folks are given might be overwhelming due to the many miles of trails that are shown.  My trail guide will provide 4-6 short hikes on the battlefield that focus on specific parts of the fighting so that visitors can delve more deeply into the Perryville experience in smaller, bite-sized chunks.  The trail guide will also have a modified town walking tour, and longer walks for the Federal I and III Corps approach routes to the battlefield.

Here is a bit of a sample of what folks can expect.  I need to add in more details, but this should give you an idea how the guide will include directions, an elevation profile, and a map.

The Maney Loop Trail

“The bullets were coming like hail against the old fences, when finally an Orderly came on the run with an order from the Colonel to get out of there.”
John C. Hartzell, 105th Ohio Infantry
Distance – 1.5 miles

Time to Complete – One to two hours.

Focus – Seeing that Donelson’s Brigade was in trouble, Cheatham ordered George Maney’s Brigade (41st Georgia Infantry, 1st, 6th, 9th, and 27th Tennessee Infantry, and Turner’s Battery) to the left to attack the northern Federal positions that are pouring flanking fire into Donelson’s regiments.

Directions - From the Visitor Center head towards the Civil War Hall, staying to the left of that building.  Behind the Hall you will find a mown path that leads downhill to a footbridge and up the other side of the swale to the park’s picnic shelter.  Pass the shelter and use the paved path.  Bear right along the park road and go .1 mile to a mown path on the left (if you reach the main park road you have traveled too far).  Take the mown path to Tour Stop 3 – Stewart’s Advance.  Facing the interpretive panel, look behind you to view the area where Cheatham’s Division came through Walker’s Bend, crossed the Chaplin River, and deployed to attack Federal First Corps (Major General Alexander Mc. McCook).  Continue on the same path to Stop 4 – Turner’s Battery (Smith’s Mississippi Battery – Lieutenant William B. Turner – two 12 pounder howitzers, two 6 pounder iron smoothbores).  From this point bear left (southeast) towards the wooded fence line at the bottom of the ridge and Tour Stop 5 – Maney’s Fence.  Portions of Maney’s Brigade halted at the fence and slugged it out with the Federal 33rd Brigade (Brigadier General William R. Terrill) which was moving into place along the Open Knob (123rd Illinois, 105th Ohio, 80th Illinois, Garrard’s Detachment, and Parson’s Independent Battery).  Follow the path to the top of the steep rise in front of you to Tour Stop 6 – The Open Knob.   From the knob push ever westward into the low ground to Tour Stop 7 – The Cornfield.  It was here along the fence line near the road, within the cornfield, that the untried men of the 21st Wisconsin Infantry (Colonel Benjamin J. Sweet – 663 men) came under fire from both front and rear as they tried to stem the Confederate advance.  Head towards the road and carefully cross and take the mown path up the steep rise to Tour Stop 8 – Starkweather’s Hill.  Here were posted two Federal batteries, the 4th Indiana Battery Light Artillery (Captain Asahel K. Bush – two 6 pounder James Rifles, two 6 pounder smoothbores, two 12 pounder howitzers) and the 1st Kentucky Light Artillery, Battery A (Captain David C. Stone - two 6 pounder James Rifles, two 6 pounder smoothbores, two 10 pounder Parrotts).  Supporting the batteries were the veterans of the 1st Wisconsin Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel George B. Bingham – 407 men).  After visiting both battery sites, head southeast down the hill towards the bend in the road, cross over, and take a sharp right after moving through the fence line.  Proceed to Tour Stop 9 – An Act of Mercy.  It was in this area where part of the 79th Pennsylvania (Colonel Henry A. Hambright – 530 men) of the Federal 28th Brigade (Colonel John C. Starkweather) changed facing from east to north to flank Maney’s attack against Starkweather’s Hill.  From Tour Stop 9 head southeast along the low ridge to Tour Stop 10 – Bloodbath at the Crib.  Turn left (northeast) then left again at the next intersection (northwest) and follow the path back to the Visitor’s Center.  This concludes the Maney Loop Trail.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Walking With History - My New Business Venture

My loving wife has been telling me for some time to start a business doing the things I love to do, walking battlefields and hiking/backpacking.  So, after having such a grand time with the Michigan Regimental Round Table during their recent tour at Perryville, I have jumped in an created Walking With History LLC.  The purpose is to provide folks a chance to have a walk on historic sites while covering the events that took place on those grounds.  The company will be able to cater tours based on level of experiene...want just a few hours at Perryville and a general overview of the battle?  I can do that.  Want a few days getting into the weeds and seeing some sites that most folks do not have access to?  I can do that.  Need a recommendation on a place to stay or grab a good local meal?  I can do that.

Not only will I be covering Perryville, but also Camp Wild Cat, Mill Springs, the Ohio Indian Wars of the 1790s (what the Army calls the Miami Campaign), the Miami-Erie Canal, and other local places, along with larger tours at Gettysburg, Antietam, and Chickamauga.  

It is quite an exciting time for me, and if you are looking for a tour, 2016 is wide open.  Please check the Walking With History website for details.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Perryville! Perryville! Perryville!

Looking at the main position of the 10th Ohio on Loomis Heights
I must admit, I become re-energized every time I make the 2+ hour sojourn to Perryville.  I was just at the battlefield a few weeks ago, making copies of park manager Kurt Holman's file on the 10th Ohio, and did some walking in some of the areas the 10th Ohio heroically fought.  That got me thinking about more unit histories within the context of the battle, much like the Stuart Sanders work on Maney's Brigade.

A few months ago I was contacted via the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table by a round table association in Michigan about whom to contact to lead a group tour at Perryville.  After a few messages suggesting they contact Chuck Lott but I could do it if Chuck was otherwise engaged, I found myself co-leading a trip this coming weekend for the Michigan Regimental Round Table, a group based in Farmington Hills.  To be honest, I am tagging along to learn what Chuck covers during a two day tour as every trip I have led at Perryville has been no more than a partial day, and I want to take advantage of getting inside the Squire Bottom House, explore Walker's Bend and the Dug Road area, and perhaps get inside some of the buildings along Merchant's Row in town.  While I expect on helping as needed, this is certainly Chuck's baby and I very appreciative to be "along for the ride."  Chuck has been diligently working on a wagon that the group can use, much like a hayride, to reduce the many miles of walking it would take to cover the battle in detail.  The group was kind enough to book my hotel room and invite my wife and I to their Saturday evening banquet.  A bit about the tour for the Michigan group can be found here: MRRT Fall Trip.

Sample elevation profile for the Donelson Loop Trail
This weekend will once again stoke the fires for my Perryville passion.  I have been slowly working on a walking/trail guide, something a bit different from the park's current numbered trail system, that will allow the casual visitor and serious battlefield tramper to break the battle down into smaller pieces by walking specific loops.  My observations of most park visitors at Perryville is this: they tour the museum, the Confederate cemetery and the monuments around the cemetery, then leave.  Some of them might drive the gravel road that leads to Loomis Heights, and some may drive on Hays-Mays Road to look at the Russell and Bottom House areas.  But very few of them get out to walk the battlefield, and by not doing so I believe they are missing out on how the battle truly unfolds and the importance of terrain.  Many are probably intimidated by the excellent walking trail map the park provides, as it includes about twenty miles of trails, and most folks won't walk more than a couple of miles and hence are probably not certain where to start.  Most of the the loops in the guide I am working on are less than three miles, and so should encourage more use of the trails and a better understanding of the battlefield.  This guide will be a work in process as the battlefield continues to expand and I do not want it to be published and then have the trail system change due to some major land acquisition (more important parcels are in the works).  But I may post a few of the trails here so that folks can provide feedback.

I also hope, based on the fact that folks have been asking about my tours at Perryville, to start a history walking tour company that would not only cover Perryville, but also Camp Wild Cat, Mill Springs, Richmond, along with sites from other periods of history.  More on this as I start the process of setting up my own business.


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