A friend of mine shared with me that the Civil War Trust Annual Conference will be based in Nashville next year. Hearing that news prodded my neurons into thinking about a few ideas/issues/opportunities that I would like to explore/solve over the next year. Bear with me as I try to explain....
Perryville, sad to say, is becoming more of an after thought for me. The lack of forward thinking and actions from the Friends group really has left a negative impression upon me. I have started looking for other places to lead history hikes, and I will be leading one at Camp Wild Cat in September for a group of hikers. If that goes well I may try to lead one there every year. More on this opportunity later. I will still do a yearly event at Perryville for those who are interested, I just do not expect the Friends group to help my endeavors. But instead of becoming frustrated over their inability to live up to their word, I have decided to move on/move ahead.
Because the Nashville CWT conference will cover several potential battles, I pulled out some books and maps last night (Donelson, Stones River, Chickamauga), and one of the books I grabbed was a walking tour guide written by Robert Carter about the Snodgrass Hill fighting at Chickamauga (Officially titled The Battle of Chickamauga: The Fight for Snodgrass Hill and Rock of Chickamauga). It is a well written tour guide, filled with enough detail for the history, but without overwhelming the casual battlefield visitor. What I also enjoy about Mr. Carter's book is it seems to be locally printed, but without all the errors I have seen from other small print run titles. Mr. Carter's book also does not suffer from "over-writing" which I have seen in a recent Camp Wild Cat book. Mr. Carter is a member of the Chickamauga study group, and knows his subject well, and promised to bring out another Chickamauga walking tour book. This had me thinking that Perryville could use a specialized walking tour book or two, breaking down the battle into specific parts.
Doing this project I certainly can forego my frustration with the Friends group while providing the park with some much needed material. Most visitors to Perryville only step a few feet onto the battlefield, focusing on the monuments and Confederate cemetery near the parking lot. Some may drive their cars along the gravel lane that leads to Loomis' Heights and overlooks the iconic H.P. Bottom House. An even fewer amount might walk a mile or less along the mown paths and read a few interpretive signs. To understand the fighting at Perryville one must walk the battlefield, with a tour guide, or a tour book in hand.
To interpret the core battle without overwhelming the casual visitor with a six or seven mile hike, I foresee more than one tour book being needed. One could focus on Cheatham's attack against Jackson's division (along with Starkweather's brigade from Rousseau's division), and another on the defense of Loomis' Heights by the remainder of Rousseau's troops. This would make the walks shorter in duration, meaning more manageable to the average Perryville visitor.
I will be working on this idea over the next few months, just to see if I can pull it off. Having great maps is one of the keys, so finding a map-maker who will work for next to nothing yet still produces works of art will be a priority. Stay tuned for more details!