Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dry Canteen Trail

Something I have come across a few times is a reference to the Dry Canteen Trail.  This is/was a Boy Scout "trail" that takes Alexander McCook's I Corps path from Mackville to the battlefield.  I've been doing a bit of searching, and was able to get some great info from Perryville resident Sam Reid.  First, the old map.

How about a patch for completing the trail?  Scouts had to walk the trail with empty canteens and were not allowed to stop by locals' homes to ask for water, in an effort to recreate and understand the hardships that McCook's men went through during the drought ridden summer of 1862.  Of course, being a hiker and backpacker, this about one of the worst things one can do (hike without water), so encouraging scouts to not drink water is not a wise decision.  Hopefully they have lifted that restriction a bit!

Here is the route of the Dry Canteen Trail from Mackville to the park.  Just a bit under ten miles, mostly on roads.

I am thinking that for future walking tours at Perryville I might offer this walk as the Friday warm up to the Saturday main event.  It will involve some car shuttling, but it does offer a) exercise and b) a chance to interpret a bit more of October 8th to those that may be interested.


  1. Doing an approach to the battlefield is a pretty cool idea. How far is it?

    Andy Papen

  2. Right around nine miles. Relatively easy walking as it is mostly on the road, and there are a few discussion points along the way (including a church that served as a hospital). I think for next year I am going to try to pull this off on the day before the walking tour!

  3. My father and his brother were instrumental in starting this hike, which I walked on its inaugural year (1961). The Dug Road March, starting at the Fairgrounds in Harrodsburg and paasing through the Goodknight Farm was started the next year.

    To earn a medal (had those as well as the patch), one had to complete the hike and submit a short essay - for the Dry Canteen, the essay was on a general officer, and I forget what the essay sugject was for the Dug Road. The essay was required only for the first time one hiked each trail. Repeater pins which were attached to the medals got be purchased for subsequent completion of the hikes.

    For the Dry Canteen, the leader was allowed to carry a canteen. While I agree that water is important, the weather in October (hikes were held on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of the battle) usually has little risk of dehydration.

  4. Thanks for the additional info! I would like to make walking the Dry Canteen Trail some sort of publicized event, maybe event putting up Dry Canteen signs every mile along the way. I think folks might enjoy that.

    I was trying to win some of those medals on eBay recently, but was outbid by an amount I certainly did not want to pay.

  5. I should have mentioned in my post of April 16 that the hikes were sponsored by and run by the Louisville Civil War Round Table. The L-CWRT website has some information on the history of the hikes at


    It gives a great deal of credit to Frank Rankin for putting the hikes together (rather more I think he should get, but I was a lad of seven or eight at the time). It mentions two of Rankin's colleagues being called to active duty during the Berlin Wall Crisis, and those were my father, Major Blaine A Guthrie, Jr, and, I suppose, Captain (later Colonel) Edward Hessel.

    Anyway, you might be able to get more information on the hikes from the Louisville CWRT. I think that the last time I hiked one of them was 1971, and I don't know when the CWRT quit holding them. I am not familiar with the patch which is shown in the original post, so I suspect that they continued to be hiked for a substantial period after 1971.

  6. This was not always a boy scout hike. When I was in the 4th and 5th grade, my girl scout troop made the hike for both trails. One was the dry canteen. One was 18 miles and one was 15 miles. On the dry canteen, we had to pour out our canteens before we started the trail. This was a group of 4th, 5th and 6th grade girls. You received a medal when you finished the trail. At that time we did roughly 4 such hikes each year.

    1. Very cool, thank you for the info! I have some patches and medals I was able to purchase from eBay. I did not mean to disrescpect the Girl Scouts, I had only heard of this trail as a Boy Scout trail. It is my hope that we can get the trail marked with a trail sign of some sort every mile, and start doing some of these walks again.

  7. Look for upcoming info about this Friday Dry Canteen walk. Looks like May 15th will be the day. Meet at the park, pile into as few cars as possible, and walk back. Then we would need a few folks to drive the drivers back to their cars.



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