Monday, May 23, 2016

Another Perryville Tour Completed!

Between the April tour for the Missouri round table and the annual spring tour for the general public, I think I have had enough of the rainy season!  Both tours saw some precipitation, which also makes for wet walking, but in both cases the groups trooped along all day.  For the spring tour, due to late planning on my part and a less than favorable weather forecast, we only had fourteen onboard, but it was a good crew and we were able to share the Perryville story fairly well.  Seven of us even spent more time together at Bluegrass Pizza for dinner, enjoying good conversation, the Preakness on the telly, and some tasty pizza and beers.

I have determined with the last two tours that telling the story starting with Jones Ridge (so that both Donelson and Jones/Brown can be covered) is the way to go for every tour going forward.  Moving towards the Bottom House we can cover not only the fighting there, but also Peters Hill.  Going to Cheatham's attack for the afternoon session allows participants to already have a solid base of Donelson and the fighting along Loomis' Heights back to Dxiville Crossroads, so that when we end with Cheatham near the crossroads, everything has tied together nicely.

My blog friend Richard McCormick took plenty of pictures and wrote a nice entry over at My Civil War Obsession, so I will let you head there for some more information.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Non-Civil War Post, Sort Of

I came across this site from a Facebook post by the Braddock Road Preservation Association, which I joined last fall during their excellent annual weekend held at Jumonville (yes, THAT Jumonville, you know, George Washington and Half King).  I enjoy many other military history interests (don't bring up Arthur St. Clair, Josiah Harmar, or that Anthony Wayne guy in my presence unless you have a couple of hours to listen to me ramble on), from the French and Indian War up through modern conflicts.  So when I attended the BRPA seminar last fall, I was hopeful that it would be enjoyable experience, much like the Chickamauga study group I am fortunate to spend time with every March. (led by Jim Ogden and Dave Powell)  I was happy with my trip to western Pennsylvania, spending Friday on a bus tour from Cumberland, Maryland back to Fort Necessity, and on Saturday listening to some excellent speakers covering a wide variety of topics related to the French and Indian War period.  This year has an interesting lineup as well, so I hope to save up my pennies and attend again.

Okay, so I am way off topic already...the Facebook post was from this site which pimps a fictional book set along the Forbes Road.  Other than reading Allen Eckert's great historical fiction series, I have a tendency to stick to non-fiction, but the website has a page that sets the historical context about the Forbes Road and the historical sites one can still visit rather well.  

What does any of this have to do with the Civil War, or Perryville?  Nothing, and everything.  This is one of those posts where I wish folks could and would and should do more at Perryville to present the Civil War battlefield tramper as well as the casual Civil War tourist, a deeper experience at Perryville.  No, this is not a rant against the Friends group...they are a dedicated, passionate, and hard-working bunch of folks who do a lot already, but perhaps....

Last year we expanded the walking tour to include an extra day of walking from Mackville to Perryville, following Alexander McCook's I Corps on its approach to the battlefield, and added an evening session that saw Kurt Holman and Stuart Sanders give great presentations.  Alas, these extra offerings did not result in a great turnout as Mother Nature rained on us all day and kept the sunshine visitor home, but still this is something I would like to see added to the Perryville event calendar, a study group/round table/seminar, that could give both the casual and dedicated Perryville visitor an annual event to look forward to every year.

The battlefield tramper can choose from specific walks each year that would cover ground not normally visited and discussed.  The casual visitor could attend a basic tour that covers the core aspects of the battle.  All could attend talks held in the evenings or on Sunday.  Bus tour on Friday, various tours catered to different levels of visitors during the day on Saturday, talks on Friday and Saturday evenings, and perhaps a half day program on Sunday morning.  Get the living history folks to come out to perform not only musket and artillery firing demonstrations, but also 

There are facilities already in place that could be used.  The Civil War Hall can hold folks for talks, the picnic shelter can be used for more talks and demonstrations, and why not have a bus tour that covers some of the approaches and sites related to the battle?  In town there are also some meeting spaces if needed.  There are also local businesses that could cater boxed lunches.  There are enough experts that can host tours and/or give talks or presentations.  A bus can be rented and covered by a bus tour fee for attendees.

What holds this back?  The amount of time volunteers have to put into such an effort, because it would be an effort.  And to ask the short-handed and under-funded staff at the park, or the Friends group who is tearing down post war buildings, installing yards of fences, and organizing an annual reenactment to do more is too much.  Yet this sort of effort would have to have some sort of local involvement.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Perryville Weekend

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be asked to lead a tour at Perryville by my Civil War buddy Andy for his Missouri Civil War round table.  Because his group is relatively small, we opened it up for a few more folks, and in all had thirteen battlefield trampers from Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Kentucky.  Friday afternoon I met most of the group in Danville at the Hampton Inn and we headed to the Peters Hill area, starting near the G. Bottom house and discussing the bivouac area of the Federal III Corps, in particular Phil Sheridan's division and Dan McCook's brigade along with Speed Fry and his 10th Indiana.  Setting up the scene of the early morning fighting of October 8th, we drove our cars slowly along old Springfield Pike, and saw the Turpin House (Sheridan's headquarters), and parked along Bull Lane where we discussed the retreat of the 7th Arkansas to the Bottom Hill mass, the counterattack of the 5th and 7th Arkansas against the deployed III Corps, as well as Gay's cavalry attack against the Confederates.  We also covered Powel(l)'s brigade movements on the afternoon of the 8th, Robert Mitchell's counterattack against Powel(l) and , and the closeness of the Peters Hill mass to the I Corps' positions.  We moved into town, stopping by Carlin's Federal brigade location and visited historic Merchant's Row as I thought it was important to show the group the town as well as the battlefield,  As it was getting fairly late we headed into Danville and had a great time at Bluegrass Pizza before heading back to the hotel to go over the Kentucky Campaign, setting up the next day's tour.

Saturday morning the group, joined by three others, including Chickamauga blogger and author Dave Powell, spent the first hour or so touring the museum and seeing the excellent film about the battle, then we gathered up into cars and drove out to Loomis Heights to start our talk about the deployment of Harris's and Lytle's Federal brigades, the attack of Jones's Confederate brigade, followed by Brown's brigade, then wandered down to Doctor's Creek to see the bluffs and the area where the 42nd Indiana were located.  Moving around to the Squire Bottom farm, we were able to see the excellent work completed by the Friends group with the addition of more rail and post fencing, along with the beginning of a stone wall added near the Bottom house.  Moving to the 3rd Ohio's position, we were able to see with clarity the closeness of Gilbert's III Corps to McCook's Corps, the plight of the outflanked 15th Kentucky and 3rd Ohio, the attacks of Johnson's, Adams's, Cleburne's, and Wood's rebel brigades, and then headed towards the Russell House site to finish this portion of the core Perryville battlefield.

After an excellent lunch provided by the Missouri group, we covered Cheatham's attack against the green troops of Jackson's Federal Division and the mostly seasoned troops of John Starkweather's brigade.  We pushed towards the last position held by Starkweather (and site of the latest Civil War Trust's recent campaign to save this core piece of property), then ended the day with a chat about the aftermath of Perryville.  We headed back to our cars and headed to Danville to enjoy bar-b-que from Brother's.  A few of us gathered in the hotel's lobby area to enjoy more discussion.

It was a whirlwind weekend, covering much more of the campaign and battle than I normally get to talk about, and it led to some great comments I was able to add to my business website.  It was also enjoyable to receive very nice feedback from Morgan's Raid expert David Mowery, who has himself led numerous Civil War tours.  I am hopeful that the group was able to enjoy Perryville and a couple of folks have already mentioned return visits to the battlefield.


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