I've been to my share of Civil War encampments but have never attended a large scale battle reenactment. With the extra attention the ongoing sesquicentennial brings to all things related to that dreadful period, this seemed like a good time to correct that. The nearest reenactment that I am aware of is the one at the Perryville Battlefield about a hundred miles south of Cincinnati. It is an annual event but this year more than 1000 reenactors would participate in three different scenarios; Two on Saturday and one on Sunday. I attended Sunday.
There was no shortage of things to do and see. I visited the museum, strolled through the sutlers area, and visited some of the encampments. My first photo is of the a fife and drum corp performing at the Union Monument. By the end of their concert the musicians were completely surrounded by troops. A short time later, Confederate troops surrounded the nearby Confederate Monument. The Confederate Monument was dedicated in 1902; The Union Monument in 1931. The story of how that came about and why the Confederate Monument is in the center of a cemetery while the battle's Union dead are interred at the Camp Nelson National Cemetery is interesting but not entirely pleasant. Read it here.
The picture that begins the second row is of the two guides on a battlefield walking tour that I took advantage of. They did a splendid job of describing the actions and positions of troops at the start of the battle when Confederates under General Donelson moved through the "Valley of Death". The affect that the terrain had on things was clearly evident but not easy to record in two dimensions. Cavalry practicing for the afternoon battle seemed better camera subjects. A recreation of Donelson's attack had taken place early Saturday and there was plenty of evidence on the ground.
The battlefield tour group included this raccoon topped frontiersman and his wife and after the tour I spotted a Confederate sergeant chatting with a higher ranking fellow from the other side. There were, in fact, interesting folks everywhere.
I knew the battle was eminent when I saw Confederate cavalry moving through the trees and local ladies reluctantly leaving their menfolk at their stations. Union troops, including the fife and drum corp, took up positions on the field. The musicians would gallantly provide a musical soundtrack to the battle until their position was taken.
As the battle started, I could not see the attacking Confederates but had a good view of the Union artillery firing on them. The basis for today's recreation was "The Fight for the Cornfield" which began with Maney's assault on Terrill's forces on the "Open Knob". I also had a good view of the Union infantry as it moved forward and formed a line below the booming cannon. Things started turning really bad for the men in blue when charging rebels drove them from the knob. The Union forces, including those fifers and drummers, fell back toward a second artillery battery while the Confederates worked their way through the cornfield. They continued until, after some brutal hand-to-hand combat, the second battery was also overrun.
At the end of the day, rebel forces controlled the field and the Battle of Perryville is considered a Confederate victory. But the winning commander, General Braxton Bragg, knew that his northern counterpart, General Don Carlos Buell, had an overwhelming number of troops on the way and moved out during the night.
I very much enjoyed my first Civil War reenactment. I am not and never will be a Civil War expert. I do, however, know an expert, at least electronically. If anyone reading this is at all interested in what happened 150 years ago today and every today of the Civil War, I highly recommend Eric Swanger's Civil War Daily Gazette. I really can't say enough good things about it.
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