The Battle of Perryville was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, and the largest fought in Kentucky. There were so many dead that there was not enough wood to make enough coffins, and many bodies were not buried for a number of days. Wounded were sent to surrounding cities – Harrodsburg, Springfield and Danville. Many of the wounded died and were buried in these cities. Confederate casualties were 3,401; Union, 4,276 – killed, wounded, captured or missing.
Thursday, November 6, 1862
The Battle of Perryville – General Bragg’s Official Report
Headquarters Department No. 2, Bryantsville, Kentucky, October 12, 1862
Sir: Finding the enemy pressing heavily in his rear, near Perryville, Major General Hardee, of Polk’s command, was obliged to hold and check him at that point. Having arrived at Harrodsburg from Frankfort, I determined to give him battle there, and accordingly concentrated three divisions of my command – the Army of the Mississippi, now under Major General Polk, Cheatham’s, Buckner’s and Anderson’s – and directed General Polk to take command on the 7th, and attack the enemy next morning. Wither’s division had gone the day before to support Smith. Hearing, on the night of the 7th, that the force in front of Smith had rapidly retreated, I moved early next morning, to be present at the operations of Polk’s forces.
The two armies were formed confronting each other on opposite sides of the town of Perryville. After consulting the General, and reconnoitering the ground and examining his disposition, I declined to assume the command, but suggested some changes and modifications of his arrangements, which he promptly adopted. The action opened at half-past twelve p.m., between the skirmishers and artillery on both sides. Finding the enemy indisposed to advance upon us, and knowing he was receiving heavy reinforcements, I deemed it best to assail him vigorously, and so directed.
The engagement became general soon thereafter, and was continued furiously from that time to dark, our troops never faltering and never failing in their efforts.
For the time engaged it was the severest and most desperately contested engagement within my knowledge. Fearfully outnumbered, our troops did not hesitate to engage at any odds, and, though checked at times, they eventually carried every position, and drove the enemy about two miles. But for the intervention of night we should have completed the work. We had captured fifteen pieces of artillery by the most daring charges, killed one and wounded two Brigadier Generals, and a very large number of inferior officers and men estimated at no less than four thousand, and captured four hundred prisoners, including three staff officers with servants, carriage and baggage of Major General McCook.
The ground was literally covered with the dead and wounded. In such a contest our own loss was necessarily severe – probably not less than 2,500 killed, wounded and missing. Included in the wounded are Brigadier Generals Wood, Cleburn and Brown – gallant and noble soldiers – whose loss will be severely felt by their commands. To Major General Polk, commanding the forces; Major General Hardee, commanding the left wing, two divisions, and Major Generals Cheatham, Buckner and Anderson, commanding divisions, of this memorable field. Nobler troops were never more gallantly led. The country owes them a debt of gratitude which I am sure will be acknowledged.
Ascertaining that the enemy was heavily reinforced during the night, I withdrew my force early the next morning to Harrodsburg, and thence to this point. Major General Smith arrived at Harrodsburg with most of his force and Wither’s division the next day, the 10th, and yesterday I withdrew the whole to this point, the enemy following slowly, but not pressing us.
I am sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Braxton Bragg, General Commanding