Monday, July 25, 2016

Visit to Perryville Battlefield State Park

With the oldest four children away at camp it seems like less work, somehow, to pack up just two and take a little roadtrip. (It isn't really much less work!) Though the day was hot and humid a nice drive through grassy countryside beneath a wide blue sky seemed just the thing. So we went! It was my first time visiting an actual Civil War battlefield and for me it was quite special.

Perryville surprised me by being a small town in the middle of nowhere. The town has some beautiful historic buildings but our destination was the battlefield state park outside of town. We stopped first at a white home set back from the road. 
The Dye House was used as headquarters by Confederate General Buckner during the battle of Perryville, which took place on October 8, 1862. It was also used as a hospital and it is said that the floorboards upstairs are still blood stained from the casualties that were brought there. 

Intellectually I do not believe in the existence of ghosts but I will not deny that I have, many times, felt things that indicate a very real and active unseen spiritual world. The Dye House is reportedly quite haunted and I was interested to see if I could feel anything odd about the place. 

I didn't, really. Or at least, nothing more than one would expect at any site of suffering and pain. It was very, very still and seemed empty and sad. From the upstairs windows I sensed a feeling of quiet watchfulness but when we returned to the house again later that day the feeling had gone. No one was watching us that time. 

We continued on to the actual park and visited the museum and enjoyed a brief air conditioned respite from the oppressively humid heat. Outside cheerful zinnias bobbed in the breeze and caught Rose's attention. She loves flowers. 

We visited the Confederate cemetery. The federal soldiers who died here were temporarily buried on the field before being moved to permanent cemeteries. The Confederates were left here and most were unidentified when they were buried. 

The babies great-great-great-great grandfather, John Garner, was with the 123rd Illinois and fought here on this battlefield. It was a bit surreal to see the actual area where the 123rd fought. John Garner was 46 when the War started and despite his older age he quickly enlisted in the 123rd Illinois. After being sent home due to sickness he enlisted with the 62nd Illinois and served til the end of the war. John Garner survived the war and died in 1899, beloved by friends and family. During the battle of Perryville, John was 48 years old. 

The lady in the museum handed us a map for a driving tour of the park. She said she wasn't giving out the walking trail maps that day since it was just too hot! The first stop on our driving tour was the top of a hill where federal forces trained their artillery on Confederates on the opposite hill. 

It was quite a view. Central Kentucky is so beautiful.

The next place we stopped was here. We walked down a little ways before going back to the vehicle. It was about 2 o clock in the afternoon and just so abominably hot. 5 minutes in the hot sun was enough. While here, the lack of water sources really struck me forcibly. Besides the rather small Doctors Creek that cut through one edge of the park, I didn't see any other water. Everything was so hot, so dry. The heat radiated in waves off of everything. 

After the driving tour we headed back to town for cold drinks and snacks and then came back to the park to enjoy it on a more personal level. You cannot really know a place til you have walked it, laid on it, and let it get to know you. 

On top of the hill where the 123rd was forced back to retreat, we spread a blanket and enjoyed the breeze and shade. Rose and Benjamin enjoyed their cups of lemonade and m&m's, too. 

We sat there for a while. I'm not sure how long. Time didn't seem to matter anymore. 

When the sun got lower we slowly walked down the hill, the hill that the 123rd had retreated up over 150 years ago. The sunlight pooled goldenly and it seemed as if we walked in a dream. 

And here, I somehow knew, was where John Garner had been. While Benjamin played with sticks and Rose plucked at the wildflowers I stood very still. 

There was a thickness of invisible shadows, it seemed. We weren't quite in 1862 but we were close. Close enough to know that what happened here wasn't very long ago at all. 

The one slightly odd thing we experienced happened as we were leaving and we crossed the bridge on our way back up to the parking lot. Rose turned to go back across the bridge again and Benjamin screamed with horror and panic and tried to grab and drag her back across. She would have none of it, though, so I had to go pick her up and carry her so Benjamin would settle down. He was quite happy to trot back up the hill after that!

We had a wonderful time even though it was so hot. If we could stand going down to Perryville in our period attire on the hottest day of summer I think we can do anything! haha. I'd love to go back again and take the other kids. I think from now on it will be a favorite destination. 



  1. Oh, I'm so happy you got to visit Perryville! It is one of our favorite places, and only an hour or so from our house. (We're in London, KY). You and your family should come back in October for the reenactment. It's quite large, and I believe there are two events, one recreating the battlefield, and one in town. Both are exceptional!

  2. I'm so sorry it was so hot! This has been our hottest week of summer and very humid too.

    I hope some of the shops in town were open for you. I have gone before and they have all been closed.

    That is SO AWESOME that your ancestor fought there and he was an older soldier!


  3. Blessings to you!
    Enjoyed this post,


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!