October 6, 2012

'In Hot Pursuit': The March to Perryville

Location: Mackville, KY, USA
Buell's Army in Pursuit of Bragg (HW 10/25/1862)

After what amounted to a long weekend in Louisville that ranked among "the most agreeable and pleasant times" we have experienced since our departure from home," the 79th Pennsylvania was back to active campaigning.  Reveille sounded at 4am on October 1, 1862, as the Lancaster County Regiment drew three days' rations and joined Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio to set out on the offensive.  The army marched out of the city on three roads and aimed to converge forty miles south of Louisville at Bardstown, Kentucky. 

The countryside through which Alexander McCook's First Corps passed started off lush and welcoming.  Abandoned picket posts constructed by Confederate cavalrymen out of fences dotted the roadside every few miles.  Farmer and diarist Corp. William T. Clark of Company B praised it as "fine grazing country," but questioned how they harvested corn.  At the town of Taylorsville, the citizens cooked "everything they had for us," despite resources like salt and eggs being very scarce.

On October 5, the regiment bade farewell to Lieut. Col. John H. Duchman, who deemed one more campaign too much for him to handle.  Duchman, whose son was also an officer in Co. K, 77th Pennsylvania, had a valid excuse; after all, he was years old and a bona fide veteran of the War of 1812.

By October 6, the ground over which the column marched became more and more barren with that part of Kentucky suffering a historic drought.  Camping outside of Chaplin, Clark and a fellow non-commissioned officer tracked a dry creekbed for a mile before they found water, which was in a pool.

On the morning of October 8, the regiment found itself just inside of ten miles from where fighting was breaking out.  The arrived on near the battlefield around noon, stacked arms, and rested.  Shortly after that, the regiment advanced in a line of battle until close enough to see the Confederates.  The men laid down, rose up, waited for fragmented Union soldiers to pass through, and fired.

The march to Perryville, covering roughly 80 miles.
(Based on diary entries of William T. Clark)

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