October 7, 2014

Killed at Perryville

Detail of tombstone of Capt. Samuel J. Boone, Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church, Quarryville, PA
Thirty-seven officers and men of the 79th Pennsylvania died at the Battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862, making it by far the bloodiest day in the military history of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  With another 149 wounded and and three missing, the regiment's casualties numbered 189 according to Bates' regimental history and an 1863 casualty list published in the 3/24 Intelligencer.  Of the wounded, at least 10 soldiers would die in Kentucky before the end of October, although most of the remainder appear to have returned to service.  As far as I know, of these 47 men killed or mortally wounded at Perryville, the remains of only five made it back to Pennsylvania.  They include:
  1. Capt. Samuel J. Boone, Company C.  Killed in action.  Buried at Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Quarryville.  
  2. Lieut. Henry J. Test, Company C.  Killed in action.  Presumably buried in York.  
  3. Corp. Frederick J. Sener.  Died October 24, 1862, of wounds.  Buried at Woodward Hill Cemetery.  [Plot location unknown.]
  4. Corp. John A. Keller, Company B.  Died November 3, 1862, of wounds.  Buried at Lancaster Cemetery.  [Plot location unknown.]
  5. Pvt. William Eckert [Eakert], Company B.  Killed in action.  Buried at Calvary Monument Bible Church Cemetery, Paradise.
The rest of the men killed in action were buried on the field by their comrades -- despite the wishes of many family members in Lancaster to have remains sent home.  Those remains, which did not retain any identification, were transferred to Camp Nelson National Cemetery after the war.  Others who died in military hospitals are buried in national cemeteries around Louisville.  

Two years ago, I went out to visit and photograph the graves of Capt. Boone and Pvt. Eckert, which are only a couple miles apart in southern Lancaster County.  In posts over the upcoming days, I'll post more about their lives and deaths and share some photos of their tombstones.  

October 6, 2014

Photos from Perryville

Location: Perryville, KY, USA
Back in May, I finally had the opportunity to visit the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, where on one afternoon in October 1862 the 79th Pennsylvania played a key role in saving the Union army from disaster.  The battlefield seems like it's an hour from anything else, but it's certainly a compelling and well-interpreted site.  While the armies engaged were relatively small, the casualty rates were extremely high.  The ground is a series of undulating ridges, which helps to delineate the engagements and understand their sequence.  I definitely recommend visiting the battlefield, preferably by foot or bike.

Map showing correct position of 79th PA at Perryville
By Hal Jesperson (Wikimedia Commons)
I got the chance to walk the battlefield, focusing on the site where the Lancaster County Regiment, and met with park manager Kurt Holman.  Besides dropping off some eagerly devoured primary sources (available here), we had a discussion to straighten out the 79th Pennsylvania's role in the battle.  Kurt -- probably using Ken Noe's book -- had them moving a couple different places over the course of the afternoon, where primary sources make it fairly clear that the regiment stayed in one place for the duration of the fighting.  We seemed to reach a pretty satisfying conclusion (matching what I wrote in a previous post), and Kurt updated park maps and files.

The 79th PA fought on a shoulder ridge that stretched south beyond a bend on the Benton Road from a hill on which the 1st Wisconsin and Bush's and Stone's batteries fought.  To their front was about a 100-yard down slope that ran into a wood lot on land not suitable for farming.  The 24th Illinois would have been to their right, but the ground drops off and it does not appear as if that regiment coordinated with the 79th PA.  So, it's not hard to imagine how the 79th Pennsylvania felt isolated in their position.

79th PA battle line, looking south (left to right) from left flank

79th PA battle line, looking north (right to left) from right flank

Left flank of 79th PA battle line, looking north.  Col. Hambright swung out his left two companies from this position to provide a flanking fire on Confederates to the regiment's front.  The 1st Wisconsin fought beyond the 79th PA's left flank on the hill with the artillery piece. 
View of 79th PA position from front left (roughly from the direction of the 1st Wisconsin.  
View of the 79th PA left flank position from the front