150 Years Ago This Week: Another Confederate advance halted

October 1862

As October 1862 opened, Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Confederate campaign in Kentucky was reaching a climax. The Ohio River cities in north Kentucky had been successfully defended by Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Federal troops but there was fighting near Mt. Washington and on the road between Louisville and Frankfort.

In Corinth, Miss., the first of the two-day battle had taken place on Oct. 3; when fighting ended at nightfall, the Union forces under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans had been driven back to the defenses of Corinth by the Confederate army under Maj. Gens. Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price. The next day, the Confederates renewed their heavy attacks on the Union lines. Both the assaults and the Union counterattacks were costly, but with little ground given or taken. Towards sunset, the Confederates were repulsed and the Battle of Corinth was over. Gen. Van Dorn withdrew the Confederates to Chewalla, ten miles northeast of Corinth. The Southerners had succeeded in taking pressure off Gen. Bragg in Kentucky by preventing reinforcements being sent to Gen. Buell, but they failed to capture the important rail center at Corinth or to wreck Gen. Rosecrans’ force and make Gen. Grant pull his troops back north to the Ohio River.

Richard Hawes was inaugurated Governor of Kentucky at the capital in Frankfort, with Gen. Bragg in attendance. Gen. Buell’s army was on the move in Kentucky, going after Gen. Bragg’s troops, and approached the village of Perryville, fighting some skirmishes there with the Southerners. In the east, President Lincoln ended his visit with Gen. George McClellan’s headquarters near Sharpsburg, Md., after strongly urging his commander to go to Virginia and pursue Gen. Lee’s army. Through Maj. Gen. Halleck, President Lincoln sent instructions to Gen. McClellan: “The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move now while the roads are good.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, Gen. Buell’s advanced troops tangled with Gen. Bragg’s men at Perryville. The battle raged fiercely, with attacks and counterattacks gained and lost ground. A strong Confederate attack was fought off by men under a relatively new cavalry commander, Brig. Gen. Philip Sheridan.

A strange atmospheric phenomenon called an acoustic shadow occurred there, in which, due to varying atmospheric air pressure and air movements, the sounds of battle could not be heard on portions of the battlefield, while forty miles away, the roar of artillery and small arms fire was deafening. Due to the acoustic shadow, which was reported on a number of battlefields throughout the war, Gen. Buell was not aware that a major engagement was being fought until late in the day; as a result, he failed to get his full force into battle. By the end of the day, Gen. Bragg’s men withdrew and began the march south, ending the Confederate advance into Kentucky. Out of some 37,000 Union troops engaged, casualties numbered 4,200. The Confederates had about 16,000 troops engaged, with casualties of 3,400.

In Pennsylvania, Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart and 1,800 Confederate cavalry moved on Chambersburg, gathering 500 horses and valuable military intelligence, and destroying military stores and public property. Three days later, Gen. Stuart returned to Virginia, having completed yet another ride around Gen. McClellan’s army, and had lost only one man wounded. In the aftermath, President Lincoln was furious with Gen. McClellan for failing to prevent and end the raid. Union Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles wrote, “We are clothing, mounting and subsisting not only our troops but the rebels as well.” In Richmond, the Confederate Congress organized military courts for armies in the field and defined their powers. President Davis asked Virginia for a draft of 4,500 slaves to work on completion of fortifications around Richmond.

Arthur Candenquist
About Arthur Candenquist 194 Articles
A long-time historian, researcher, lecturer and author, Arthur Candenquist serves as secretary-treasurer of the Rappahannock County Sesquicentennial Committee. He can be reached at AC9725@cs.com.