A detailed account of how the Civil War engagement at Perryville,
Kentucky, changed the lives of the soldiers, officers, and
civilians who endured its brutality. Noe (History/Auburn Univ.)
untangles the complicated events leading up to and during the
crucial battle between the forces of Union General Don Carlos Buell
and Confederate General Braxton Bragg. His analysis emphasizes the
effects of the opposing commanders' personalities on their armies.
Noe argues that Buell's sympathies for the Confederate cause
combined with his meticulous planning to produce an operational
timidity that mystified and infuriated his Union subordinates.
Likewise, he asserts that Bragg experienced monumental mood swings,
which undermined his self-confidence and allowed subordinate
generals to pursue their own uncoordinated plans. Under the
guidance of these weak commanders, the two armies blundered into
each other on October 8, 1862. Since neither Buell nor Bragg
understood that they faced the bulk of the other's armies, both
generals made significant tactical errors: Bragg fed his regiments
piecemeal into an inferno of Union artillery and small arms
crossfire; Buell stubbornly refused to adequately reinforce his
defensive lines or even believe that a major battle was unfolding
until the combat was almost over. Making extensive use of personal
letters and later interviews with the combatants, Noe vividly
creates a horrific picture of the carnage that resulted from this
incompetence, with many regiments suffering 50 percent casualties.
He concludes that the heavy losses inflicted on Confederate forces
constrained Bragg to abandon his attempt to capture Kentucky for
the South, making Perryville a significant turning point in Civil
War's Western campaign. The definitive history of a key battle that
demands thoughtful consideration by anyone interested in the Civil
War. (maps, illustrations, b&w photos) (Kirkus Reviews)
Winner of the Seaborg Award A History Book Club Selection
On October 8, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed near
Perryville, Kentucky, in what would be the largest battle ever
fought on Kentucky soil. The climax of a campaign that began two
months before in northern Mississippi, Perryville came to be
recognized as the high water mark of the western Confederacy. Some
said the hard-fought battle, forever remembered by participants for
its sheer savagery and for their commanders' confusion, was the
worst battle of the war, losing the last chance to bring the
Commonwealth into the Confederacy and leaving Kentucky firmly under
Federal control. Although Gen. Braxton Bragg's Confederates won the
day, Bragg soon retreated in the face of Gen. Don Carlos Buell's
overwhelming numbers. Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle is the
definitive account of this important conflict.
While providing all the parry and thrust one might expect from
an excellent battle narrative, the book also reflects the new
trends in Civil War history in its concern for ordinary soldiers
and civilians caught in the slaughterhouse. The last chapter,
unique among Civil War battle narratives, even discusses the
battle's veterans, their families, efforts to preserve the
battlefield, and the many ways Americans have remembered and
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