Save the Western High-Water Mark

The Civil War Trust released its latest appeal today, for 70 acres at Perryville. Here’s the link: (Go ahead, look; I’ll wait.)

This is an essential piece of ground for three major reasons. First, it is the northern part of the High Water Mark of the Confederacy in the West. If Braxton Bragg’s Confederate troops broke through and captured the Dixville Crossroads (seen on the map), Alexander McCook’s Union I Corps would have been destroyed, with incalculable impacts on the campaign in Kentucky and the war as a whole. Bragg’s failure to do this, and subsequent retreat, was never redeemed by the Confederacy. The stand at the crossroads is thus the Western equivalent of the fight for Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg. The state (with the Trust’s help) has preserved the southern half of McCook’s final position; this is the northern half.

Second, this is some of the most blood-soaked ground in the West. Like at Fredericksburg in December 1862, the defenders lined up 4-6 deep behind a stone wall and mowed down the attackers with concentrated rifle fire supported by artillery. This was the most intense expenditure of ammunition at Perryville. This parcel also hosted one of two Medals of Honor earned at Perryville, by Sergeant John Durham of the 1st Wisconsin who led a successful countercharge. Durham was carrying the 1st’s colors, and was the fifth man to carry them that day. (I had a relative in the 21st Wisconsin who fought alongside Durham on this afternoon.)

Lastly, saving this ground will essentially preserve the core part of Perryville Battlefield. Although there will be a few more parcels to add, for all intents and purposes, this battlefield will have a critical mass of land forever saved. All but 98 acres will have been done in the past 25 years, which is a testament to the strong partnership of Federal, state, local, and nonprofit partners working together since 1991.

I’ll leave the last word on this part of the battlefield to Private Theodore Herrling of the 1st Wisconsin, who wrote: “It was not generalship there, it was simply the fighting, staying qualities of the Union soldier.”

Please help save this key ground at a key battlefield in a key state of the Civil War.

7 Responses to Save the Western High-Water Mark

  1. I love Perryville Battlefield. It is so beautiful and pristine (I know that word is overused, but it’s so accurate.) Standing on the field and thinking about what happened there, especially from the Open Knob through the cornfield to Starkwesther’s Hill, always I trigues me, and adding this section to it is so wonderful. I can’t wait until it is part of the park, with walking trails to explore. I’m very glad to help with this campaign.

  2. I’ve donated, I hope lots of people will. As Chris says, it’s hard to overstate the importance of these 70 acres to telling the Perryville story.

  3. I have donated also, and have been beating the drum. I look forward to standing on that ridge as preserved battlefield land!

  4. Chris, I know your work and of your previous stewardship at Perryville. You and others, like Kurt Holman have done so much to preserve this western shrine. I have supported every one of the campaigns to add acreage to the preserved land at Perryville and will be supporting this one as well.

    1. Thank you very much for your comments, and the support. Kurt is an oracle of that battle and site.

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