Joan House knows there is no way of predicting this far out, but she estimates that 12,000-13,000 people will be in attendance each day at the 150th anniversary of the Battlefield of Perryville.
The Civil War re-enactment is set to occur Oct. 6-7, 2012, at the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, and among the 12,000-13,000 attendees are expected to be 3,000-4,000 re-enactors.
“A study conducted a few years ago shows that every visitor to Perryville Battlefield spends about $75 in the community during their stay, and that number will go up quite a bit during the 150th anniversary event,” says House, who is preservation and program coordinator at Perryville Battlefield. “Perryville is a rural community where heritage tourism really counts for much of Boyle County’s bottom line for overall tourism. With maybe 12,000 people attending each day, the re-enactment is going to be exciting in many ways.”
Largest and Bloodiest
The re-enactment will showcase the Oct. 8, 1862 Battle of Perryville that historians regard as the largest and bloodiest Civil War battle that took place in Kentucky. There were nearly 40,000 men directly involved in the fighting, with casualties exceeding 7,500.
House says Perryville was considered a strategic Union victory since the battle ended with the outnumbered Confederacy eventually withdrawing all the way to Tennessee, resulting in the Union retaining control of the critical border state of Kentucky for the remainder of the war.
"One of the attractions at today’s battlefield park is Loomis’s Heights, where visitors can walk to the highest ground and look left and right to get a good concept of how the battle flowed,” she says. “Another interesting attraction is a Confederate Monument in our cemetery where Confederate casualties were buried in two large mass graves.”
Bloody, Now Beautiful
Also on the grounds is The Museum at Perryville Battlefield that was recently renovated and is considered to be one of the finest Civil War museums in the country. The grounds are also home to the H.P. Bottom House, which served as a hospital as long as six months after the battle.
“Bottom House today is privately owned and the interior is not open to the public, but the owners allow people to roam the front yard and take pictures of the exterior,” House says. “As for other attractions, the 150th anniversary will feature a speaker symposium and there are 12 miles of hiking trails open to the public. The battlefield resulted in some of the bloodiest fields in Kentucky’s history, but today the landscape is some of the most beautiful.”
Ancestors Still Live Here
House says most residents of Perryville recognize how the battlefield has impacted the community over the years, and they appreciate the tourism it generates.
“We are lucky that many of the families who were present in 1862 are still present in Perryville today in one form or another,” she says. “One last point about preparing for the 150th anniversary – we have been planning it since mid-2010. Our goal is to make sure that all re-enactors have a unique and comfortable experience so they put on a dazzling show that will be memorable for all who attend this interesting event.”