Department of Parks
Preservation of Civil War Flag to be Focus of Perryville National Reenactment
FRANKFORT, Ky. –On Oct. 8, 1862, Kentucky’s largest Civil War battle raged a few miles north of Perryville. Here, more than 40,000 Union and Confederate troops clashed in the battle that decided the fate of Kentucky.
The brunt of the Confederate attack struck Union troops north of town, so Federal reinforcements were hurriedly deployed. As these reinforcements neared the battleground, the roar of cannon and crackling volleys of musketry filled their ears. These troops knew that the Union soldiers were losing ground; it was up to them to stem the tide of the ferocious rebel assault.
One of these regiments was the 18th U.S. Regular Infantry, commanded by Major Frederick Townsend. According to Kurt Holman, manager of the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, the 18th Regiment played a crucial role. “When the reinforcements were rushed into battle, the 18th led the way,” Holman said. “They arrived on the battlefield at dark and stabilized the shattered Union line. Their steady presence on the field was a major factor in the Confederate decision to discontinue their attacks, which effectively ended the Battle of Perryville.”
Now, more than 140 years later, the Kentucky Historical Society has donated the regimental battle flag of the 18th U. S. Regulars to the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site. Although the flag, which was made a few years after the battle, was not present at Perryville, the colors include a battle honor for “Chaplin Hills,” which is what the Union forces called the Battle of Perryville.
“We are pleased to present the flag to the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site,” said Kent Whitworth, executive director of the Kentucky Historical Society. “This is an important piece of history that will aid the Battlefield in their overall interpretive efforts.” Whitworth added that the timing of the flag donation coincides with the Kentucky Historical Society’s new flag exhibit opening at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History on March 18.
Holman concurs that the flag will benefit the Battlefield’s interpretation. “This is a standard representation of a typical Federal regimental flag that would have been at Perryville,” Holman said. “All Union regiments at Perryville had similar flags.”
Although the banner has been donated to the Battlefield, it will not yet be on display. According to Holman, $25,000 needs to be raised to restore the banner, and fund-raising efforts will begin at the upcoming Perryville National Reenactment, to be held Oct. 7-8.
“The National Reenactment will kick-off the fund-raising efforts for the flag,” Holman said. Part of the funding will be raised by a reenactor-sponsored “preservation march,” where reenactors accept pledges for participating in a long march to the battlefield. “The flag is the poster child of the preservation march,” Holman said. The march will pass the area where the original 18th Regulars moved onto the battlefield.
The Perryville Battlefield Preservation Association (PBPA), the nonprofit organization charged with preserving and interpreting Kentucky’s largest battleground, is accepting donations for the flag restoration. According to Chris Kolakowski, executive director of the PBPA, “During the Civil War, battle flags were very important, tangible connections to military units. Today, these flags provide one of the most intimate connections that we have to the soldiers that fought at battles like Perryville,” Kolakowski said. “The PBPA regards this project as one of its priorities and very much wants to see this priceless artifact restored and on display at the Perryville battlefield.”
Donations to restore the flag can be sent to the Perryville Battlefield Preservation Association, P.O. Box 65, Perryville, Ky., 40468.
The Perryville National Civil War Reenactment will be held Oct. 7-8. When Perryville hosted the 2002 National Reenactment, more than 40,000 spectators and 5,000 reenactors from 38 states and five foreign countries attended. For more information on this event, see www.perryvillereenactment.com or call 859-332-8631.
The exhibit History Unfurled: Flying Kentucky’s Flags will open at the Kentucky Historical Society on March 18. The exhibit will include more than twenty banners from the Kentucky Historical Society’s extensive flag collection. For more information, call the Kentucky Historical Society at 502-564-1792.
The Kentucky State Park System is composed of 52 state parks plus an interstate park shared with Virginia. The Department of Parks, an agency of the Commerce Cabinet, operates 17 resort parks with lodges -- more than any other state. Each year, Kentucky parks draw 7 million visitors and contribute $317 million to the economy. For more information on Kentucky parks, visit our Web site at http://www.parks.ky.gov