Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle

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"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, ending the South's 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. Kenneth Noe details the events leading up to Bragg's Kentucky Campaign, places the battle squarely in the political and social context of Kentucky's Civil War, paints the battle in great detail, and follows the armies back to Tennessee. In addtion to deft biographical protraits of key figures on both sides, Noe clearly sets up the commands - units and leaders - that would wage the campaign.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
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 asignificant 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)
From the Publisher
"Noe artfully steers the combatants toward Perryville, provides a coherent account of that confused clash, and tells what it meant to soldiers and civilians caught in the maelstrom." — Society of Civil War Historians

"Casts new light on this epic struggle for Kentucky and restores it to a deserved place in the Civil War's pantheon of great campaigns." — Southern Historian

"This superb book unravels the complexities of Perryville, but discloses these military details within their social and political contexts. These considerations greatly enrich our understanding of war, history, and human endeavor." — Virginia Quarterly Review

"Noe writes with a fine eye for detail and a moving prose: his work is a first-rate historical narrative." — Wargamer

"Noe details in stirring prose backed by impressive research, the full dimension of the campaign and the battle that ended in a tactical victory yet could not win Kentucky for the South. In surely the most detailed and exhaustive study to date, Noe has produced in Perryville a work that will stand as the definitive word on a lost opportunity, and a lost dream." — William C. Davis

"Noe's well researched, well written Perryville is the best volume on arguably the least understood important battle during the Civil War. No Civil War buff will want to miss it." — William W. Freehling

"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." —

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813122090
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 520
  • Product dimensions: 1.13 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth W. Noe holds the Draughon Chair in Southern History at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. He is the author of several books and articles.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2002

    Excellent account of an important American Civil War battle

    I first visited the Perryville battlefield over thirty years ago. This battle, recognized by many as being one of the important battles of the war, nonetheless has been the subject of few books (Hasendorfer's study, published about 20 years ago, is the only one to comes to mind). Professor Noe, in this book, explores the battle and gives a first-rate analysis of the battle. In fact, as a battle account, his effort is just about the finest which I have read. <P> The Perryville campaign is quite interesting. Both Buell, the Union commander, and Bragg, the Confederate commander, had their solid, maybe even brilliant moments. However, they also made some colussal blunders. Buell was removed from command after the battle, and Bragg should have been. Professor Noe points out that Bragg was actually more successful in the campaign than Lee was in his Maryland campaign. Lee, after all, ended up on the line of the Rappahanock, essentially where he began the campaign (if one includes Cedar Mountain). Bragg, on the other hand, regained much of middle Tennessee, transferring his operations from Chattanooga to Murfreesboro. <p> My biggest complaint is that Professor Noe does not give much attention to the battles of Richmond, KY and Munfordville. Richmond was one of the most complete victories of the entire war, for instance. Professor Noe does carefully examine the entire campaign from Bragg and Kirby Smith's movement from Chattanooga to Bardstown, KY, and Lexington, and Buell's withdrawal from Tennessee to Louisville, but his main 'bayonets and bullets' portion of the book is focused on Perryville with little attention given to the two other battles of the campaign.

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