Year
1862

Battle of Perryville

The Confederate invasion of Kentucky stalls when Union General Don Carlos Buell stops General Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Perryville.

In August 1862, two Confederate forces, commanded by Bragg and General Edmund Kirby Smith, entered Kentucky. The Rebels hoped to raise troops and recoup territory lost during the summer. The invasion started well when Bragg captured a Yankee garrison at Munfordville on August 28 and Smith routed a Union force at Richmond on August 30. Despite the victories, the Confederates were disappointed by the response they received from Kentuckians. Bragg’s army hauled 15,000 extra rifles to equip Kentuckians they hoped would join the Rebel army, but Union sentiment and presence were strong in the state. Buell’s army had 78,000 men, and another 80,000 Federal recruits were drilling in Louisville and Cincinnati, Ohio. With such a strong Union presence, many Kentucky residents were unwilling to take up with the Confederacy.

Buell marched 58,000 men toward Bragg’s army while sending another 20,000 to confront Smith. Buell caught up with the Confederates outside of Perryville on October 7. Bragg was installing a provisional government in Frankfort, so General Leonidas Polk deployed the Confederate army in front of the Union lines west of Perryville. Bragg arrived the next morning, perturbed because Polk had not yet attacked the Yankees. Bragg did not realize the size of the force he faced–he assumed it was a single corps and not the bulk of Buell’s army. He ordered a strike for the early afternoon, hoping to fold the Union’s left flank back upon the rest of the army. The plan nearly worked. The assault drove Federals under the command of Alexander McCook back in disarray, and an acoustic shadow prevented Buell, who was two miles away, from hearing the battle. When Buell was finally alerted, he rode forward and directed two brigades to effectively shore up McCook’s sagging line. A smaller Confederate attack against the right side of the Yankee line was turned back, and nightfall halted the fighting. Realizing that he was outnumbered, Bragg began a withdrawal.

The losses were heavy. Of 23,000 Yankees engaged in the battle, 4,200 were killed, wounded, or missing; of 15,000 Confederates involved, 3,400 were lost. Bragg retreated south to rejoin Smith, and the Confederates slipped back to Tennessee through the Cumberland Gap. Buell did not pursue, and as a result he was replaced by General William Rosecrans. The Confederates abandoned the invasion of Kentucky and it remained firmly in Federal hands for the rest of the war.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First transcontinental air race

The first transcontinental air race in the United States begins, with 63 planes competing in the round-trip aerial derby between California and New York. As 15 planes departed the Presidio in San Francisco, California, 48 planes left Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York. ...read more

Massive earthquake hits Kashmir region

On this day in 2005, a massive 7.6-magnitude earthquake strikes the Kashmir border region between India and Pakistan. An estimated 70,000 people—nearly half of them children—were killed and 70,000 more were injured. More than 3 million were left homeless and without food and ...read more

Che Guevara defeated

A Bolivian guerrilla force led by Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara is defeated in a skirmish with a special detachment of the Bolivian army. Guevara was wounded, captured, and executed the next day. Born in Argentina, Guevara believed that a man of action could revolutionize a ...read more

Great Chicago Fire begins

On this day in 1871, flames spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, igniting a two-day blaze that kills between 200 and 300 people, destroys 17,450 buildings, leaves 100,000 homeless and causes an estimated $200 million (in 1871 dollars; $3 billion in 2007 ...read more

Possible breakthrough at Paris peace talks

Rumors arise that there is a breakthrough in the secret talks that had been going on in a villa outside Paris since August 1969. Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s national security advisor, and North Vietnamese negotiators conducted the peace talks. Le Duc Tho, who had ...read more

Communists reject Nixon’s peace proposal

The Communist delegation in Paris rejects President Richard Nixon’s October 7 proposal as “a maneuver to deceive world opinion.” Nixon had announced five-point proposal to end the war, based on a “standstill” cease-fire in place in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. He proposed ...read more

Don Larsen is perfect in World Series

On October 8, 1956, New York Yankees right-hander Don Larsen pitches the first no-hitter in the history of the World Series. Even better, it was a perfect game–that is, there were no runs, no hits and no errors, and no batter reached first base. Larsen’s performance anchored his ...read more

Matt Damon born

On this day in 1970, Matt Damon, the future star of a long list of hit movies, including Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan and The Bourne Identity, is born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Damon, who attended Harvard University but left before graduating to pursue an acting ...read more

Fire rips through Chicago

The Great Chicago Fire begins on this day in 1871. It goes on to kill 250 people, leave 100,000 people homeless and destroy thousands of buildings. All told, the fire was responsible for an estimated $200 million in damages (more than $3 billion in today’s money), approximately ...read more