William in Kentucky

Kentucky was very important during the Civil War.  Abraham Lincoln noted that “I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game.”  If Kentucky was lost, Lincoln felt that the Union could not hold Missouri or Maryland.

As October 1862 begins, Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg have entered Kentucky and are moving toward Frankfort.  Bragg has deployed his forces over a wide area looking for forage and the Union army.  General Don Carlos Buell, and the Union army, are in Louisville.  On October 1, Buell begins to pursue Bragg’s army by splitting his forces.  The main army, of approximately 22,000 men, move southeast toward Bragg’s army at Bardstown.  At the same time, Buell sends two divisions under General J. W. Sill on a feint east toward Frankfort where Bragg was installing a provisional Confederate state government.  William Patterson, and the 1st OVI, was part of the force that moved toward Frankfort.  They left Louisville on October 1 and arrived at Frankfort on October 6.

Buell’s feint toward Frankfort worked.  Bragg held about half of his army near Frankfort, with the result that Confederate Major General Leonidas Polk had only 16,000 men to face Buell’s army of 22,000.  The two armies met near Perryville, Kentucky on October 8, 1862.  The battle was the largest and bloodiest fought in Kentucky during the war with more than 7,500 casualties.  The battle was tactically indecisive, but it ended the Confederate sweep across Tennessee and deep into Kentucky, and was a vital strategic victory for the Union.

After arriving at Frankfort on October 6, General Sill began moving toward Perryville to rejoin Buell’s main army at Perryville.  On October 9, they had a brisk fight with Confederate forces at a place called Dog-Walk where the 1st OVI took a prominent part losing about 8 to 10 men.  On October 11, they rejoined the main Union army several days after the Battle of Perryville.

After the Battle of Perryville, Bragg withdrew his forces through the Cumberland Gap and into east Tennessee.  Initially, Buell pursued Bragg’s army, but gave up the pursuit on or about October 14.  In spite of telegrams from President Lincoln to continue the pursuit and attack Bragg, Buell decided not to pursue Bragg while living off the land.  Instead, he decided to re-establish his offensive base at Nashville, Tennessee arriving there on November 16.  Upon his arrival, Buell was replaced by Major General William S. Rosecrans.  Rosecrans reorganized the “Army of Ohio” and renamed it the “Army of the Cumberland.”  The 1st OVI was assigned to the Fourteenth Army Corps, Second Division, right wing of the Army of the Cumberland.


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