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The Ground Around Was Slippery With Blood: Garrard's Detachment at the Battle of Perryville

When we think about the units who fought at the Battle of Perryville, many tend to think about such regiments like the 1st Tennessee or the 22nd Indiana. Their men were typically all from one state and in one single organization. But one battalion, made up of Tennesseans and Kentuckians, goes against this norm. These heroic men, who had a part to play in most of the important events in the Kentucky Heartland campaign, found themselves in one of the bloodiest areas on the battlefield. These men were Garrard’s Detachment.

Garrard’s Detachment was made up of not one, but three, different regiments who all were affected by the opening stages of the Kentucky Heartland campaign. The battalion included men from the 7th Kentucky (US) Infantry, 3rd Tennessee (US) Infantry, and Robert B. Taylor’s company, which included recruits for both the 32nd Kentucky as well as the 22nd Kentucky Infantry. The battalion’s roots stem from the capture of the Cumberland Gap, by General George Washington Morgan’s division. Both the 3rd Tennessee and 7th Kentucky belonged to this Federal division and were involved in some of the skirmishes of the campaign.[1]

General George Washington Morgan (Library of Congress)

In August, Morgan detached about eight companies from the 7th Kentucky, around 400 or so men, under Colonel T.T. Garrard and a battalion of five companies from the 3rd Tennessee, around 150 or so men, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel L.C. Houk to help protect the long supply line running from the Gap to Lexington, Kentucky.[2]

At about that same time, General E. Kirby Smith led his Confederate army into the area of Cumberland Gap and prevented Morgan’s division from receiving any Federal support. This move isolated the two regiments from their other companies and were subsequently forced to join the Federal forces surrounding the Richmond and Lexington area. The 3rd Tennessee (US), in late August, fought in the Battle of Big Hill and Cowbell Creek south of Richmond. Though an embarrassing defeat for the Kentucky cavalry that was involved, the action won the small battalion a commendation for protecting wagons against a Confederate cavalry attack. Sadly only 100 men made it back to Richmond while 50 men from the regiment were either captured or made their way back to the Gap. [3]

The two regiments fought at the Battle of Richmond a few days after Big Hill, and in the ensuing battle both fought in the last-ditch effort in the Richmond cemetery. In the chaos that followed, many of their men were captured but remnants of both organizations escaped and made their way to Louisville or Cincinnati. Garrard’s command, which only numbered around 140 escapees various companies of the regiment. Garrard himself had been called away from the regiment before the debacle at Richmond, and was available to command. The 3rd Tennessee (Union), which numbered around 100 or so men, made it out with around 75 men, now under the command of Major William Cross. Some men from both organizations made their way back to Morgan’s command, either at Cumberland Gap or during the retreat to Greenup, Kentucky.[4]

Colonel T.T. Garrard (Find a Grave)

Once in Louisville, the men, like most of the Federal troops in the city, began digging in. Garrard’s detachment was formed in September after Robert B. Taylor’s company was consolidated into the command. Overall command fell upon Theophiles Toulmin Garrard. Garrard was a Kentuckian having been born to a prominent political family from Clay County, Kentucky. Garrard helped raise and commanded the 7th Kentucky in the earlier stages of the war in Eastern Kentucky. Second in command was given to Major Cross from the 3rd Tennessee. Cross was from Anderson County, Tennessee just to the west of Knoxville. Cross was also a prominent member holding a few local political positions in Anderson County. Altogether, the battalion held 275 men in the ranks. The command was separated into three companies based on the three organizations. The first, and largest company, was the 7th Kentucky with around 142 men, their commander was Captain Treadway from Co. A. The second was the 3rd Tennessee commanded by Captain Keeffe of Co. D, numbering around 75 men. The third was Robert B. Taylor’s company with 58 or so men. After the battalion was organized, the men were put into Brigadier General William R. Terrill’s 33rd Brigade of Jackson’s division which belonged to the 1st Corps of the Army of the Ohio. [5]

William Cross (Find a Grave)

On October 1, 1862, Garrard’s men marched out of the city of Louisville with the rest of the Army of the Ohio. The next several days were hard on the men of the battalion, with little water and extreme heat. Many in the battalion fell out or even deserted. Finally, on October 8th, after several days of hard marching, the battalion with the rest of the 1st Corps made their way out of Mackville towards Perryville. As they neared the ongoing engagement, Garrard’s men no doubt heard the fighting near Peters Hill. Near 12:00 P.M. the men halted near the Dixville Crossroads. The battalion, by this point, only numbered 194 men. After a brief reconnaissance, General Alexander McCook, 1st Corps commander, ordered Terrill’s brigade to move forward and occupy Open Knob. Terrill moved his brigade and made it into position with his advance troops (123rd Illinois Infantry and Parson’s improvised Battery). Near 2:00 P.M. Garrard’s men, as well as the 80th Illinois Infantry, were still in the Dixville Crossroads area waiting their turn to move up to the front.[6]

Present day view of Open Knob where the battalion fought (Photo by the author)

Just as Terrill’s brigade moved into position, Confederate General Cheatham’s Division opened up the Southern attack. After a few minutes the attack was floundered by miscommunication, leaving General Donelson’s brigade, in Cheatham’s Division, to receive flanking fire from three different batteries, including Parson’s. This move forced Cheatham to use Maney’s brigade to attack Terrill’s position. Once the ball had opened on the growing battlefield, Garrard’s men were already on the road heading towards Open Knob. Through a misguided staff officer, Garrad’s men in front of the 80th Illinois were moved to the right of Terrill’s brigade coming up to the right of the Open Knob. Garrad’s men were finally on the field a little before 3:00 P.M.. Once close to their position, Col. Garrard order his men to fix bayonets. Capt. Robert B. Taylor of 32nd KY recorded that, “Just as we charge the ascent, Col. Garrard ordered fix bayonets and as we went up and before we approached close enough to war... our dead and wounded, on the ground, far outnumbered the living in the ranks." Garrrad’s men got into position and started firing lead down range. Taylor also remembered, “We endured a fearful storm of balls, round shot and bursting shell”. [7]

After 20 minutes or so, Maney’s brigade charged up Open Knob. In the short fighting that ensued, Terrill’s brigade collapsed and left seven cannons for Maney’s Confederates to take. In the retreat that followed, Captain Anderson, A.A.G of the 33rd Brigade, wrote, “The 80th Ill and Garrard’s detachment behaved well. when the left gave way, they were obliged to fall back, which they did in good order.” Garrard’s men fell back and rallied at the base of Open Knob where Terrill made a vain attempt to rally his broken brigade. During this short affair, Taylor rescued 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Hutchinson. Taylor wrote, “As the lines fell back gradually, I saw Thomas Hutchinson, My 2nd Lt., on the ground.. with his face all bloody. I ran to him … he had been struck in the head with the fragment of a shell and the blood flowed from his face in streams. He looked worse hurt than he really was. He told me he thought he was mortally wounded, and to stay behind on his account, but I told him not to think of giving up so soon, and seized ahold of him and carried him down the hill… When I got Hutchinson down into the bed of doctors fork, he moaned and groaned and made me very miserable.. we were laying close in under the bank to protect ourselves from the shower of iron hail that was raining over us, when a cannon ball struck within a few feet of where we were sitting, and raised an immense cloud of dust about us. He, Hutchinson, asked what that was. I told him it was a round shot and indicated that our position was unsafe.. I hurried him off to the hospital.” After a few short minutes, Terrill’s brigade was attacked again, and broken beyond repair. Many of his men fell back beyond Starkweather’s Hill. Col. Garrard however fell back to the rear of the hill and reorganized the battalion. [8]

Present day view of the backside of Starkweather's Hill (Photo by the author)

Garrard’s men quickly reorganized and waited for further orders. Just over the hill, Maney’s Confederates finished their steam rolling of the 21st Wisconsin in the cornfield, and continued up to Starkweather’s Hill. In the transpiring action, Maney’s brigade took temporary control over the Federal batteries on the hill. Fortunately, for the Union, the rebels were beaten back by fierce Federal fire. Terrill, in the meantime, decided to help in aiding in the defense of the hill, and in so doing ordered Garrard’s men up to Bush's Battery on the left of the hill.

Position of Bush's Battery (Photo by the author)

Capt. Taylor recorded, “The guns of our battery were posted on an eminence to the left of us about 100 yards, Terrill ordered Col. Garrard to support it. We were moved hurriedly up the crest of the hill and marched alone, and nestled close in under the guns, many of the artillerars had been killed-the ground around was slippery with blood, and many a poor dark looking powder begrimed artillery man was laying stretched out upon the ground around us, torn and mutilated." As Garrard’s men got into position, down below the 1st Tennessee Infantry under the command of Colonel Field were getting ready to mount a second charge upon the hill. “I led the regiment up the hill alone, without any support, under heavy fire of musketry, driving the enemy back and taking his guns again,” reported Field. Sadly, in this intense exchange between Garrard’s men and Field’s regiment, Tennesseans fought Tennesseans with the 3rd Tennessee (US) fighting the 1st Tennessee (CS). Garrar’ds men ultimately fell back, likely due to being outnumbered, being low on ammunition, and fatigue. Capt. Taylor wrote, “We were driven from the guns and the battery a second time fell into the hands of the enemy as we fell back from the crest of the hill, drawing the caissons with us." As Garrard’s men fell back, help came from the 1st Wisconsin and the 79th Pennsylvania. Both regiments succeeded in driving back the Rebels. After carrying the caissons, possibly from Bush’s Guns, Garrard’s men reformed and moved back up to Starkweather’s hill. “The ground was almost hidden from the view by the forms of the dead, wounded and dying that lay thick upon it. Then I saw our Gallant brigadier Terrill with his coat off, sleeves rolled up and working one of the guns of the battery he stood there whirling the rammer of a field gun around his head and with it driving his cartridge and canister far back into the barrels of the cannon,” remembered Taylor. Not long after Taylor witnessed the event, Terrill was grievously wounded by a piece of shrapnel tearing into his left breast. [9]

Present day view of the last stand (Photo by the author)

After a few minutes, Starkweather’s men, along with Garrard’s boys, were forced from the Hill a final time. Starkweather’s force was heading to the next hill to the rear. Once there Garrard’s men fell in behind the stone wall that occupied the hill. Here the Federals made their last stand, firing at the oncoming Southerners. The fighting was so desperate that Capt. Taylor grabbed a musket and joined in the fight. Soon after the fight began once again he, "fell from the explosion of a shell within a few feet of me, knocking an Enfield rifle out of my hands which I was in the act of elevating: throwing me violently to the ground. I lay there stunned for a few moments, and as soon as I discovered the extent of my wound ran back to the nearest hospital about one mile to the rear.” With Taylor's wounding, First Lieutenant William K. Gray took command of the company.[10]

The clock now neared 5:00 P.M., and for Garrard’s battalion and the rest of the Federals in this sector, the battle was over. Garrard’s men went into the fight with 194 men and suffered two killed, 30 wounded, and eight missing - a 20 percent casualty rate. During the succeeding days, Garrard’s men moved back to Louisville where the detachment was disbanded. The 7th Kentucky and 3rd Tennessee both returned to their respective commands, but Taylor's Company experienced a different end. By the end of the Kentucky Heartland campaign Taylor's Company was a shadow of its former self. Plagued by the losses at Perryville, as well as desertions, only a few men were left-about 30. Lt. Gray decided to take what was left of the company, more than likely his recruits, and rejoined his original command in Company I of the 22nd Kentucky Infantry. Capt. Taylor subsequently resigned his commission in November. These men, Unionist Tennesseans, Eastern Kentuckians, and Bluegrass natives, certainly proved a vital asset in the Battle of Perryville, and like many who fought at Perryville should be remembered for their deeds and valor.[11]


[1] Noe Kenneth W., Perryville This Grand Havoc of battle. The University Kentucky Press,2001, pg.374; “Franklin Tri-weekly Commonwealth reported Lt. William K. Gray (22nd KY Inf) consolidated company with Capt. Robert B. Taylor (32nd KY Inf) only needed 13 more to make full company” Wright Steven L. “Kentucky Soldiers and Their Regiments in the Civil War” McDowell Publication 2009 pg. 115

[2] OR.16. pt.2, pg.423 Cornell University Library,, (Accessed 12 July 2021).

[3] OR,Vol.16 pt.1. 884-885 Cornell University Library, (Accessed 13 July 2021).

[4] OR, Vol.16 pt.1, pg.915-918 Cornell University (Accessed 13 July 2021); Tennessee & the Civil War. 3rd Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment. published November 27th 2016: last Modified September 30 2019, pra,4 13 July 2021).

[5] “Theophilus Toulmin Garrard” Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition. (Accessed 13 July 2021); Sam McDowell “East Tennessee History” McDowell Publication 1979 pg. B38,95,96; “Robert B. Taylor Diaries”. Kentucky Historical Society pg. 8-9 (Taylor mentions the battalion has 275 men on October 1st and lists the Captions: Taylor has on roster pg. 113 list of over 60 names) 13 July 2021); 3rd Tennessee. (roster); Perryville this Grand havoc of Battle, pg. 374

[6] Taylor Diaries, Kentucky Historical Society, pg.7 .(Accessed 14 July 2021); Perryville the Grand Havoc of Battle, pg. 184;188

[7] Noe , pg.204-205; OR. Vol.16 pt.1. pg.1060 Capt. Oldershaw report 14 July 2021); OR.Vol.16 pt.1 pg. 1062-1064 Capt. Anderson report (Accessed 14 July 2021); account from Logsdon David R. “Eyewitness at the Battle of Perryville” Kettle Mills Press.2007. pg.36

[8] Capt. Anderson report OR.Vol.16 pt.1 pg.1063 Cornell University (Accessed 14 July 2021); Logsdon, pg. 41-42

[9] Noe, pg. 250-259; Logsdon, pg. 56-58

[10] Noe, pg. 259-261; Taylor account Logsdon, pg. 59

[11] Noe, pg. 374 includes casualties; Taylor has 1 other killed in official roles “Taylor Diaries” pg. 113, 115 (Accessed 14 July 2021); Brig. Gen. G.W. Morgan report to Gen. Wright Oct. 12. 62 states Garrard’s men in Louisville, OR. Vol. 16 pt.2 pg. 609 (Accessed 14 July 2021); Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky Vol.2 pg.120-125 (22nd KY), shows over 33 men joining Company I of the 22nd KY in December 2nd, pg. 314-315 (32nd KY) shows 28 men, Grays recruits, Transferring to Co.I 22nd KY. Special thanks to Bryan Bush Park Manager PBSHS for information on 1st LT. William K. Gray.

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