City of Perryville
The historic City of Perryville is located among the rolling hills of western Boyle County astride the picturesque Chaplin River, pictured at left. The town's origins reach to the early Kentucky frontier, when James Harberson of Virginia established Harberson's Station at a cave and spring that provided protection and water for settlers during raids by Native American tribes that considered Kentucky their hunting grounds.
It was not until 1815 when the town of Perryville was laid out and named for Commander Oliver Hazard Perry, the naval hero of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. The Kentucky General Assembly subsequently incorporated the City of Perryville in 1817.
Perryville's growing prosperity in the 1830s gave rise to a commercial district at its heart along the west bank of the Chaplin River, facing today's US 68 or Buell Street, that became known as Merchants Row. Merchants Row is the oldest active commercial district in the United States, and it continues to be the focus of ongoing preservation and redevelopment efforts by Main Street Perryville, Inc., a Partner in the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership.
Perryville's most significant historic event occurred during the Civil War on October 8, 1862, when Confederate forces under the command of General Braxton Bragg unintentionally engaged with General Don Carlos Buell's Union troops, initiating the largest and bloodiest battle of the war to occur on Kentucky soil. The Battle of Perryville (or Chaplin Hills) has been called the high water mark of the Confederacy in the Western Theater of the war, but the tactical victory by the Union Army turned the tide of the Confederacy's fortunes in the West for the remainder of the conflict. Not only did sporadic fighting spread into Perryville's streets, the aftermath of the battle converted the village's churches, homes, and other structures into makeshift hospitals for wounded soldiers of the Blue and the Gray.
Today, the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site is considered by historians, buffs, and re-enactors as one of the most pristine Civil War battlefields in the nation, pictured at right. The unaltered landscape allows the visitor to experience the same landscape that contending brothers struggled to win on an unusually hot and dry day in Fall 1862.
Now home to Main Street Perryville, the restored Johnson-Brinton House on Merchants Row (located at 207 South Buell Street) is another landmark of the Battle of Perryville for a visitor to experience. Constructed about 1840, the house was damaged during the battle when a cannonball crashed through the roof and an interior door. After the clash of arms, the house was used a hospital. Today, the Johnson-Brinton House also houses a visitors center and a research library with an archive of local historical and genealogical records plus an extensive Civil War collection with many rare books.
Because the City of Perryville was literally part of the battlefield, the community has observed the significance of Kentucky's bloodiest battle for decades during the Perryville Commemoration each year on the first full weekend in October. In unison with the battlefield's state park, the community hosts a variety of events, re-enactments, and festival to remember the impact of the battle that left a lasting imprint on the town for over 150 years.
So much history has been made in Perryville from pioneers to present day, but you can still make your own history here . . . with a tour of the battlefield and museum, a stroll down Merchants Row to experience one of its unique shops, or even by relocating your home or business here to feel the fabric of small town Kentucky.
For more information about how you can be part of Perryville's history, contact Main Street Perryville.