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Ghost soldiers

The Battle of Perryville in Boyle County marked the bloodiest battle in Kentucky’s history. All told, an estimated 2,500 young men, both Confederate and Union soldiers, died as a result of the fighting on October 8, 1862.

“It was exceedingly violent,” notes Kurt Holman of Perryville, park manager of Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site and a member of Inter-County Energy Cooperative. “Most of the fighting happened in a short time frame, from 2 o’clock to about 6 in the afternoon.”

When the dust cleared and the battle was over, Union troops gathered their dead, taking them for a proper burial in regimental graves. Confederate soldiers were left where they fell. Later, hundreds were buried in a mass grave or in unknown, unmarked graves throughout the battlefield.

PERRYVILLE BATTLEFIELD holds a full weekend of events plus two re-enactments of the battle every year on the first weekend of October. www.perryvillebattlefield.org

As you glance over the rolling fields and trees blowing in the breeze on an autumn afternoon, it might be difficult to imagine all that took place here. Yet many say vivid echoes of the past remain, usually after the sun goes down, in the form of booming cannons, soldiers’ voices, flickering lanterns, phantom horses, and other ghostly occurrences.

“We’ve heard cannon fire down there,” explains Jennifer Kirkland of Harrodsburg, also a member of Inter-County Energy Cooperative. “We heard a phantom horse, kind of like it was going to gallop right upon us. It was so strong we were expecting a deer or something to burst out of the tree line, but it just vanished.”

Kirkland, who works with SHOCK (Spirit Hunters of Central Kentucky), has been involved in numerous investigations and paranormal tours on the property in recent years. She, like many others, describes much of the ghostly activity taking place at the Dye House, named for the family living there at the time. During the battle, the home was used as the headquarters of Confederate General Simon B. Buckner, then later as a hospital.

LIFE OF A SOLDIER tours provide visitors with the name of an actual soldier who served in the battle; they will be treated as a new recruit, taught to drill, and experience the life of a private. At the end of the approximately hour-long tour—held at various times throughout the weekend—visitors will open up a card and find out whether their soldier lived or died. It offers a more personal experience into the Battle of Perryville.

“There are blood stains upstairs,” notes Holman. “Apparently they used upstairs for surgery and downstairs for recovery.”

Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel has featured the Dye House in episodes on Perryville.

Kirkland’s group, which facilitates different types of paranormal tours for the park, has recorded audio inside, with members asking questions aloud.

“We’ll ask questions and often when we play them back, sometimes we get direct responses. We’ve asked before, ‘Who was your president?’ You know, during the time of the Civil War there were two presidents in our country and we’ve had the response, ‘Jefferson Davis.'”

Even though Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States of America in 1860, Jefferson Davis was elected president of the Confederate States of America in November 1861 and was considered the Southern states’ president.

Joni House of Perryville, a member of Inter-County Energy Cooperative, who serves as the preservation and program coordinator for the park, purposely tries to steer clear of the attention that comes with talk of ghost hunting out of respect for the young men whose lives were lost here.

“I try not to get caught up in the sensationalism because it bothers me greatly. But on the other hand, there’s no denying things happen and you cannot explain them.”

She says her experiences have often come in the morning when she’s in early before anyone else or late at night when others have gone home for the day.

“I’m in my office and I hear people talking to me and there’s nobody else in this building,” she says. “Or I come in here and see things that have happened in the museum. There’s no real explanation for why a mannequin’s head has been pulled off and is now in the middle of the floor.”

She no longer tries to rationalize or understand why it happens, she just accepts it.

“I’ve been on a lot of Civil War battlefields and in certain places you get this feeling, it just crawls up the back of your neck. I think that any place that this great expenditure of life happened, it leaves something there,” she says. “I don’t know what the big picture is or how exactly to explain it. People say, ‘Is the battlefield haunted?’ Yeah, I think it probably is.”

[content_band bg_color=”#CAD3E2″ border=”all”] [container] Tours of Perryville Mysteries
If you’d like more information on paranormal tours of the Perryville Battlefield, go to www.perryvillebattlefield.org or www.spirithunters-ky.com or call (859) 332-8631. [/container] [/content_band]

Photos: Jennifer Kirkland

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