Perryville affords opportunity to relive history, memories

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By Dave Taylor

This weekend I plan to travel back in time.

Although real time travel remains a product of science fiction, I plan to do the next best thing. Wife Cheryl and I and our granddaughter Elizabeth will make the trek to Perryville in Boyle County, Ky., for the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Civil War battle fought there on Oct. 8, 1862 (see story on Page 11).

To attend a Civil War reenactment is akin to erasing 150 years and seeing foes of period costume facing each other on the field of battle--the very ground where men from the northern and southern armies clashed resulting in thousands of casualties.

Adjacent to the battlefield is an array of tents erected by sutlers--merchants in period costume vending antique military accoutrements and weaponry, or modern replications of same.

Keeping your eyes from wandering to neighboring fields where thousands of automobiles, buses and trucks pulling horse trailers are located helps keep the mind focused on long ago. Focus away from the thousands of spectators in modern dress and concentrate on the soldiers, the horses and artillery pieces and it’s almost as if you have erased the modern era and have become engaged with the past.

I plan to make two of these imaginary trips in one this weekend. While I will be physically present as a 60-year-old history buff on a battle scene of 150 years ago, in my mind’s eye I will relive my first visit to this same field as a nine-year-old in the summer of 1961.

That summer the nation was commemorating the Civil War centennial. Boys found numerous items of interest in the toy sections of Sears Roebuck and Spiegel catalogs--Civil War playsets with a couple hundred plastic soldiers, horses, stone bridge, cannon, caissons and the like; Union and Confederate kepi hats, slides of Civil War photos for your ViewMaster.

My dad, the late Rev. Henry F. Taylor, was a history buff and his interest in the past rubbed off on me. As a youth Dad had known a number of old Civil War veterans and he had a special interest in that time period.

Dad promised me for several weeks during that summer of 1961 that he and I would take a little history trip through Kentucky. I was beside myself with excitement when the July day finally came to pile into his 1960 Chevy and head south.

We visited several sites in Frankfort, Henry Clay’s tomb in Lexington, Old Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg, Shaker Village, My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown and Lincoln’s Birthplace in Hodgenville. But the apogee of excitement came when we pulled into the battlefield park just outside the hamlet of Perryville.

We toured the tiny museum that was on the grounds at that time, then wandered over the battlefield, reading signs at points of interest and visiting the Confederate monument that stands on the gravesite of numerous southern soldiers, most of whom were buried by farmer Henry Bottom on whose land their blood had been shed.

I have been back to Perryville many times in the years since, including to one battle reenactment when my children were still living under our roof, and during every visit I find myself mentally in the same state of solemnity I felt as a child walking those hallowed grounds for the first time.

This weekend I’ll be thinking of those men of long ago, alright enough, but I’ll also be remembering of another man of the age of 54 walking that rolling terrain while imparting his love of the stories of many yesterdays gone by with a nine-year-old boy who still treasures the memory of a simple, inexpensive getaway during a very special time of father and son bonding.

Thanks, Dad! I miss you!