— The Battle for Kentucky October 8, 1862 —
After capturing Union Captain Samuel Harris' artillery battery, located behind you, Confederate troops led by Brigadier General St. John r. Liddell moved to this area to support other advancing Southern units.
Night was falling, and , as Liddell's men deployed, they fired upon a "dark line" of soldiers located in the fields in front of you. Cries of "You are firing upon friends; for God's sake stop!" echoed across the field. Liddell's men ceased fire, and Confederate Major General Leonidas Polk, second-in-command at Perryville, rode forward to investigate this possible instance of friendly fire.
Polk immediately encountered the colonel of the mysterious regiment and asked the officer why he was firing upon "his friends." The Colonel replied, "I don't think there can be any mistake about it. I am sure they are the enemy." "Enemy?" Polk huffed. "Why I have only just left them myself - cease firing, sir, what is your name sir?" "My name is Colonel (Squire Keith), of the (22nd Indiana), and pray sir, who are you?" Polk now realized the startling fact that he was behind enemy lines.
Determined to "brazen it out," Polk pretended to be a Union officer and rode down the enemy line, shouting for the Federal troops to cease fire. He then spurred his horse back to the Confederate position and ordered his men to attack. Polk said that the hundreds of muskets "blazed as one gun," and that "the slaughter of that Indiana regiment was the greatest I had ever seen in the war."
The casualties were horrific. Colonel Keith was killed, and the 22nd Indiana lost nearly seventy percent casualties (59 killed, 119 wounded, and 17 missing out of 300 soldiers). Polk's foray behind enemy lines and the volley that decimated the 22nd Indiana also ended the Battle of Perryville, for Polk refused to continue the attack.
"The Federal force had disappeared everywhere. The ground before my line was literally covered with the dead and dying."
Confederate Brigadier General St. John R. Liddell
(lower left) Private William J. Cole, Company F, 22nd Indiana. Cole was wounded in the left side, but survived the volley from Liddell's Brigade.
(center) Brig. Gen. St. John R. Liddell
(upper right) Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk (Marker Number 23