Portion of battlefield’s historic fencing replaced by volunteers, non-profit group

Published 7:40 am Wednesday, April 18, 2018

When the Battle of Perryville took place in October of 1862, local landowners and farmers had their rolling hills covered in native grasses and crops sectioned off with simple rock and split-rail fences. And with hours of meticulous research, hard physical labor and generous gifts, Friends of Perryville Battlefield are attempting to replace that fencing, keeping it as authentic as possible. 

Micah Trent, vice president of the non-profit group, said it continuously raises money for projects to help maintain the park’s natural spaces. This includes planting native grasses, which benefits wildlife and filters ground water. Funds are also used to purchase adjacent countryside to expand the park.

(Photo by Robin Hart) At left, board member Derek Gastineau discusses how to lay the split rail fence with volunteer Chad Wrinn.

Email newsletter signup

The fencing, however, is probably one of the most eye-catching on-going projects inside the park. 

On Saturday, about 12 volunteers — including one from out of state — and members of the organization replaced a section of the fence with $10,000 worth of 10-foot cedar rails, delivered from a West Virginia company. 

The fencing not only demonstrates to visitors what the Civil War soldiers saw on the battlefield, it’s useful when following a map of the area, Trent said.

The section of fence workers were replacing on Saturday was “Maney’s Ridge,” Trent said. He said letters and maps soldiers wrote describing the lay of the land and placement of fences have been researched. They know soldiers named the sections, so a man named Maney must have been at that location, Trent said. “And that’s the name that stuck. It’s been here for 150 years.”

Chad Greene, president of the organization, said the fences define the park’s spaces and gives it “an interpretive value.” They help park visitors and historians get a feel of what it was like for the Confederates and Rebels to come across these barriers, Greene said.

The organization purchases a semi-truck load of rails periodically, which costs about $10,000, Trent said. Then the labor is all volunteer, Greene said.

“Perryville is known world wide. It’s the Gettysburg of the West,”Greene said.

Even though the organization accepts donations and works to raise funds, the passionate Perryville Civil War history buffs enjoy working in the park. For them, actually doing the work is more enjoyable than fundraising. 

Greene said, “It’s more about getting our hands dirty than the money.”

For more information about the organization, visit friendsofperryville.org

(Photo by Robin Hart) When older rails were removed on Saturday, Chad Greene takes a load over the hill to be used later.

(Photo by Robin Hart) Several members of the organization Friends of Perryville Battlefield, work together on Maney’s Ridge Saturday morning. Rotted rails had been replaced with new ones while older rails that were still in good shape were used at the cross rails.

(Photo by Robin Hart) Shane Ollice, of Somerset, carries a useable old rail.