PERRYVILLE — Kentucky's largest Civil War battlefield continues to get bigger.
On Tuesday the state accepted a 54-acre addition to Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site from the Civil War Preservation Trust, the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. That brings the total acreage of Perryville battlefield to 745 acres.
In addition, James Lighthizer, president of the preservation trust, said the organization is raising money for another 327 acres.
John Nau III, the chairman of the trust, said Perryville had only 17 or 19 acres when he first visited there in 1957 or 1958.
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"My hat's off to everyone who has been able to grow this park," Nau said. He called Perryville "an absolute jewel" because its vistas have remained relatively unchanged since the Civil War.
The preservation trust paid $156,679 for the 54-acre tract ceremonially donated Tuesday. The cost was partially offset by a federal grant for historic landscape protection.
The site marks where Confederate G. William J. Hardee launched an assault against the Union center. From the high ground, Capt. T.J. Stanford's Mississippi battery engaged in a lengthy artillery barrage with Gen. Don Carlos Buell's federal army.
More than 7,500 soldiers were killed or wounded in the Battle of Perryville in October 1862. The lack of a decisive Confederate victory meant Kentucky remained in Union hands for the rest of the war.
"Here in these fields ended the longest and most complex military operation ever undertaken by Confederate forces in the entire Civil War," said Kent Masterson Brown, a historian, Civil War author and Lexington attorney.
The preservation trust has preserved more than 29,000 acres of battlefield across the country, including 385 acres at Perryville.
The trust's annual conference starts Wednesday in Lexington and ends Sunday. Members will be touring various Civil War sites in Richmond, Camp Nelson and elsewhere.
The battlefield is an important tourism draw for Boyle County. Some 20,000 people paid admission to its museum last year, but the total number of visitors to the park may be four times that.