Though the Seven Days Battles, which ended in July 1862, was more or less a tactical stalemate, General Robert E. Lee failed to push the Union armies of General George McClellan out of Virginia, and his armies were still dangerously close to the Confederate capital of Richmond. The Union army was getting reinforcements in the form of General John Pope’s army. On the Western front of the War the Union faced a majority of success and had pushed deep into Confederate territory as well as capturing key Confederate cities, such as New Orleans. However, because George McClellan failed to push deeper against Lee’s troops toward Richmond, Abraham Lincoln replaced him with General Henry Halleck as the top general in the Union Armies. Despite this change of leadership, the Union armies were still in a great position against the Confederate armies.
In order to punish the Confederates force their secession, and thinking that the Union was close to winning and ending the war, Abraham Lincoln was preparing two orders that would be known as the Emancipation Proclamation. To give this address and the two executive orders, Lincoln wanted to present them after a resounding Union victory to heighten morale of the Union and deepen the depression of Confederates. To prevent that resounding Confederate defeat, their armies marched into Kentucky in late August led by Confederate Braxton Bragg. Bragg attempted to recruit citizens in Kentucky to the Confederate army as well as gathering supplies such as food for his army, which had been suffering up until that point in the war.
Edmund Smith, a Confederate commander, also marched into Kentucky with a smaller force than that of Bragg. Smith captured a Union fort at Richmond, Kentucky, in late August as he began his march into Kentucky successfully. Bragg as well was successful in defeating the Union Army in mid-September as he threatened the capital of Tennessee, Nashville. Instead of being attacked by Union General Buell, which Bragg counted on as he waited in Munfordville, Kentucky, Buell marched to Louisville. From here, in October, Buell moved towards Munfordville, where they fought in Perryville, Kentucky. On October 8 both Union and Confederates met in battle in a large-scale battle. As the fighting was ended by the absence of daylight, the Confederates seemed to be gaining force against the Union army.
Despite Confederate success against the Union army in Perryville, Bragg would eventually retreat. He would desert Perryville and retreat and combine his force with the smaller forces of Edmund Smith. From here, the two retreated all the way out of Kentucky, abandoning the campaign that had been going well up to and even including the battle taking place at Perryville, though Bragg had a distorted vision of the perceived success during the battle. Because of his retreat, Bragg failed to “liberate” Kentucky and recruit citizens to the Confederate army as well as failing to march on toward Tennessee to attack and retake Nashville. Bragg also failed to secure any supplies or even any lines to get supplies to his army outside of Kentucky. All-in-all, what would have been a successful liberating of Confederate lands by Bragg turned awry because he perceived a defeat in his success and retreated.
Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones – “How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War”