Topics: Immersive Learning, College of Sciences and Humanities

March 31, 2014

Battle of Perryville
Battle of Perryville

The largest and bloodiest Civil War battle fought in Kentucky, which left about 7,600 soldiers dead, wounded or missing, will come to life through a new app created by Ball State University students.

Visitors to Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, a 745-acre park in Boyle County, Ky., may use a mobile device to learn more about the Battle of Perryville — also known as the Battle of Chaplin Halls — a tactical victory for the North that was the Confederacy’s last serious attempt to gain possession of Kentucky.

“The amazing team of students really rose to the occasion to listen to the needs of the partners at the park in order to enhance visitors’ experience as they roam the battlefield,” said Ron Morris, a Ball State history professor who led the immersive learning experience. “The visitor will be able to really see that they are standing on the same spot where soldiers of both sides stood, fought and bled.”

The app provides first-hand accounts of the action, including the troop movements as well as a look at life through a soldier’s eyes. The battle unfolds with digital narratives and historical photographs as visitors travel the site.

“This app will give a better understanding of what happened here during the battle,” said Kurt Holman, manager of the historic site. “It will tell the story of not just the generals but will enhance the understanding of the experiences of the common soldiers.”

The app also reveals how local residents suffered during the battle on Oct. 8, 1862. During the fighting, homes were being used as battle hospitals and general’s headquarters. Some residents survived by digging a hole into the middle of their houses.

Students also provided detailed accounts of the days following the battle when farmers returned to their fields to find bodies strewn across the open countryside, said Zach Fivecoate, a Ball State senior.

"Producing a mobile app about one of the most important battles in the western theater of the Civil War was an amazing historical learning experience," he said. “Reading the blunt and direct quotes of the soldiers during the battle as well as those of local residents was a real learning experience.”

The Kentucky State Conservation Commission established the Perryville State Battlefield site in 1954. A museum and visitors center were opened near the monuments on the battle's 100th anniversary in 1962. As a state park, the Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site is managed by the Kentucky Department of Parks.

“We are always glad to partner with outside entities to make Perryville's history relevant to a broader audience,” said Chad House, president of the Friends of Perryville Battlefield. “This is an excellent way to bring the past into the future, and with this new app, we can offer another dimension to our visitors’ experiences. It gives students a real-world application and provides our visitors with a more satisfactory experience.”

Through the support of a Ball State Provost Immersive Learning Grant and the Friends of Perryville Battlefield, students were able to produce the app during their spring 2014 semester. The project was completed in cooperation with the university’s Building Better Communities Fellows and the Digital Corps.