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PORTLAND, Ohio — Buffington Island Battlefield is the site of the only significant Civil War battle in Ohio.
On July 19, 1863, a Union force of 3,000 cavalry, artillery, infantry, and Navy personnel routed a column of 1,800 Confederate cavalry and artillery commanded by Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan.
From July 13 to 26, 1863, Morgan led a group of more than 2,000 men across southern Ohio. His mission: to distract and divert as many Union troops as possible from the action in Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee. Union forces under the command of Major General Ambrose Burnside gave chase.
It was at Buffington Island on the morning of July 19 that two Union cavalry columns led by brigadier generals Henry Judah and Edward Hobson, and two Union gunboats under Lieutenant Commander LeRoy Fitch, cornered Morgan and his men as the Confederates were trying to cross the Ohio River.
The two-hour battle resulted in 6 killed and 20 wounded on the Union side and 57 killed, 63 wounded, and 71 captured on the Confederate side. Throughout the day following the battle, Union militia and regular troops captured 570 Confederates who had fled the field.
The Union troops dealt a heavy blow to Morgan’s men and resources. But, despite losing nearly half his men and all of his artillery and supplies, Morgan escaped. Major Daniel McCook, patriarch of the fighting McCook family, was mortally wounded in the battle.
Morgan’s remaining raiders turned north, exhausted and desperate to find another place to cross. On July 26, near Salineville, in Columbiana County, Union cavalry under the command of Major W.B. Way defeated Morgan’s cavalrymen in a running fight, and later that day, Union Major G.W. Rue’s cavalry surrounded Morgan’s Raiders and succeeded in capturing General Morgan and the remnants of his command near West Point.
Morgan’s capture marked the end of Morgan’s Raid.
For more information on the Battle of Buffington Island visit Ohio History Central.
Buffington Island lies in the Ohio River a half mile downstream of the town of Portland, Ohio, and three miles upstream from Ravenswood, West Virginia.
On Nov. 25, 1797, Joel Buffington of Kanawha County, Virginia, purchased the 150-acre island from John Pearce Duvall of Mason County, Kentucky, for a total of five shillings. At that time, virgin timber covered most of the island.
Originally called Amberson’s Island or the Island of Duvol, by 1807 people most commonly referred to the island by its present name because of the Buffington family’s ownership.
Before the end of the Civil War, the island served as an Underground Railroad stop and as the lair for John Lockwood, Ohio’s last river pirate. Over the decades, Buffington Island has been used for agricultural and mining purposes.
In 1993, the whole island received protection as part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
This 4-acre memorial park is the site of the only significant Civil War battle on Ohio soil. 1/4 mile away is the spot where Major Daniel McCook, patriarch of the fighting McCook family, was mortally wounded in the Battle of Buffington Island. It is marked by a plaque.
The battlefield is near the bank of the Ohio River, not on the nearby island.
Average visit time: Allow 1+ hour.