GALLIPOLIS — Civil War and local history buffs of all ages flocked to Bossard Library this weekend to listen to author and historian Lester Horwitz.
Horwitz, a resident of the Cincinnati Ohio area, who, after more than a decade of research and an additional five years of writing, published “The Longest Raid of the Civil War” in 1999 — a work that was later nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in History.
During his presentation, Horwitz spoke of the history that has so readily maintained his interest for so many years and is the subject of his book — the raid of John Hunt Morgan.
Morgan (1825-1864) was a Confederate commander during the Civil War who lead his men on a 24-day, 1,000-mile journey through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio and into two battles at Corydon, Indiana, and locally at Buffington Island in Meigs County.
Morgan’s men entered Gallia County on July 17, 1863, and raided the Village of Vinton where they burned the bridge over Raccoon Creek after they pillaged the settlement.
The Rebels continued into Meigs County where they encountered approximately 8,000 Union Calvary troops at Buffington Island.
The Battle at Buffington Island, that occurred in the nearby settlement of Portland and not actually on the island at Buffington, is a less than well-known battle of the Civil War in Ohio, according to Horwitz, and Gallia Countians are lucky to be close enough to visit the still pristine battle site in their neighboring county.
“On the morning of Sunday, July 19, you had close to 10,000 men fighting in Ohio,” Horwitz said during the presentation. “Not too many Ohioans know about this battle — the battle of Buffington Island — they know about Gettysburg, but they don’t know about the actual battle going on here. You folks in Gallia County are so close to Meigs County and Buffington Island, but … folks in the rest of the state of Ohio don’t know anything about this battle.”
The battle, began at sun up and was over by noon when the last Confederate solider was captured , according to Horwitz.
Morgan was lucky enough to escape with approximately 1,000 of his men, while approximately 700 of the raiders surrendered to the Union force.
An additional 200-300 men escaped back into Gallia County and into Cheshire where they later surrendered near Coal Hill.
“They went through Gallia County on their way to Buffington Island and they went through Gallia County on their way away from Buffington Island, so they must have loved Gallia County,” Horwitz said sarcastically.
Horwitz also told the gathered audience that two of the most famous men to fight that day at Buffington were then Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, who later became the 19th president, and Lt. Williams McKinley, who later served as the 25th U.S. president.
Following his escape, Morgan continued northwest with his remaining men while be closely pursued by Union troops.
One week later, on July 26, 1863, they were captured just 70 miles south of Cleveland in Columbiana County near New Lisbon, Ohio.
Morgan was later housed in the Ohio Penitentiary near Columbus and, most famously, in late November of that year, he escaped from the prison along with his six of his officers by digging tunnels under their cells.
Morgan and his men boarded the first train to Cincinnati and later escaped into Kentucky and back into the south with the help of confederate sympathizers.
Following the longest raid of the Civil War, 4,375 Ohioans filed claims for damages by the Rebel force that swept through the state — claims totaling $500,000.
A total of 131 claims were filed in Gallia County totalling $18,000. Among the claims filed were five individuals who stated that they had feed the Confederate soldiers as they made their way through the county. Three of the five claims were from individuals living in the Porter area, including Calvin Hughes who asked for $6.25, payment for feeding 50 of the raiders; the remaining claims came from a resident of Vinton, who reportedly had to feed 200 raiders, and from a resident of the Cheshire area, George Knapp, who had to feed 22 of the Rebels and asked for $5.50.
The largest claim from Gallia County was filed by the county itself in the amount of $700 for the bridge over Raccoon Creek.
At the end of his presentation, Horwitz read from the epilogue of his book.
“Ohio and Indiana can well be grateful to John Hunt Morgan,” Horwitz read. “Had it not been for the audacity of that colorful Confederate Calvary commander, the Hoosier and Buckeye states would have not had any Civil War battlefields; Columbiana County would not have had the honor of being the high water mark of the confederacy’s penetration into the north; the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus would have been denied a tourist attraction and countless present day Ohioans and Hoosiers would have been deprived the opportunity to boast of an ancestral bed occupied by John Morgan.
“In my research I have found more people who have claimed that he ate in their home, held their children and slept in their bed in the two and half weeks he was in Indiana and Ohio than in all the homes that George Washington was supposed to have slept in during the entire American Revolution,” he read. “More than 6,570 Ohioans and Hoosiers went on record as having had Morgan pay them a house call.”
Horwitz is reportedly working on another book about the raid of John Hunt Morgan titled “After the Raid.”