PORTLAND — The Union and Confederate soldiers came face to face last Sunday to reenact the only battle of the Civil War to be fought on Ohio soil.
In July 1863, Gen. John Hunt Morgan led Confederate troops through Ohio as part of what became known as Morgan’s Raid, with the key battle taking place at Buffington Island in eastern Meigs County near Portland.
In that battle, an estimated 1,800 Confederate soldiers and 3,000 Union soldiers battled where Morgan had planned to cross the Ohio River back into West Virginia. The battled ended with Morgan turning back into Ohio, being captured days later near East Liverpool.
The reenactment took place on Friday with the invasion of Chester, followed by two days of reenactment at Buffington Island. In addition to the reenactments, speakers were held each day to provide perspectives of the events of the time surrounding the battle. Civil War dances were also held, along with a memorial service.
According to previous Sentinel reports, at the end of the battle, on the Confederate side 57 were killed, 63 wounded and 71 captured, with only six killed on the Union side and 20 Union soldiers injured. In addition to those Confederate soldiers captured in battle, 450 additional Confederate solders were captured off the battlefield along the West Virginia shore of the Ohio River or off the battlefield in eastern Meigs County.
Morgan began his famous raid by hand-picking nearly 2,500 Confederate cavalrymen and artillerymen and set off from Sparta, Tenn., on June 11, 1863. Morgan’s intent was to divert forces away from the Rebel armies gathered in the west and interrupt Union communications everywhere he went. He and his men conducted a number of raids and small skirmishes on tows and garrisons in a ride that would take them more that 1,000 miles in 46 days.
On July 2, 1863, while two armies were battling in the hills surrounding Gettysburg and two other armies were engaged at Vicksburg, Morgan’s raiders entered Kentucky and headed north toward Louisville. On July 8, Morgan crossed the Ohio River in to Indiana at Brandenbrug, Ky., near Cincinnati.
Along the way, these men raided towns, stores and private homes, stole much-needed horses to replace their worn-out ones and caused great anxiety among the citizens around the state. As he continued north and east across the state, he encountered more and more militia and regular townspeople who began to harass his force and make life difficult.
On July 18, 1863, after a long day of fighting with various Meigs County militias and citizens, Morgan arrived at Buffington Island with intention of using the ford back to friendlier territory. Worn out from a hard day of riding and fighting, Morgan decided to rest and take on the militia the next morning which allowed Gen. Judah’s pursuing forces to catch up to Morgan and the battle began at approximately 6 a.m. July 19, 1863.
Fighting raged across the fields along the river for most of the day, but as Morgan began to cross the river, the Union gunboats Moose and Allegheny Belle shelled the Confederates and prevented their crossing. As more Union forces arrived, Morgan was finally surrounded and ordered to surrender.
At about 3 p.m., Gen. Shackleford granted Morgan one hour to surrender, but they used that time to fortify their position instead. The battle continued until nightfall when, Morgan, along with about 400 men, escaped while the rest of his force surrendered.
Morgan attempted to cross the river again between Reedsville and Hockingport and was again met by Union forces. Morgan then moved north, and was captured on July 26, 1863.