03 July 2008 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 5 comments

The other day, I received a letter that informed me that the Nominating Committee of the newly-formed Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation had chosen me for a three-year term as one of the founding voting trustees of the Foundation. Given that I wasn’t even aware that the Foundation had been formed, it came as quite a wonderful surprise, and I immediately accepted the invitation.

The Foundation is apparently an arm of the Ohio Historical Society, as the letter came in an OHS envelope, and as the Foundation will be maintaining its office at the OHS facility here in Columbus. OHS owns a miserable little four acre parcel of land on the battlefield that features a reproduction of an Indian burial mound, a monument to the battle, and a couple of interpretive markers, and that’s all of the battlefield that’s been preserved. The rest of the battlefield is in private hands, and a big chunk of it is owned (and has been so owned for decades) by a sand and gravel company that has been working on getting the necessary permits to dig up the battlefield for years.

Buffington Island is an interesting fight for a lot of reasons. First, and foremost, it’s Ohio’s only significant Civil War battlefield. For another, two future U.S. Presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley were present at the battle. Also, nearly 5,000 cavalrymen slugged it out here on a large and fluid battlefield that led to the surrender of a significant portion of John Hunt Morgan’s command, including his brother-in-law, Col. Basil W. Duke. Next, there was significant involvement by the U.S. Navy’s Mississippi Squadron in the form of several river gunboats that helped to block the Ohio River fords and make it impossible for Morgan to cross. Finally, more than 100 men were killed in this battle, and approximately 50 Confederate dead remain buried on the battlefield in unmarked graves.

I’ve been involved in the fight to try to preserve this battle for more than a decade, since the sand and gravel company first got serious about getting permits. Here’s a link to a piece on the battle that I wrote years ago (you can get a sense of how old it is by the fact that George Voinovich was still Governor of Ohio and John Glenn was still in the Senate). It’s short and not my best work, but it gives a sense of the battle and preservation fight.

From my perspective, I’m not only honored to have been selected, I’m tickled that some semi-official body associated with the State of Ohio has finally decided to get on board with the idea of preserving this State’s only significant Civil War battlefield. My frustration with the utter lack of any concern about the upcoming sesquicentennial of the Civil War has already been documented here, so I’m hoping that the fact that OHS is involved means that somebody will actually pay attention this time.

I will keep you posted of our progress as the organization begins to coalesce. I’m guessing that our first board meeting will be held in the next sixty days, so I will report back then.

Scridb filter


  1. Thu 03rd Jul 2008 at 1:44 pm


  2. Steve H
    Fri 04th Jul 2008 at 8:28 am

    Congratulations. Disturbing the burial sites of the Confederate dead would be tragic.

    Morgan’s raid has been of interest to me in part because there was a brief skirmish in my home county
    (Guernsey) in the town of Old Washington, Ohio. There is one Confederate grave located there to my knowledge. This would be a little less than 2 hours southwest of Columbiana County by today’s travel where the final capture took place.

    Also, I have read accounts that Morgan came close to being shot by a lady whose house he entered near Cambridge, the county seat. I don’t know about the historical accuracy of this, but for some reason she allegedly had a gun but decided not to pull the trigger.

    Good luck with your new endeavor.

  3. Mike Peters
    Fri 04th Jul 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Congrats Eric! Let’s hope we can save what remains of Ohio’s lone battlefield. However, I am still somewhat skeptical.

    And this post brings back some very fond memories of a “Cavfest tour.”


  4. Randy Sauls
    Fri 04th Jul 2008 at 4:46 pm

    That’s great news Eric. I’m sure the battlefield will benefit by having your insight and assistance and I wish the Foundation good luck in fending off the development pressures.


  5. Sat 12th Jul 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Now if only Ohio could see to it to give Rutherford Hayes’ birthplace in a little respect. A few years ago they let his homestead be torn down in order to build a gas station. Tell Ohio to show some respect for our nations greatest soldier-president!

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