Hayes & the Civil War
Part III: The Battle of Buffington Island
Hayes called his years of military service during the Civil War the best years of his life. This now six-part series in honor of his birthday will visit four locations associated with Hayes’ service to the Union.
The Battle of Buffington Island, Ohio, took place on July 19, 1863, and is the only major battle of the Civil War fought in Ohio. Here three future Presidents: Hayes, Garfield, and McKinley were sent to capture John Morgan’s raiders. At the Battle of Buffington Island (not really an island but located on Ohio soil across from the island in the Ohio River), 3,000 Union men found and fought with 1,700 Morgan’s Raiders. It was a clear Union victory but as gunboats also patrolled the Ohio River, Morgan and about 400 men escaped during the night.
Hayes wrote in his diary, online at the Hayes Presidential Center, following the battle: “. . . We got over two hundred prisoners. Everybody got some. No fight in them. The most successful and jolly little campaign we ever had.” Hayes and his men went back to West Virginia after the battle while others pursued Morgan. Morgan was captured shortly after on July 26, 1863, in Salineville, Ohio.
For a full summary of the battle from the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program, click here.
The Battle of Buffington Island State Memorial is a four acre park in Portland, Ohio commemorating the battle. It includes a stone monument and a series of markers, giving details of the battle. In the park is also an Indian mound. I was there on a rainy Labor Day.
South of the memorial is also a marker in honor of Major Daniel McCook, of the Fighting McCook’s from Carrolton, Ohio. The patriarch of one side of the McCook family (his brother John the other), Daniel was 65(!) when he died in the Battle of Buffington Island. This marker notes the approximate site where he was killed. He is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery along with other family members including sons and nephews.
McCook plaque at the Buffington Island State Memorial
A study was done by Gray & Pape for the State of Ohio to investigate the preservation of additional land and improvements to publicly held land around the Portland, OH area related to the battle. Read the report here.
Parts IV & V: The Battle of Second Kernstown and Battle of Third Winchester
Raise the Rutherford! is a continuing, slightly humorous series to raise awareness of Rutherford B. Hayes and erect a statue of him in Cincinnati.
The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center
Including the Dairy and Letters of Rutherford B. Hayes
National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program
Ohio Historical Society - Battle of Buffington Island State Memorial
The Fighting McCook’s, Ohio History Central
The Battle of Buffington Island, Ohio History Central