PORTLAND — A living history telling the story of the life and times of Civil War soldiers was a highlight of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Buffington Island held at the Memorial Park in Portland over the weekend.
In addition to the camp sites of the Confederate and Union soldiers where visitors got a glimpse of the lifestyle experienced by soldiers in war times, there were wagon tours of the battlefield with a narrator from the Ohio Historical Society on board. As they traveled along he related the history of the encounter of the Confederate soldiers with massive Union forces near the Ohio River and being pushed back to land where they were defeated and surrendered.
A memorial to the over 100 men lost in that battle was conducted by the Sons of Union Veterans reenactors as a part of the sesquicentennial celebration. There was also a special tribute to Union Major Daniel McCook who died in that battle held by the Ohio Commandery Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. He was remembered by the Ohio Historical Society with a monument many years ago.
On display in the Portland Community Center museum were the rifle used by Major McCook along with two flags which flew over Buffington Island during that 1863 raid. They are part of the permanent Civil War collection of the Ohio Historical Society and were brought in especially for the observance.
The event was planned by the Ohio Historical Society with imput from local organizations and attracted visitors from all over Ohio with several from other states, including David Holmes of Marietta, Ga., a direct descendant of Major McCook, who came for the rededication of the McCook monument.
The opening ceremony for the observance was conducted by Glenda Greenwood, Ohio Historical Society Board president. Her challenge to the large crowd attending was to ” learn from history so that mistakes of the past will not be repeated.” She gave a tribute to the Civil War reenactors who are “keeping the story alive” and challenged her listeners to “never take our freedom for granted.”
She commended Edd Sharp of the History Preservation Committee for his dedication to the development of the Heritage Trail which marks the route Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his men took in their effort to reach the Ohio River and cross over into Virginia (West Virginia) which was friendly to the Southern cause.It was at that Portland site that the fatal encounter between the North and the South occurred.
Scott Britton, one of the reenactors, gave a descriptive picture of that encounter of Morgan’s troops with the Union gunboats which blocked the Ohio River crossing, and drove them inland where they were surrounded and then surrendered. He told of the escape of Morgan and some of his men and their eventual capture. “”Many served and sacrificed for us. Today we stand on hallowed ground. May we remain ever vigilant and may God continue to bless our nation,” he concluded.
Fred Lynch of the Sons of Union Veterans and the Ohio Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, emphasized the importance of Ohio’s contribution, and the battle where many served and sacrificed to preserve the Union. He described the Buffington Island Battlefield Memorial Park as a “place to be revered.” In 1865 when the war ended 300,000 boys came home. “They are credited with saving and making possible the United States of America,” Lynch commented.
Edd Sharp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans described the Heritage Trail as a 17 year project .He said for him and others it became a “labor of love” which required extensive research to acquire accurate information, to complete the design of each one of the large markers for the 557 miles Morgan and his men traveled in their quest to reach a crossing point on the Ohio River.
Joy Padgett, formerly a State Senator, spoke on behalf of Governor John Kasich. She described the observance as a “a day for remembering,” and presented a proclamation from the governor to Greenwood who then on behalf of Senator Lou Gentile, presented a citation from the Ohio Senate.
Debbie Phillips of the Ohio House of Representatives, spoke on the significance of the observance and the importance of efforts to build a more perfect Union. In conclusion.she presented a plaque to go to the Meigs County Historical Society.
In remarks from the Meigs County Commissioners, President Tim Ihle commented on lessons learned from the Battle of Buffington Island and the importance of a united country, then concluded by saying that in America today “all is not well.”
At the conclusion of the opening ceremony, the reenactors led by Jim Oiler and Scott Britton, marched to the large Civil War monument for the annual memorial service in remembrance of those who died in the Battle of Buffington Island.
Oiler Introduced Jonathan Davis, commander of the Ohio Department of the Sons of Union Veterans spoke briefly and was followed with comments from Jean Hilton of the Ladies of the Grand Army, presenting flowers in remembrance of two living daughters of the organization.
A dozen or so wreaths from various patriotic organizations were placed at the monument. Following the benediction, there was a gun salute to conclude the ceremony. Standing with the soldiers but not participating in the gun salute, were a group of Ohio and Michigan men called “Squirrel Hunters,” members of the Ohio Civilian Militia who came especially to participate in the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Buffington Island.