Civil War Veterans in Portland Bottoms
Updated: May 20
There are several cemeteries in what is known as the Portland Bottoms, the flat area over which the Battle of Buffington Island took place (a more appropriate name for the battle would actually be Portland or Portland Bottoms since no fighting took place on the island). Separated by less than a mile, two of the Portland area cemeteries, Middleswart and Browning, are the final resting places for several Civil War veterans. Both cemeteries were in existence in July 1863 but neither are mentioned in any accounts of the battle. Middleswart, being on the high ground west of the valley floor, was the site of a Federal artillery position (at least one gun from Battery L, First Michigan Light Artillery Regiment, was posted in the area). In the winter some nice views of the bottoms can be had from the Middleswart Cemetery. If you venture to Middleswart be aware that the lane can be tricky to navigate during wet weather due to some washout areas.
Back to the veterans - Using several sources (the 1850 and 1860 United States Census, the 1890 Veterans and Widows Census, and various other sources), I have identified a dozen Civil War soldiers within Middleswart, and another twenty-one Civil War veterans buried in Browning. Family names that still resonate within the Portland Bottoms area can be found in both cemeteries, such as Price and Williamson. While one would expect these veterans to have served in Ohio units (and many of them did, with the late war 193rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment being the most prevalent*), many of them had served in Federal Virginia units, later designated during the war as West Virginia, with the Fourth and Ninth Virginia Infantry Regiments being the most represented. One man, a John Henry Grim, whose grave in Browning Cemetery is marked with a Grand Army of the Republic marker indicating his Civil War service, has been a puzzle as I have been unable to determine his unit. Another man, Sergeant Lyman S. White, would be killed in battle at Winchester, Virginia, on July 24th, 1864, and is buried in Middleswart (see picture to the right). Joshua M. Howard would die during the war of small pox in St. Louis on March 7th, 1864. Both White and Howard served in the Fourth (West) Virginia Infantry, a unit in which many men from Ohio served, and one that saw hard service during the war, particularly in the Vicksburg campaign. Yet another veteran, Elijah Browning, who would serve in the 193rd Ohio Infantry, died of disease at Harpers Ferry, Virginia on April 29, 1865, the shooting war, for all intents and purposes, being over.
Most of the veterans buried in these two cemeteries would live into the early 1900s, including one Newberry W. Wheeler. The thirty-two year old Wheeler had enlisted as private in Company H of the Twenty-Second Ohio Infantry, a three months regiment (his first name appears on the roster of the Twenty-Second as Newbury). When his term of service with the Twenty-Second Ohio was fulfilled, Wheeler would enlist again on September 9, 1861, this time as a private in the First Virginia Cavalry (U. S. A.). He would be promoted to first lieutenant on November 18, 1861, then to captain on August 20, 1863, until finally mustering out of the regiment as the regiment's major on July 8, 1865. The First Virginia saw service at places like McDowell, Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, and Appomattox Courthouse. Newberry's younger brothers Samuel and James also served in the First Virginia Cavalry, while two other brothers, Thomas and Joseph, served the Confederacy in the Twenty-Second Virginia Infantry Regiment (a unit from the Kanawha Valley that would see service at Fort Donelson before returning to western Virginia). One final Wheeler brother, Alexander, might have had Civil War service as well (there are Alexander Wheelers who served both in West Virginia and Virginia units making this brother a bit tough to pinpoint).
The Allen Family had three men serve during the war: father James along with sons Thomas and Harkiens. They all rest in Middleswart Cemetery. James and Harkiens served in the Ninth Virginia Infantry Regiment, while Thomas would join the aforementioned 193rd Ohio Infantry.
UPDATE 5/20/2023 - Further research has led to an increased number of veterans in the two cemeteries. Those listed in red are possible veterans, but cannot be completely confirmed.
While some of the men listed above have "traditional" veteran gravestones, many do not. This is an important reminder when doing your own cemetery visiting - the stones do not always indicate military service and hence a deeper dive is sometimes needed.
* The 193rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment was organized at Camp Chase in March, 1865, to serve for one year, and immediately after its organization started for the Shenandoah Valley. It moved from Harper's Ferry to Halltown and Charlestown, and at the latter place was partly organized with other regiments into brigades and divisions. From Charlestown it marched up the Shenandoah Valley to Winchester, where it remained until after the surrender of the Confederate armies. It was mustered out of service on Aug. 4, 1865, in accordance with orders from the war department.
- Source: The Union Army, Volume 2