Visiting the Battlefield
Updated: Jan 8
We are often asked about visiting the Buffington Island battlefield, so we thought we would put together a "visitor's guide" of sorts to refer folks to when they have questions.
The Buffington Island battlefield itself is not on an island, the action was fought over 1,200 acres of land in what is known as the Portland Bottoms, the battlefield being roughly two miles in length (south to north) and one mile in width. The Buffington Island Battlefield Memorial Park only represents a tiny portion of the battlefield (four acres). We (the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation) are not the owners or managers of the Buffington Island Battlefield Memorial Park. The property is owned by the State of Ohio, and the Ohio History Connection is in charge of the property.
We are also not the folks who run the nearby Portland Civil War Museum. The museum is managed by our friends at the Portland Community Center.
And finally, while the Foundation hosted the 2016 reenactment, we are not looking to do such an event ourselves in the future. Most of the effort in 2016 fell upon a few individuals and it is just too much for a small organization such as ours to host.
Before Making Your Visit:
Before visiting the battlefield, consider reading a bit about the battle to familiarize yourself with the story and those who were involved with this battle. We highly recommend David L. Mowery's Morgan's Great Raid: The Remarkable Expedition from Kentucky to Ohio (History Press, 2013). Looking to drive a bit of the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail on your route to the battlefield? Mr. Mowery teamed up with Lora Schmidt Cahill to provide a detailed turn by turn guide, entitled Morgan's Raid Across Ohio: The Civil War Guidebook of the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail (Ohio Historical Society, 2014). There are also other titles related to the raid and the the battle, including Lester V. Horwitz's The Longest Raid of the Civil War: Little-Known & Untold Stories of Morgan's Raid into Kentucky, Indiana & Ohio (Farmcourt, 1999). Having some knowledge of the raid and the battle will enhance your visit to Buffington Island.
Looking for something about John H. Morgan? The best biography of the Confederate commander is still James A. Ramage's Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan (University of Kentucky Press, 1986).
Located in the eastern portion of Meigs County, the battlefield lies along both sides of Ohio State Route 124, a designated Ohio Scenic Byway. The battlefield is a manageable daytrip from several major cities:
Cincinnati - Three hours using a combination of the Appalachian Highway (Ohio State Route 32) and Ohio State Route 124.
Charleston - One hour using Interstate 77, U. S. 33, and Ohio 124.
Cleveland - Three and a half hours using Interstate 77, U. S. 33, and Ohio 124.
Columbus - Two hours using U. S. 33 and Ohio 124.
Lexington - Three and a half hours using Interstate 64, West Virginia State Route 2, U. S. 33, and Ohio 124.
Pittsburgh - Three and a quarter hours using Interstates 79, 70, and 77, U. S. 33, and Ohio 124.
Wheeling - Two and a quarter hours using Interstates 70 and 77, U. S. 33, and Ohio 124.
What to See:
Now that you have arrived, what is there to take in? In the memorial park there are several historical markers and interpretive panels. Most of the markers are related to the battle, but there are a few that are not. The interpretive kiosk is a newer addition to the park, and provides a fairly comprehensive overview of the Great Raid. The park also has a monument that commemorates the battle, the death of Major Daniel McCook, the family that donated the land for the memorial park, and the Moundbuilder culture that created the small mound that is within the park's boundaries. There is another small monument dedicated to those who helped to form the park to preserve the mound as well.
The park has a picnic pavilion and primitive toilets. There is no water available in the park.
While you are at the park's kiosk, be certain to pick up a copy of the driving tour brochure and our contact card that should be available. The driving tour consists of nine stops, many that have interpretive panels, to provide you with a more enhanced understanding of the movements of troops and the actions that took place at each stop.
Plan on spending an hour or two visiting the area, especially if you take the driving tour. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the roads used on the tour are not paved and so during periods of wet weather might have large puddles to navigate.
Lodging & Dining:
While we are not travel agents, using the power of the World Wide Web, we have selected some of the highest rated places to stay and dine within the region (and yes, we have sampled of few of the restaurants as we enjoy a cold draught and a bite after an event). Of course the are numerous choices depending on how close one wants to be to the battlefield.
Ravenswood, West Virginia (9 miles)
Las Fajitas Mexican Grill
The Dawg Pound
Racine, Ohio (11.7 miles)
Sikorski's Family Restaurant
Chester, Ohio (15.9 miles)
Ripley, West Virginia (20.1 miles)
Holiday Inn Express and Suites
Pete's Hot Dogs
Super 8 by Wyndham
Pomeroy, Ohio (21.5 miles)
Fox's Pizza Den
River Roasters Coffee Company
Middleport, Ohio (26.1 miles)
Millie's Restaurant and Bakery
Parkersburg, West Virginia (34.2 miles)
Cheryl's Country Diner
Hampton Inn & Suites
Holiday Inn Express & Suites
Los Trancas Mexican Cantina
Mary's B's Diner
Sleep Inn & Suites
The Root Beer Shack
Towne Place Suites by Marriot
Wingate by Wyndham
Mineral Wells, West Virginia (36.3 miles)
Holiday Inn Express
Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham
Athens, Ohio (40.3 miles)
Ciro Italian Kitchen & Bar
Jackie O's Public House Restaurant
O'Betty's Red Hot
Super 8 by Wyndham
Union Street Diner
Gallipolis, Ohio (41.4 miles)
Five Rivers Indian Cuisine
Remo's Italian Hot Dogs
Super 8 by Wyndham
Travelodge by Wyndham
Tuscany Italian Restaurant
Zack & Scotty's
And, if you need fuel (vehicle or human), try the Roadside Hot Spot at the intersection of U. S. 33 and Ohio 124, just 4.5 miles from the state memorial park.