Why is the Buffington Island battlefield important to all Americans?
The Battle of Buffington Island, fought on July 19, 1863, was the largest Civil War battle fought north of the Ohio River. The battle had more men engaged (approximately 4,800 men) and more combined casualties (146 men killed and wounded) than any other armed contest from the Civil War in the Eastern Midwest States. It was the pinnacle of General John Hunt Morgan’s Great Raid, or Indiana-Ohio Raid, a three-week effort that occupied nearly 130,000 Union soldiers and sailors. The Union victory at Buffington Island essentially destroyed the effectiveness of Morgan’s once-feared Confederate cavalry force. The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission of the National Park System has listed Buffington Island as one of the 384 battlefields that should be preserved from among the 10,500 Civil War armed conflict sites (see Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report). The study of Buffington Island Battlefield is important to students in order to know Ohio’s reaction to an invader on its soil, and how its citizens and soldiers worked together to bring defeat to their enemies. The American Civil War defines much of who we are as Americans today. The Buffington Island Battlefield can serve as a unique, physical destination where people, young and old, can come to understand the impact of the Civil War on our state and national history.
In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls… generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls. - Joshua Chamberlain
Why is the Buffington Island battlefield important for the economy of Meigs County and Ohio? Heritage tourism is clean development that does not require huge infrastructure costs to the local citizens. Heritage tourists typically stay longer at a destination, spending more money at local businesses, including on meals and lodging. This increases state and local tax revenue. Battlefield parks also are known to boost property values. A 2013 American Battlefield Trust economic impact study of battlefield parks confirms these benefits. Buffington Island is the largest Civil War battle ever fought in the Eastern Midwest states, which makes it a draw for history-goers from that region. It is also the largest Civil War battlefield in the Upper Ohio Valley, which will lure history-minded tourists from western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In addition, with Buffington Island Battlefield being a major site along the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail, the battlefield offers a greater national appeal.
More information will be forthcoming on preserving the battlefield. It is an important site locally for Meigs County, for the state of Ohio, and for the nation. Participating, attending, or volunteering with the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation helps with educating the public and bringing awareness to the rich history and the need to protect the battlefield.