POMEROY — A Civil War exhibit in place at the Campus Martius Museum in Marietta is sure to be of special interest to Meigs Countians and other regional history buffs since that war’s only battle fought on Ohio soil took place in July 1863 at Buffington Island in the Portland community of Meigs County.
That exhibit marks the beginning of a number of events planned for the sesquicentennial observance of the Civil War.
The exhibit is titled “Touched by Conflict: Southeastern Ohio and the Civil War.” It will remain on display through 2015 and is a cooperative venture between the Ohio Historical Society, the Friends of the Museums which manages Campus Martius Marietta Museum, Marietta College and private Civil War collector and Ohioan Larry Strayer.
Using artifacts and contemporary accounts, the display focuses on southeastern Ohio and explores events in the state leading up to the Civil War, including local support of the war effort, recruitment, service in various campaigns, and the personal lives of officers and private soldiers as they performed in numerous campaigns with various army corps.
Many of the objects in the exhibit come from the collection of Strayer, one of the foremost collectors of Civil War photographs in the United States. Some of the unique objects on display in the exhibit include:
The only known photograph of the U.S.S. Moose, a Union vessel that played a key role in the Battle of Buffington Island during Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s Raid through Ohio in 1863;
The restored flag of the 14th Corps commanded by B. D. Fearing. Fearing entered the war as a private and advanced to the position of Brigadier General by the war’s conclusion. Funding to restore this flag was made possible through the development of the exhibit and the efforts of Marietta College;
A rare photograph of Fearing’s house with Fearing and the 14th Corp flag in the photograph.
Included in the Museum’s Civil War exhibit is a detailed diorama of the battle of Gettysburg, designed to make the experience of battle understandable for children.
In conjunction with the exhibit, Campus Martius is sponsoring a number of related events.
It holds a Civil War roundtable on the third Thursday of every month. Campus Martius is also planning a symposium on southeastern Ohio’s involvement in Morgan’s Raid. Also in the planning stage is a two-day field trip to Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Md. Nov. 3 and 4, which will include Civil War experts and numerous battle-related stops throughout the two days. For information about events taking place at Campus Martius, call 740-373-3750.
Over the past several years, the Ohio Historical Society has collaborated with the Meigs County Historical Society, the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation, the Ohio Civil War Trail Commission, and the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program to raise awareness of the Buffington Island battle. Since that battle occurred in July of 1863 July of 2013 will be special time for recognizing Meigs County’s role as the location of Ohio’s only Civil War battle.
Tentative plans have been made for a three-day reenactment of the move of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his Raiders across Meigs County and into Portland where they were confronted by Union forces in the Buffington Island battle Confederate and Union cavalry and infantry reenactors are expected to arrive in Meigs County with artillery and wagons of supplies, camp out at the Rock Springs Fairgrounds, and then move out to race the path Morgan and his men took to the site where they encountered Union soldiers and engaged in battle.
Those interested in gaining a better knowledge of the history of the Civil War are encouraged to visit the Buffington Island Memorial Park in Portland where an eight panel kiosk tells the story of Morgan and his men from the time they entered Meigs County, through the days of battle with Union forces, the escape of Morgan with some of his men, and his eventual capture.
Currently, a project is under way in an effort to amend the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Buffington Island Civil War battlefield in Portland. As it now stands the registry only encompasses the four acres in the Buffington Island State Memorial Park. Recent studies, however, have determined that the battle took place over 1,200 acres in the Portland bottom area. The recommendation is that the Registry include the entire battle area.