PORTLAND — July 19, 2019, marked the 156th anniversary of the Battle of Buffington Island. On Saturday, July 20, the Ohio Department of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Ohio History Connection hosted a Buffington Island Battlefield memorial service to commemorate the event 156 years ago.
The event began with a welcome by Jim Oiler, member of Cadot-Blessing Camp #126. A prayer was offered by Andy Francis, Chaplain of Benjamin Fearing Camp #2 and the Pledge of Allegiance followed, led by Norman Pape, commander of Fearing Camp #2.
Ohio Department Commander Shane Milburn then addressed the crowd.
“Today we gather on this hallowed ground to commemorate the only major battle on Ohio soil: the Battle of Buffington Island which took place on July 19, 1863, 156 years ago,” Milburn said. “Our primary mission in the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War is to perpetuate the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic and the men who saved the Union between 1861 and 1865” Milburn continued.
After asking all veterans to stand to be recognized, Milburn went on to talk about Ohio’s effect on the war. “Over the course of the Civil War, Ohio supplied over 319,000 troops to the Union cause, the highest per capita of any state behind Pennsylvania and New York. Ohio had 29 artillery units, 13 cavalry units, and 198 infantry units that served the cause. 35,475 lost their life from combat or disease, while nearly 30,000 were either partially or nearly disabled.”
Milburn concluded by saying today this battlefield is peaceful and we have our ancestors to thank for preserving the union.
Following Ohio Department Commander Milburn, Sam Wilson, senior vice commander of Cadot-Blessing Camp from Gallipolis thanked the following organizations who made the event possible: Ohio Department Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Ohio History Connection, Ohio Department Auxiliary to SUVCW, John S. Townsend Camp #108, Frost Auxiliary to John S. Townsend Camp #108, McClellan Camp #91 SUVCW, Alliance Auxiliary to McClellan Camp #91, General Benjamin Fearing Camp #2 SUVCW, Cadot-Blessing Camp #126 SUVCW, the Meigs County Historical Society, Brooks-Grant Camp #7 SUVCW, Portland Community Center, and the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation.
Musician Steve Free and his wife Susan performed two songs for those in attendance: Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier and Battle Hymn of the Republic. Steve Free is an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter and educator who lives in southern Ohio. He has won numerous music industry awards including 9 ASCAP awards, a Platinum Record, and has a Grammy nomination. He has also charted over 30 songs on the National and International Americana and Country Billboard charts including 15 No. 1 songs.
Wilson returned to the podium to give a general overview of the Battle of Buffington Island, noting that two future Presidents of the United States, William McKinley and Rutherford B. Hayes, fought in the battle.
The program ended with firing a salute by the honor guard of the SUVCW and Bill McCreedy of Cadot-Blessing Camp #126 playing Taps. A reception followed in the Portland Community Center with music performed by Steve and Susan Free.
Jordan Pickens is a local historian and educator.