Developer to Leverage Civil War Site for New Campground
An Ohio man will open a campground this spring near the site of the Battle of Buffington Island, a Civil War skirmish along the Ohio River.
Beginning in April, Alan Crites, who owns 400 acres on Ohio 124 just north of Portland, hopes to attract tourists and history buffs to Morgan’s Raiders Campground, named after Brigadier Gen. John Hunt Morgan, a Confederate cavalry officer and guerilla fighter who attempted to cross the Ohio River into West Virginia.
The campground will feature 100 primitive campsites on the bank of the Ohio River at the edge of where the battle ended on July 19, 1863, the Parkersburg, (W. Va.) News reported.
“It’s the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and there are a lot of historical points of interest around this area,” he said.
“I’m hoping to draw in any descendants of the Confederate or Union soldiers who fought in the battle, or just anyone who has an interest in Civil War history,” he said.
Crites was always interested in history. When he decided to turn some of his land into a campground, Crites enlisted the help of friend Sam Price, who became his business partner.
While clearing the land, Crites made several interesting discoveries.
“I came across an old graveyard, with stones dating back to 1837,” he said. “I’ve also found a couple arrowheads. This place is very rich in history.”
The Ohio Historical Society, with the help of the Meigs County Historical Society, has worked to preserve the battlefield by drafting a plan which includes a proposal for capital improvements and maintenance to the Buffington Island State Memorial a quarter mile south of the campground.
“This was a running battle that took place all along the river bank,” said Crites. “I live right in the middle of where the battle took place so I’ve really taken an interest in it.”
The Battle of Buffington Island was the only major Civil War battle in Ohio and resulted in the capture of 1,200 of Morgan’s men.
According to the Ohio Historical Society, Morgan and his 2,000 men attempted to cross the Ohio River across from Buffington Island, but Union soldiers in gunboats intercepted them. With Morgan’s men outnumbered, more than half of them were captured and others were killed.
A discrepancy is in the historical records of the battle. Some records state 50 Confederate soldiers were killed, while others state there were around 100 Confederate casualties.
Morgan and a small number of his men eventually made it across the Ohio River, but Morgan was captured soon after the battle in northeastern Ohio.
“People here take pride in the region’s history, and this battle was a big part of the Civil War story in Ohio and West Virginia,” said Crites. “The area also has a lot to offer people looking for some recreational activities on the river.”
A few local businesses have loaned Crites heavy equipment to clear the timber and brush at the campground site, which will cover about three quarters of a mile along the river, said Crites.
“It’s a work in progress, but we’re getting there,” he said. “We’re shooting for an opening in April, and we hope to be in full swing by July.”