North-Central Section–40th Annual Meeting (20–21 April 2006)
Paper No. 12-12
Presentation Time: 5:20 PM-5:40 PM

MORGAN'S RAIDERS AND THE BATTLE OF BUFFINGTON ISLAND:GEOLOGY'S ROLE IN THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT

SCHUMACHER, Gregory A. and POWERS, Donovan M., Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological Survey, 2045 Morse Rd, Columbus, OH 43229-6693, greg.schumacher@dnr.state.oh.us

The prize was the Buffington Island Ford (BIF), with sand and gravel bars so firm that horses could easily cross, that Confederate General John H. Morgan and nearly 1,900 troops raced for in July of 1863. In the late evening of July 18, after many delays caused by the rugged terrain of the Allegheny Plateau, the search for provisions and fresh horses, skirmishes with Federal troops and militias, and a host of minor delays, Morgan's Raiders won the race to the BIF. As the exhausted troops descended onto the Ohio River floodplain, however, they discovered that recent rains turned the Ohio River into a raging torrent and Federal troops blocked the approaches to the BIF. Unwilling to risk needless casualties with a dangerous night crossing, Morgan decided to delay crossing the Ohio River until morning. As Morgan's men slept, the seeds of defeat sown by the earlier delays began to sprout as Federal gunboats and troops moved into position under the dense fog blanketing the Ohio River valley.

At the break of dawn, a Federal trap was set into motion as Federal and Confederate pickets skirmished south and west of the BIF. Cannon fire from the Federal gunboats turned back Morgan's troops as they tried to cross the BIF. Escape routes to the south and west were blocked by Federal troops stationed on the high ridges of the adjacent Allegheny Plateau. To the north, the high steep cliffs of Hockingport sandstone provided a seemingly impenetrable barrier. The broad high-level terraces adjacent to Buffington Island provided little cover as Federal troops pressed their attacks and the gunboats bombarded Morgan's bewildered troops. As Morgan's troops retreated northward, they were squeezed onto the very narrow floodplain between the Hockingport cliffs and the Ohio River. The rout was on as Morgan's men rushed to escape through this bottleneck and up the steep ravines leading away from the gunboats. General Morgan led some 1,000 troops to safety, but over 800 men were killed, wounded, or captured in the Battle of Buffington Island.

North-Central Section–40th Annual Meeting (20–21 April 2006)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 12
Cultural Geology II: Building Stones, Gemstones, Terrain and More
Student Center, University of Akron: Room 310
1:20 PM-5:40 PM, Thursday, 20 April 2006

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 38, No. 4, p. 18

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