The writer of this article has been requested to prepare an account of the part taken by Marietta in the defeat of John Morgan's command at Buffington Island, July 19th 1863.
In complying with this request I shall not attempt to say anything new on the subject, but will simply revert to an account of the Morgan Raid written by me in preparing the Military History of Washington county, a few years ago. I had the official records before me at that time, together with contemporary accounts which were perfectly reliable, and any deviation from them would not be conducive to the truth of history. Before saying anything about the famous raid, it will no doubt interest your readers to know how the Military History of Washington county came to be written and why it was that the undersigned came to do it.
The Military Committee
During the four years of war, all the military affairs of the county were managed by a military committee, composed of Col. William R. Putnam, John Newton, George W. Barker and S. F. Cook.
Their duties were arduous and perplexing. The quota of the county under the different calls for men had to be filled, money had to be raised, and numerous other tasks entailed by the exigencies of the war were discharged with credit to themselves and to the county. When the war was over they found they had some money on hand which they resolved should be used in preparing and publishing a history of the part taken by this county in the war and to perpetrate the memory of brave men, numbering over 4,000, who entered the army from this county. Charles F. Perry and Lake Monett, who had just graduated from the College in June 1865, were employed to make a house to house canvass for the names of all soldiers, including their services and numerous other items relating to their careers. Mr. Perry had all the county west of the Muskingum and Mr. Monett all east. In addition to this the officers from the county were invited to prepare papers relating to their services in the war. Pictures of the soldiers, so far as possible, were also collected for a "picture gallery." Mr. Perry and Mr. Monett did their work well.
The Roll of Honor
The lists of each township were taken separately and all were finally turned over to the Military Committee. Some townships were alphabetically arranged and some not. Nothing further, however, was done by this committee towards a military history until 1881, sixteen years later. At that time Col. William R. Putnam and John Newton were the only members of the committee still remaining in Marietta. In 1878 I had been elected secretary of the Washington County Soldiers' Monument Association, Hon. R. E. Harte being the President. The monument had long before that been completed and one would suppose that such an association was no longer needed, but it bore on its base this inscription, "The names of the Fallen will be found at the Recorder's Office." That promise had to be made good; so I was selected to do the work.
I remember Mr. Harte and I went and called on Col. Putnam. We had no definite idea as to what he had or how we were to get the names of all those brave boys who staked their lives for the preservation of the Union, but we presumed that a member of the Military Committee ought certainly to be able to start us on the right track. After stating the object of our visit, Col. Putnam went into the house (we were sitting on the porch) and brought out one of those old black oilcloth valises. It was full of papers. Here was the work of Perry and Monett and numerous other documents. Most of the names of the soldiers were alphabetically arranged. A splendid discovery, surely, which would enable us to make a good start towards our list of the fallen.
The next winter the Legislature kindly came to our assistance and passed an act directing the assessors, the next spring, to take the names of all deceased soldiers, and when these came in they were added to our lists and we had a record made of the whole roll of the "Fallen" at the County Recorder's office. While the number of names thus compiled did not justify a large volume, we took good care that it should be as large as any of the books in the office, so that it would not get lost or mislaid and will remain as a monument to the patriotism of the county to the end of time, unless the old Court House should take fire and burn down.
The County History of 1881
So it happened when the question of the county history was being agitated, that those interested in having a military history of the county properly presented saw that the time for action had arrived. They realized that if the work was left to strangers who were getting up the history it might be slighted and passed over in the easiest way possible. Col. Putnam came to my office and explained the original intention of the Military Committee and how no one had taken hold of the work, that it now seemed as if it was now or never and asked me to take the job. Thus it fell to me to write an account of this important epoch in the county's history. I did not fully realize the enormity of the task or I should never have consented to take it. I immediately "cleared the ship for action," to use a naval term, and turned my parlor into a library. The piano was covered with dusty tomes in no time, bound volumes of the county papers covering the period of the war; the archives of the military committee, so carefully preserved by Col. Putnam; Frank Moore's Rebellion record of 16 volumes, containing contemporary accounts written from day to day as the war progressed; muster rolls of companies; regimental histories and numerous other impediments incident to a historian were strewn around.
In order to make the roll of honor as complete as possible while preparing it for the printer, I had two clerks at work on it six weeks, and the results of that labor you will find in the county history. So you see, the preparation of the military history of Washington county was not slighted, nor was it done in any hap-hazard way, nor was any phase of the county's work in this supreme struggle for the preservation of the Union neglected.
It seems hardly necessary for me to say that the compensation received, $150, i.e., $100 from the Military Committee and $50 from Williams & Co., publishers, was entirely inadequate. It was a labor of love and the only regret I have is that Col. Putnam, whose approval I most coveted, died before the history was completed. It was also disappointing to find when the book came out that the publishers had slashed the roll of honor right in two, leaving nothing but the names of soldiers, the organizations to which they belonged and date of enlistment and discharge. All the other data collected by the Military Committee and myself at so much trouble and expense was left out. This military history, together with the roll of honor as intended by the Military Committee, should be rescued and published in book form. Only then will full honor and justice be done the men who staked their all to save the country during the perilous years of 1861-5.
The Morgan Raid
There were four main places of rendezvous for troops in Ohio during the war, Camp Dennison, near Cincinnati; Camp Chase, near Columbus; another near Cleveland, and Camp Putnam, at Marietta, under command of Col. Putnam. Morgan's men had entered Ohio on July 12th, 1863, and the same day Governor Tod issued a proclamation calling out all the militia of the southern and southeastern counties of the State. All the companies of Washington, Noble, Monroe, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Hocking and Athens were ordered to report forthwith to Col. William R. Putnam at Marietta.
At this date there were 175 six months men in camp, including Co. A. 128th Ohio Infantry. On July 14th, Gov. Tod telegraphed Col. Putnam that Morgan had crossed the Little Miami and was probably making for some ford near Marietta. Col. Putnam at once began to act, first to prevent Morgan from crossing the Ohio; second to keep him west of the Muskingum, and third to shut his forces between the Ohio river and the Marietta & Cincinnati railroad (Now B. & O. S. W.). He therefore set about guarding the fords as the first part of the program. At this time Capt. D. L. Wood, of the 18th U. S. Infantry, was stationed at Marietta and he was placed in command of the expedition. Col. Putnam then issued the following order:
Headquarters Camp Marietta, O.
July 15th, 1863.
Special Order No. 1.
The following companies now at camp are hereby detached under command of Captain D. L. Wood, 18th U.S. Infantry, and will put themselves in readiness to march:
Marietta Artillery Co., Lieut. Nye commanding.
Volunteer Mounted Co., Capt. Bloomfield commanding.
Capt. J. Putnam's Co., Capt. Putnam commanding.
Post Quartermaster Croxton will provide transportation and forage for five (5) days for fifty (50) horses. Post Commissary R. R. Treat will turn over to Charles Jones (who will act as Quartermaster of the detachment) twelve hundred and fifty (1,250) rations.
Surgeon S. D. Hart will be acting surgeon.
By order of
WILLIAM R. PUTNAM,
Capt. Wood's instructions were as follows:
You are hereby ordered to assume command of the troops detached by special order No. 1 of this date, and proceed with them to the ford below Parkersburg, where you will make such disposition as you may deem fit and proper to prevent the rebel forces now in the State from crossing at that place.
WILLIAM R. PUTNAM,
The expedition numbered about three hundred men. The cannon were two iron pieces that had been used in Marietta and Harmar for firing salutes, and the arms for infantry and cavalry were such as could be hastily gathered in the city and camp. Capt. Wood reached the foot of Blennerhassett Island on the 17th and began intrenching and informed Col. Putnam by telegraph of the fact. This brought out that the expedition had stopped short of its destination and the following order was issued the same day:
The shoal at the foot of Blennerhassett Island is deemed impracticable on account of quick-sand. The ford you were to guard is at the foot of Buffington's Island. You will therefore take your forces to that point. Use the flats and steamer Logan in conjunction with Captain Wilson in transporting your forces, sending baggage overland if necessary. Delay Captain Wilson as little as possible.
Lieut. Conine will report to you with re-inforcements as soon as they can be armed.
WILLIAM R. PUTNAM,
Meanwhile, Capt. R. B. Wilson, of Meigs county, with his own company and that of Capt. George G. Woodward, was ordered to proceed to Mason city, W. Va., to prevent Morgan from crossing at that point, and Capt. Henry Best, with his own company and those of Captains Stone, Dana, Pugh, and Rutherford, was ordered to proceed by the steamer Buck to Blennerhassett Island and open up the channel so that the gun-boats could pass, and on the way down remove every boat of every description to the Virginia shore, which order was faithfully carried out.
Capt. Wilson was the first of Col. Putnam's men to meet the enemy. Hearing that the Rebels had appeared back of Middleport in Meigs county, he crossed the river in the night of the 17th, and took a position about three miles to the rear of that place where Morgan's men came on to them. The 23rd Ohio Infantry came up and the two forces immediately attacked the rebels, driving them back, capturing 77 men and officers and 80 horses.
Let us now return to capt. Wood, who arrived with his command at Buffington's Ford, at 7 P.M., of the 17th. He began at once to throw up an earth work and placed his cannon so as to guard the ford. He threw out pickets and made such preparations as he could with his limited force to prevent Morgan crossing at that place. When he arrived at the Buffington Ford he found the steamer Starlight fast aground, loaded with 3,000 barrels of flour. He at once ordered the steamer unloaded and took possession of her and found men in his command who could fill every position on the boat from engineer to pilot.
The Eve of Battle
This was the situation on the evening of July 18th, the forces from Camp Marietta, reaching down the Ohio as far as Middleport, Buffington's Ford fortified, all the water craft removed to the Virginia shore and Col. Putnam's forces, numbering about 12,000, spread out like a fan between the Ohio and the Muskingum rivers, radiating from Marietta, with trees felled and roads obstructed; and while these men for the most part had no arms, they could all get axes, shovels, and picks and tin cups. Hence they were called the "tincup militia."
The second in command of Morgan's forces was Basil Duke. We will now let him give the situation as seen from their side on the evening of the 18th.
Basil Duke, in his "History of Morgan's Cavalry," says:
"July 18th at 3:00 A.M., we moved on. By this time the militia had turned their attention seriously to felling trees, and impeding our progress in every conceivable way. Advance guard was forced to carry axes to cut away frequent blockade. In passing on the 18th, near Pomery, there was one continual fight, but not wholly with militia, for some regular troops now appeared. We had to run a terrible gauntlet for nearly five miles, through a ravine, on the gallop.
"We reached Buffington about 8 P.M., and the night was one of solid darkness. General Morgan consulted one or two of his officers upon the propriety of at once attacking an earth-work, thrown up to guard the ford. From all the information he could gather, this work was manned with 300 infantry, regular troops, and two heavy guns were mounted in it.
"Our arrival at this place after dark had involved us in a dilemma. If we did not cross the river that night, there was every chance of our being attacked on the next day by heavy odds, by infantry sent after us from Kentucky, and by gunboats at the ford, which we could not drive off, as we had not more than three cartridges apiece for our artillery. General Morgan fully appreciated these reasons for getting across the river that night, as did those with whom he advised, but there were also very strong reasons against attacking the work at night, and without the capture of the work which commanded the ford, it would be impossible to cross. Attacks in the dark are always hazardous experiments; in this case doubly so, as we knew nothing of the ground and could not procure guides. Our choice of the direction in which to move to the attack would have been purely guess-work. The defenders of the work had only to lie still and fire with artillery and musketry directly to their front, but the assailants would have had a line to preserve, and to exercise great care lest they should fall foul of each other in the obscurity. He determined therefore, to take the work at early dawn, and hoped to effect a crossing rapidly before the enemy arrived."
Early in the morning of the 19th, before the fog had lifted from the valley, the battle began. General Hobson with his cavalry coming on from one direction, and Gen. Judah from another, and the gunboat Moose in the river in front. There was but one outcome possible. The Rebels were defeated and between 700 and 800 men of them captured, including Basil Duke, Col. Dick Morgan, Colonels Smith, Ward, and Hoffman, all of their artillery wagons, etc. The Union loss was five killed and 25 wounded. Rebels' loss, 20 killed, wounded not known. Capt. Wood in his report to Col. Putnam says:
Capt. D. L. Wood's Report
"On the morning of the 18th I made a line of entrenchments covering the approach to the ford, sent out cavalry scouts and ascertained that the enemy were advancing on me in force. I had all my stores removed to the boat (Steamer Starlight) and ordered it to be ready to move. At half past seven o'clock the enemy appeared in force in front of my works, at which time my forces were in line to receive them as best we could. At 12 o'clock, having received an order from General Scammon to retire, I did so. Being hardly pressed by the enemy I was obliged to abandon my artillery."
The remnant of Morgan's command fled up the river, but owing to the presence of Col. Putnam's men on every road leading to Marietta or to the east, and all water craft being on the Virginia shore and fords guarded, Morgan was obliged to make a wide detour to the northeast, crossing the Muskingum river at Eagleport, July 23rd. A few days later he, with the balance of the raiders, was captured near New Lisbon, O.
It was the plans laid at Marietta and the disposition of the forces from Camp Putnam that finally broke Morgan's triumphal march through Ohio, scattered his forces and finally led to his capture as stated.
S. J. Hathaway