Battle of Buﬃngton Island
A Naval River Blockade
As darkness and dense fog set in on July 18,
Morgan's men stopped to rest in the fields near
Portland. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Commander Leroy
Fitch and his tinclad U.S.S. Moose
from Pomeroy and anchored at the southern tip
of Buffington Island near the ford.
Fitch awoke at sunrise to the sound of gunfire when
Judah's men attacked the Confederates. As the fog
dissipated, enemy horsemen could be seen crossing
the river. Gun crews fired on the escaping raiders,
killing several and sending some scampering for
shore. Only about 30 made it across the ford to
the relative safety of West Virginia.
Fitch ordered shells fired over the river bluff and
onto the battlefield, creating more confusion than
deaths. Union and Confederate soldiers rode wildly
across the fields to avoid the bursting shells. In the
ensuing turmoil, Judah's and Hobson's forces closed
in on the raiders.
Morgan's troops were now surrounded on three
sides and caught in a deadly crossfire. With the ford
blocked, the raiders were forced to ride north to
try their luck at another crossing point.
During the Civil War, the Union attempted to
control key trade and supply routes. The Navy
built, converted or purchased gunboats to
and control all the major and minor
rivers of the South and central United States.
Most importantly, the Union planned to secure
the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in order to
prevent any trade or troop movements between
eastern and western parts of the Confederacy,
while giving the Union free access to the rivers.
Top left: It was standard for Navy tinclads to carry 24 pounder cannons like the U.S.S. Moose used to fire upon the raiders.
Bottom left map: The Union troops surround the raiders, forcing them to flee north.
Top right: By the end of the war, over 300 gunboats were patrolling and controlling the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, Red and Arkansas, Kanawha and other western rivers.