From Ohio History Central
Buffington Island was the site of the largest battle to occur in Ohio during the American Civil War.
On July 8, 1863, Brigadier-General John Hunt Morgan, a Confederate cavalry leader, led approximately two thousand soldiers across the Ohio River into southern Indiana. Morgan's superiors had dispatched the cavalry leader into northern Kentucky to cause disorder among the Union military. Morgan exceeded these orders by crossing north of the Ohio River, but he did create turmoil for the United States army.
Crossing into Indiana, Morgan's Raiders spread false rumors that the Confederates intended to attack Indianapolis, Indiana. Rather than doing this, the men spent five days in southern Indiana, procuring supplies and horses from Northern civilians. On July 13, as the Indiana militia descended upon Morgan's men, the Confederates entered Ohio, near the Hamilton-Butler County line. Morgan led his men to the outskirts of Cincinnati, where he spent the night of July
13-14, within sight of the Union Army's Camp Dennison. The next day, Morgan divided his men. He sent a small portion of his men through Warren, Clinton, Fayette, Ross, and Jackson Counties, while the main force traveled through Clermont, Brown, Highland, Pike, and Jackson Counties. The larger group crossed the Scioto River at Piketon and proceeded to Jackson, where it reunited with the smaller detachment. The reunited Confederates proceeded east through Jackson, Gallia, Vinton, and Meigs Counties, in an effort to reach the Ohio River.
On the night of July 12, Ohio Governor David Tod issued a proclamation, calling out the Ohio militia to protect the southern counties from Morgan's Raiders. Many militiamen did not hear of the proclamation in a timely manner. The Confederates faced little opposition until July 18, when they encountered a small earthwork, defended by Ohio militiamen. Severely outnumbered, the militiamen retreated under the cover of darkness. However, their presence had allowed Union cavalry, under Brigadier-General E.H. Hobson, to catch up to the Confederates. Union General Ambrose Burnside also had sent Northern soldiers and gunboats to patrol the Ohio River. Morgan's men attempted to cross the Ohio River at a ford near Buffington Island. The Confederates succeeded in getting a small number of men across the river before Union gunboats and soldiers under Hobson and General H.M. Judah arrived.