In an effort to bring to light a few of the preservation efforts being done at the grassroots level for Western Theater battlefield sites, we will bring to you an occasional Q&A with one of those organizations who has had success along the preservation front.
We asked David Mowery, chairman of the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation, to provide some insight to the ongoing preservation efforts in and around Ohio's only significant Civil War battle, as well as let us a take a peek inside his organization's processes.
What preservation goal(s) is the Foundation trying to accomplish?
Buffington Island Battlefield Memorial Park encompasses 4 acres of the 1,236-acre battlefield. These four acres, plus another eight acres scattered across the core, are the only portions of the battlefield preserved for public access today. About 500 acres of the core have been destroyed by modern housing and by an active gravel mining operation situated at the center of the battlefield. Thus, it is the Foundation’s goal to save the remaining 700 acres, which are mostly concentrated at the southern and northern ends of the battlefield. Fortunately, these 700 acres are the scenes of the most important and bloodiest fighting of the Battle of Buffington Island.
Where is your audience, meaning those you “advertise” to, as well as supporters, located?
Most of the Foundation’s audience and support lies outside of Meigs County, Ohio, where Buffington Island battlefield lies. A greater portion of the audience resides in Ohio, followed by Kentucky and West Virginia and Indiana. However, a large number of the battlefield’s enthusiasts reside throughout the United States.
What does success look like for the Foundation?
Success in education is hosting an educational event that brings in hundreds of persons, especially from the Meigs County area. Success in preservation would be to purchase whatever core battlefield land that becomes available for sale, or at least prevent the sale of this land to an owner that will spoil the landscape. Success in interpretation would be to better mark the battlefield and to provide tours to individuals seeking a deeper understanding of the battle.
What sort of events does the organization sponsor?
The Foundation sponsors battle reenactments on the battlefield, and it sponsors tours of the battlefield. It also sponsors educational and fundraising events meant to bring attention to the battle’s history and to the battlefield’s preservation plight.
How does historic preservation translate to prosperity in Meigs County?
According to the February 2019 Ohio Poverty Report by the Ohio Development Services Agency, 22.5% of Meigs County’s population live in poverty. Meigs is the fourth worst county in Ohio in this category. Historic preservation in Meigs County is embraced, because it offers the county tourist money that could improve the county’s poverty statistics. However, funding for public preservation projects is naturally very limited in Meigs County, and so it must rely on external support to preserve the Buffington Island battlefield.
I have always been a believer in sharing best practices among organizations - what are some ideas that BIBPF has used in the past to increase support for the organization?
The greatest increases in support have come through online appeals, especially through the Foundation’s Facebook and the web site. Also, Buffington Island Battlefield and its associated John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail of Ohio have been advertised through the Civil War community, such as in the American Battlefield Trust’s Civil War Trail collection. Local support has increased through battle reenactments and through county events in which the Foundation participated with booths or presentations.
Any other thoughts about the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation that you would like to share?
The Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation’s goals are clear: to preserve, interpret, and increase public understanding and knowledge of the Battle of Buffington Island, Ohio’s only significant Civil War battlefield. The battle was the largest engagement of the Civil War fought within the Eastern Midwest states. However, most students of the Civil War are unaware of the battle, and most Ohioans do not know it exists. Buffington Island resides in a remote region of the state, which leads to excellent preservation opportunities, but which also hinders acknowledgment and visitation of the battlefield. The Foundation’s greatest challenge continues to be how it will surpass these obstacles in order to achieve its goals.
While there are challenges to preserve land at Buffington Island due to the destruction of a large portion of the battlefield due to the quarry operation, as mentioned above there are still opportunities to preserve portions of the battlefield, as well increase interpretation. If you are interested in supporting Ohio's Civil War legacy, you can donate or become a member on the BIBPF website.