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The Federal Commanders at Buffington - Part I: Edward H. Hobson

Updated: Jan 8, 2023

When one hears about the Buffington Island battle, we often hear about John H. Morgan and the Confederate point of view, but we rarely delve into the Federal leadership. This series of posts will talk about the various Union brigade and provisional division commanders in an effort to bring to light their stories.

Library of Congress

We will start with Edward H. Hobson, the man who might be the most responsible for Morgan's defeat at the battle. Edward Henry Hobson was born in Greensburg, Kentucky in 1825, the same year his nemesis John H. Morgan was born in Huntsville, Alabama. Hobson was educated in the local schools and went into business with his father, a steamboat captain and merchant, at the age of 18. When the war with Mexico started, Edward joined the Second Kentucky Volunteer Infantry and fought at the Battle of Buena Vista in 1847. Also at Buena Vista was one John H. Morgan.

Hobson returned to Kentucky and resumed his business career. In 1853 he became a director of the Greensburg branch of the Bank of Kentucky, later serving as its president until the Civil War interrupted his civilian career. Hobson became colonel of the Thirteenth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry and was part of the Army of the Ohio at the Battle of Shiloh. Hobson’s favorable performance at Shiloh earned him a promotion to brigadier general, the commission being signed by President Lincoln. This promotion landed him a role in commanding a portion of troops in Kentucky. When Morgan started his great raid in early July 1863, Hobson was placed in charge of a provisional division to chase down Morgan and his men. It was Hobson’s command that most worried Morgan due to the experience and determination of Hobson and his troopers. Finally bringing Morgan to battle on July 19th, Hobson’s force, along with a small division under Henry Judah, was able to inflict a defeat on Morgan, capturing many of his men, but not ending the raid.

Hobson was given command of the Cavalry Corps of the 23rd Corps, but failing health meant that he was unable to serve in that capacity. However, during Morgan’s Last Raid of 1864, Hobson was given orders by Stephen G. Burbridge to get in front of Morgan and delay him so that Burbridge might bring Morgan to bay. Hobson went to Cincinnati, sent the 168th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment down the Kentucky Central Railroad towards Cynthiana, Kentucky, while Hobson gathered the 171st Ohio and detachments from two Kentucky infantry regiments to follow. The 168th Ohio was defeated in the streets of Cynthiana on the early morning of June 11th, while Hobson’s men, on trains coming from Covington, had to disembark north of Cynthiana at Keller’s Bridge. A portion of Morgan’s command met him in battle, and Hobson’s green troops fought for four hours. Morgan himself came onto the field behind Hobson’s position during the action, cutting off any possible line of retreat for Hobson’s men. Morgan asked for Hobson’s surrender, which took anywhere from four to six hours to negotiate. Hobson was successful in delaying Morgan by a minimum of eight hours, causing Morgan to keep his raiders at Cynthiana overnight, which allowed Burbridge to catch up and destroy Morgan’s forces on the morning of June 12th.

After being released, Hobson would go on lead a brigade at the Battle of Saltville in October 1864. He stayed in service until August 1865.

After the war Hobson went home and returned to business in the Greensburg area. He became a Radical Republican during a time when Kentucky was experiencing many ex-Confederates taking on roles in Kentucky’s government. Hobson’s support for the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments kept him from becoming the Clerk of State Court of Appeals. He later tried running for a U. S. representative seat but was again defeated. Hobson did serve as a representative in the 1880 Republican Convention and was a strong supporter of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant in turn appointed Hobson of a collector of internal revenue. Hobson also was involved with the Ohio and Chesapeake Railway along with post war veteran organizations, having become a companion of the Ohio Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and the Grand Army of the Republic. At a 1901 Grand Army of the Republic encampment in Cleveland, Ohio, Edward Henry Hobson passed away. He was seventy-six years old.

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