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[323] passing over to the city by night, with 80 men, supported by some 310 more, coolly inspecting its defenses and military capacities without resistance or demur. Even the long wooden bridge connecting the city with the main land, with the railroad track leading over it to Virginia Point, were neither broken up nor guarded; so that Magruder had the most liberal facilities afforded him for the enterprise he meditated. He decided that, though he could readily seize the old defenses, he could make nothing of them, and that he must operate by steamboats; as he had advices from New Orleans that more Federal troops were coming. So, collecting guns, troops, and volunteers from the adjacent region, and steamboats from all the rivers flowing into the Bay, he prepared for a speedy attack.

His arrangements appear to have been made with judgment as well as energy, and his command of men was virtually unlimited; but his guns (6 siege and 14 field-pieces) were inadequate, and his vessels (three or four ordinary river steamboats, their decks shielded by cotton-bales) glaringly so. It is difficult to resist the impression, on reading his report, not only that Renshaw was a traitor, but that Magruder acted with full knowledge of that fact; since otherwise his enterprise was sheer madness. That the Rebels were preparing to expel us from the city and harbor was perfectly understood in Galveston throughout at least the day1 previous to the attack. Aside from the “intelligent contraband” usually present and vocal on such occasions, the hush of expectation, broken only by furtive and ominous whispers, gave proof that every Rebel in Galveston anticipated a speedy change of flags. Yet no preparation was made for resistance; no streets were patrolled; no unusual vigilance evinced; even the wooden bridge, two miles long, connecting the island city with the hostile mainland, was neither burnt, taken up, barricaded, nor even observed on our part; so Magruder, unresisted and unchallenged, advanced over it, about midnight, with his forces and guns (the latter on cars), into and through the city, as though he were traversing the streets of Houston, to within two squares of the wharf whereon the Massachusetts men were quartered, posted his guns in the most advantageous positions, unhitched their horses and sent them to a place of safety — the guns having been brought to bear on our vessels, but awaiting the arrival of the boats before opening fire. At 4 A. M., however — the moon having set, obscuring the movements on shore, but leaving our gunboats distinctly visible to the Rebel gunners in the clear star-light — Magruder, unable to wait longer for the fleet, lest he should be overtaken by daybreak, fired the signal-gun himself; while Col. Cook led a storming party of 500, supported by Griffin's battalion and by sharpshooters, to the assault on our Massachusetts men encamped on the wharf.

The assault miscarried. The wharfplanks having been taken up between our men and the land, and piled up to form a rude barricade in their front, it was necessary that the assailants should wade through the water of the bay, carrying scaling-ladders

1 Dec. 31, 1862.

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John B. Magruder (4)
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