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[99] 180 feet long, and the latter probably 135 feet, both about ten years old, which is about the usual life of high pressure river boats. However, they were the best material at hand, and in fairly good condition for their age. Operations were begun immediately, details of soldiers being employed to transform them into savage looking gunboats. Breastworks were formed by putting heavy 14X14-inch timbers through the decks, fastening them to the floor timbers in the hold, and allowing them to extend up through the boiler deck, thus affording protection to the sharpshooters with which the boats were to be partly manned. Construction progressed slowly, as but few skilled mechanics could be had.

The preparation and equipment of these boats were effected at Orange, which is situated on the Sabine river, and was at that time not reached by any railroad. The Texas & New Orleans railroad, extending from Houston to Beaumont, the nearest point to Orange, was in a very unsafe and at times impassable condition, but as Sabine pass at the mouth of Sabine river was blockaded, the railroad formed the only means of communication with the other portions of the military department of Texas. The Sabine river below Orange and at a distance of about four miles from its mouth, widens into a large basin which is known as Sabine lake; the remainder of the river's course to the Gulf of Mexico is much narrower and also deeper, and is known as Sabine pass. Here the Federal blockading fleet lay at anchor when the fitting up of the river steamboats was begun by Captain Fowler, and it was intended to drive them from their position and capture them as soon as the equipment of the improvised Confederate gunboats was completed. An artillery company, composed entirely of Irishmen, and known as the Davis Guards, was detailed for service on these boats. Captain Odlum was the captain of the company, but under Lieut. Dick Dowling they had seen some service at Galveston in the capture of that place a few days before, and it was under his command that they were later to link their names in immortal bands with that of Sabine pass.

They reported for duty at Orange and assisted in mounting a 6-inch rifle gun on board the Josiah H. Bell. Maj. O. M. Watkins, of General Magruder's staff, also arrived at Orange accompanied by Captain Aycock's company, and others of Pyron's regiment of dismounted

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Oscar M. Watkins (1)
Sabine (1)
C. L. Pyron (1)
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J. B. Magruder (1)
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