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Chapter 8:

Early in 1862 a frontier cavalry regiment was raised for twelve months service, first commanded by J. M. Norris, colonel; A. T. Obenchain, lieutenant-colonel; Jas. E. McCord, major, and afterward by Jas. E. McCord, colonel; J. B. Barry, lieutenant-colonel; W. J. Alexander, major. They were sent up near Red river and established stations westward to the Rio Grande, with companies at such a distance from each other that soldiers could ride every day from one to the other and thereby get notice of any raid attempted or made by the Indians. That enabled them to combine their forces when necessary to repel any invasion. The frontier on the lower Rio Grande and for some distance up that river, in the Western sub-district, was protected by Confederate troops stationed there in 1862 and 1863, under the command of General Bee. There were no fights of much importance on the frontier during those two years.

On August 3 and 5, 1861, the Federal ships South Carolina and Dart shelled Galveston, with no great damage. On November 8th the Royal Yacht was captured in Galveston harbor, in the night, by launches from the blockader, Santee. The Yacht was fired and abandoned after the crew were taken off, but the fire was afterward extinguished by the Confederates and the vessel saved. There was no attempt to enter the port of Galveston with a view of capturing the city until the fall of 1862. [72]

On September 23, 1862, the Federal vessels entered the port of Sabine Pass, and Lieut.-Col. A. W. Spaight, in command there, retired with his forces to Beaumont, not having a sufficient force to resist the Federals. Lieutenant-Colonel Spaight made the following report of that engagement:

Beaumont, Tex., September 26, 1862.
Sir: On the 23d inst. (Maj. J. S. Irvine commanding at Sabine Pass during my absence under orders at Houston) two armed sail vessels and one steam propeller came to anchor just outside the bar. Early the next morning, the two sail vessels, having crossed the bar, took position and opened fire on our works, to which we promptly replied; but the shots from both sides fell far short. They then approached nearer, when a brisk fire from both sides was resumed and continued until dark. To the chagrin of officers and men our shot still fell short, while the enemy was enabled with his longer range guns to throw shot and shell around and into our works. I take pleasure in stating that our men fighting at this immense odds, and seeing that they could inflict no injury on the enemy, and while his shell were bursting over their heads and within the works, stood to their guns and served them with great coolness. They could not be restrained from mounting the works and shouting and waving their hats in defiance. In pursuance to orders, Capt. G. W. O Bryan, of Company E, with Lieut. W. A. Junker and twenty-six of his company, arrived at the fort at nightfall. When night came on, Major Irvine determined that it would be a fruitless exposure of the men and public property to attempt to hold the works another day, and commenced at once to remove the ordnance stores and other property, and spiked the guns, consisting of two 32-pounders and two 18-pounders. The evacuation was completed by daylight the next morning and all the government property saved. I regret, however, to state that two of the men recently attacked by yellow fever were not in a condition to be moved, and were left in the hospital in the care of competent nurses.

It should be mentioned here that on the breaking out of yellow fever among the troops at Sabine City, they were withdrawn, with the exception of a detachment of artillery (Company B) to garrison the works. It is now manifest [73] that the result must have been the same, no matter what the number of the force there. To Major Irvine, in command of the post, and to Capt. K. D. Keith, in the immediate command of the battery, great praise is due for the gallantry of the resistance offered with such wholly inadequate means, and not less for the orderly manner in which the evacuation was conducted, whereby none of the public property was permitted to fall into the hands of the enemy.

As I learn to-day, the two sail vessels have anchored opposite the town and sent some men ashore.

I have no information as to the force of the enemy and have no clue as yet to his future movements. I have been reinforced to-day by Elmore's regiment, Wilson's battery, and one company of Griffin's battalion, Captain Cook's. I will observe the movements of the enemy and promptly report the result, and shall lose no opportunity of inflicting injury upon him.

Your obedient servant,

A. W. Spaight, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding. Lieut. R. M. Franklin, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

The evacuation of Galveston, October 4, 1862, is described in the following report of Col. Joseph J. Cook:

Headquarters, Fort Hebert, Tex., October 9, 1862.
Sir: On the morning of the 4th the blockading fleet off the bar of Galveston consisted of eight vessels, four of which were armed steamers, one a mortar boat, and all but one of them apparently of such draught as to admit of their crossing the bar. At about 7 a. m. one of the steamers (the Harriet Lane) crossed the bar flying a white flag, and when opposite Fort Point, a shot from our battery was fired across her bow, and she immediately came to anchor. An officer soon after landed from the steamer in front of the battery and asked an interview with the commander of the post. Immediately upon being advised of this, I repaired to Fort Point, and was informed by the officer who had landed that the commander of the fleet desired me to send out a messenger to receive a communication from him. Having no boat at the Point, I returned to the city and immediately dispatched a messenger in a boat, flying a white flag. The boat left the wharf [74] about 1 p. m., and before she could be worked out to the Point the Harriet Lane weighed anchor, repassed the bar and communicated with the fleet, and the four steamers with the mortar boat in tow came in over the bar and up to about the position where the Harriet Lane had been brought to anchor. As soon as this movement was observed, I started for Fort Point, but before I could reach there a shot was fired from our battery in front of the foremost of the advancing vessels—our flag of truce boat then being but a short distance off—when the enemy, disregarding their own white flag, immediately opened fire from all the vessels with about twenty guns on our battery, which consisted of but one gun, a 10-inch, and they continued to play upon it until the gun was struck by a shot and so disabled as to be unserviceable, and the officer in command ordered the gun to be spiked and the barracks fired, and the men retreated across the low, open ground toward the city. I joined them soon after they left the battery, and the five vessels of the enemy having passed entirely around the point into the harbor, continued to throw shot and shell at us until we were out of their range. Upon the fleet turning up the channel toward the city, the two 24-pounders in battery on the bay side, near the east end of the city, opened fire on them, but our shot fell short, and the vessels having now come up to our flag of truce boat, ceased firing and took our messenger on board their flagship, and the fleet came to anchor.

The assemblage of vessels off the bar on the day previous had given us every reason to expect an attack, and during that day and the morning of the 4th, I had made arrangements with the railroad company to be ready with transportation to meet any emergency that might occur. Having some time previous to this been ordered by the general commanding the department to withdraw our troops from the city in case the enemy should bring to bear against our position such a force as to overcome our defenses at Fort Point and enable them to command the harbor, and after the gun at Fort Point was silenced, having no further effective means of defending the harbor or protecting the city from bombardment by the enemy or inflicting any injury on them, immediately after our troops had abandoned Fort Point, I ordered the two guns which were in position at South battery, on the south side of Galveston island, to be spiked and all our material at that and [75] other points in the city to be taken to the railroad depot, which was done.

At about 3:30 p. m. our flag of truce returned to the city bearing a demand from the commander for the surrender of the city, and demanding an immediate answer. I sent a messenger with the answer that I should not surrender the city, directing the messenger also to say to the commander of the fleet that there were many women and children, and to demand time to remove them. After some negotiation it was agreed that no attack should be made upon the city for four days; that during that time we should not construct any new or strengthen any old defenses within the city, and the fleet not be brought any nearer the city. This arrangement gave us ample time for the removal of all who desired to leave the island, also for the removal of our troops and material of every kind.

On the night of the 4th you reached the city, and during the next day I received your order in relation to matters in Galveston. During the four days I removed the two 24-pounders, and also the two guns at South battery were unspiked and removed and all of them have been safely landed at Virginia point. I caused the people of the city to be fully notified in relation to matters which you directed they should be advised of. All machinery of any value was removed. The civil authorities removed all county records of every kind and all the records of the city corporation and of the district court. The railroad company removed all their material of every kind, and by 11 a. m. of the 8th we had removed all the government property of any value, except the 10-inch gun at Fort Point, and a large majority of the population of the city left their houses and the island.

The troops having all been removed in accordance with your orders, I left with my staff for Virginia point, leaving a sufficient force to hold the battery at the south end of the railroad bridge, and that evening I reported at this place to Col. X. B. Debray, commanding sub-military district of Houston. It affords me great pleasure to state that both officers and men behaved nobly, executing all orders promptly and correctly. All of which is respectfully submitted.

Yours respectfully,

Jos. J. Cook, Colonel Commanding. Lieut. R. M. Franklin, Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen. Sub-Military District of Houston.


A successful defense was made of Port Lavaca by Maj. D. D. Shea, in command there, on October 31st, and reported as follows:

Headquarters, Lavaca, Tex., November 1, 1862.
Sir: By order of Maj. Daniel D. Shea, commanding this post, I have the honor to make, for the information of the general commanding this district, the following report of an engagement between the Federal steamers and the batteries at this point:

On the morning of October 31st two Federal steamers appeared in sight, evidently steering for this place. About 11 a. m. they arrived within a short distance, when they cast anchor. At 1 p. m. they sent a flag of truce on shore, which was met by Major Shea, accompanied by four of the citizens of the town. A short interview succeeded,, during which a demand was made for the surrender of the town. They were answered by the commanding officer that he was there to defend it, and should do so to the best of his ability with all the means he had at hand. A demand was then made for time to remove the women and children and sick persons from town. The officer in charge of the flag replied that one hour was the time he was authorized to grant, but in consideration of the fact that an epidemic (yellow fever) was still raging in the town, he would extend the time to one hour and a half; at the expiration of which period they moved up abreast the town and opened fire from both steamers upon both the town and batteries. At this time there were many women and children still in the place, they having been unable, for want of time, to leave.

Our batteries promptly returned the fire. Capt. John A. Vernon commanded one of the batteries, assisted by Lieut. T. D. Woodward; and Capt. J. M. Reuss, assisted by Lieuts. O. L. Schnaubert and G. French, the other, and nobly did both officers and men perform their duty, working their guns as coolly as though on inspection, while a perfect storm of shot and shell rained around them; and this, although yellow fever had decimated their ranks, and that many of the men who manned the batteries had but partially recovered from the fever, entitles them to the highest praise. The steamers were struck several times, and one of them partially disabled as they immediately steamed off out of range of our batteries, where [77] they again cast anchor and kept up a steady fire upon the town and batteries, until night shut in. On the next morning, November 1st, they again opened fire upon the town and batteries, but owing to their being entirely out of range of our guns, we did not reply to them. At about 11 a. m. they ceased their fire, and steamed down the bay in the direction of Indianola, having in tow the schooner Lecompt, which they had captured in the bay a few days before. One of the steamers went outside the bar and steered in the direction of Galveston, probably for a mortar-boat or some additional force to assist them.

I am glad to report that no lives were lost on our side, but the enemy succeeded in doing considerable damage to the town, tearing up the streets and riddling the houses and otherwise damaging the place. The enemy fired in all 252 shot and shell; 174 the first day and 78 the second, nearly all of them from 32 and 64 pounder rifled guns. Capt. H. Wilke, acting ordnance officer, rendered very efficient service in keeping the batteries supplied with ammunition and freely exposing himself in the discharge of his duty. The citizens of this town acted nobly, particularly Mr. Dunn and Mr. Chas. Oglesbury, who remained in the town and materially assisted the commanding officer, suffering their property to be destroyed without a murmur, and only regretting they could do no more to serve their country.

The ladies of the place, among whom Mrs. Chesley and Mrs. Dunn and the two beautiful and accomplished daughters of the former bore a conspicuous part, acted the part of true Southern heroines, supplying our tired soldiers with coffee, bread and meat even during the thickest of the fight.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

George E. Conklin, Lieutenant and Adjutant.


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