Tuesday, March 9, 2010



A historic bond between Fayette County, Texas and Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana was created by the Battle of Calcasieu Pass on 6 May 1864.

Texans from Fayette County were members of Creuzbaur's Battery, along with other Confederate forces, fought and defeated two Union gunboats on that fateful day. A member of that battery, Pvt. William Guehrs, was posthumously presented the 42nd Confederate Medal of Honor by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The historic bond between Calcasieu Parish and Fayette County was sealed in blood with the deaths of five of the young Texas artillerymen. In all there were 52 casualties in the battle, both killed and wounded, on both sides.

Pvt. Guehrs was mortally wounded with the first shot of the Union gunboat U.S.S. Granite City just after the battle began. In spite of his severe leg wound, which rendered him unable to stand, he refused medical treatment and continued to serve his gun from a kneeling position at a critical stage of the battle, when it was undermanned.

According to the medal citation, his actions were clearly self-sacrificing and above and beyond the call of duty. Guehrs died of his wound Sept. 3, 1864 and is buried in the Waldeck Cemetery in Fayette County.

The same shot that mortally wounded Guehrs killed his fellow cannoneer and Fayette County resident, Pvt. William Kneip. His brother, Cpl. Henry Kneip, was also in the battle but survived.

Pvt. William Kniep (Courtest of Kneip
William Kneip was born in 1840 in Lauterbach, Germany and came to Texas with his four brothers, father and mother in 1852, according to family records. The family settled on a farm near Round Top in Fayette County and were residing there when the Civil War began.

Both William, 21, and Henry, 24, joined Creuzbaur's Battery on Nov. 5, 1861, in San Antonio, Texas. Most members of the battery were of German heritage, along with a few Czechs. The battery commander, Captain Edmund Creuzbaur, had been an artillery officer in the Prussian Army before coming to Texas.

Creuzbaur was born in 1826 in Prussia and moved to Cat Spring, Austin County, Texas in 1853. The second in command was Lieutenant, later Captain, Charles Welhausen. The battery was first stationed at Fort Brown in Brownsville, Texas where it did coastal defense duty as heavy artillery. On May 2, 1863 the battery was reclassified as light artillery, 5th Texas Artillery. It had four cannons, two 12-pounder Napoleons and two 6-pounders, all smoothbores.

Both Guehrs and Kneip served as cannoneers on Gun No. 1, which was one of the Napoleons. Creuzbaur's battery may have spent the entire war doing dull garrison duty on the Texas-Mexican border but for a failed Northern attempt to invade Texas on Sept. 8, 1863 at Sabine Pass.

In the reshuffling of forces that followed, the battery was sent in late 1863 to Galveston to defend that important coastal city. No further fighting occurred there and the men once again settled into routine garrison duty. Creuzbaur's battery was next transferred to the Confederate fortifications at Sabine Pass in March 1864.

There they found the situation tense and the Union blockading gunboats aggressively patrolling the coast. Lake Charles was a busy center of blockade running and a thorn in the side of the federal fleet.

The Battle of Calcasieu Pass was finally brought on when two Union gunboats, the Granite City and the U.S.S. Wave, brazenly put into shore in late April, and with the assistance of local Union sympathizers began recruiting for their navy and buying stolen livestock. In the battle on May 6, Creuzbaur's battery provided the punch needed to subdue and capture both gunboats with their entire crews, armament and a 25-man detachment of the Union 2nd New Orleans Infantry.

What they lacked in firepower, the light Confederate artillery made up for in maneuverability and accuracy. And the Southern infantry kept a constant harassing fire on the bluejackets brave enough to man the deck guns.

The gun manned by Guehrs and Kneip concentrated its fire first on the Granite City, and when it surrendered on the Wave. But both privates were felled with the first return shot of the enemy gunboat. The gunboats came into action with a deadly crossfire but Creuzbaur's battery was able to keep up an incredible firing pace. Two of the four Confederate cannons were put out of action but Gun No. 1, quickly changed position and concentrated fire on the Wave.

The Wave fought on for another hour before being struck in its boiler and then having its 32-pounder struck and the barrel split by a direct hit from Creuzbaur's Gun No. 4.

William Kneip and the other dead, from both sides, were buried in the yard of the LeBoeuf farm, where they lie today. For the Fayette County men, the Battle of Calcasieu Pass would turn out to be the only combat they would see in the entire war.

Ironically, Capt. Creuzbaur was relieved of duty for unspecified reasons and resigned from the army in spite of his outstanding performance during the battle. Welhausen was promoted to captain and placed in command of the battery.

Henry Kneip survived to return to Fayette County where he farmed with his other two brothers, Adolph and Ferdinand Kneip, who had served in Waul's Texas Legion and fought at Vicksburg. Henry died Nov. 24, 1922.

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