Saturday, March 20, 2010


                                       Niblett's Bluff Reenactment photo by Mike Jones


The Battle of Calcasieu Pass, which occurred 6 May 1864, may have been a small, obscure battle that had very little impact in the overall War For Southern Independence, but it was vitally important to the men that fought, bled and died in it. It was also a battle that produced a hero and recipient of the very rare Confederate Medal of Honor.

The recipient of the posthumous award was Pvt. William Guehrs of Creuzbaur's Battery, 5th Texas Artillery. Captain James W. Bryan Camp 1390, which is headquartered in Lake Charles, sponsored the medal.

Guehrs, pronounced ''Gears,'' was 23 years old at the time of the battle. He was a native of Germany and a resident of Fayette County, Texas, when he enlisted in the Confederate Army on Oct. 12, 1861. He died as a result of his wound Sept. 3, 1864.

His battery was stationed at Fort Griffin, Sabine Pass, Texas, at the time of the battle.

The Confederate Medal of Honor was created by the Congress of the Confederate States of America but no awards were made before it went out of existence in 1865.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a historical and heritage organization founded in 1896 and made up of male descendants of soldiers, sailors and civil servants of the Confederate States of America. It has about 27,000 members in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The SCV revived the award and created a committee to examine applications for the medal, which must show incontestable proof of extraordinary merit. The Confederate Medal of Honor is the highest decoration awarded by the organization and the standards required are equivalent to the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor.

''The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his/her comrades and must have involved risk of life,'' according to the standards.

The citation of Guehrs' distinguishing action reads:

''Pvt. William Guehrs was mortally wounded in action 6 May 1864 in the Battle of Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana.

''He was wounded in the leg from the first shot of an enemy gunboat, which also killed one of his comrades.


''Although medical attention was near at hand at a field hospital, where three Confederate surgeons were stationed, Pvt. Guehrs chose to stay with his gun, which was short of men.

''His wound was so severe and he was in so much pain that he had to perform his job as Number 2 man on his gun from a kneeling position. Pvt. Guehrs made this self-sacrificing choice at a critical time in the battle when his gun had come under a deadly cross fire from two enemy gunboats.

''His job as Number 2 man required him to load the gun and worm it (clean out the barrel) in between rounds, a difficult job under any circumstances but especially hard for a man severely wounded, in pain and unable to stand, and under fire from the enemy.

''His self-sacrificing act was critical to the Confederate victory in the battle because his battery went into the fight already short of men. His commanding officer, Captain Edmund Creuzbaur, had to perform a function normally performed by a junior officer. Losing men as soon as the enemy opened fire only aggravated the shortage.

''Pvt. Guehrs extraordinary gallantry was recognized by his fellow battery members at the time of the battle and is described in a letter written just four days after the battle by Cpl. C. Walter von Rosenberg, who was a gunner on his artillery piece, as 'heroic.'

''Pvt. Guehrs self-sacrificing action was also critical to the Confederate success because his gun was the most effective Confederate artillery piece in the battle. One of the other guns had been knocked out of action early, another stuck in the mud and the fourth was unable to move from its original position until late in the battle because its battery horses had inadvertently been taken to the rear.

''Pvt. Guehr's gun was the only one able to maneuver and concentrate fire successfully on both gunboats throughout the battle. It was largely responsible for the Confederate victory.

''Considering the severity of his mortal wound, Pvt. Guehrs could have easily and legitimately retired to the rear as soon as he was hit, because a field hospital had been set up in a nearby farm house and the three Confederate surgeons could have treated his wound immediately.

''Pvt. Guehrs made a conscious decision to stick with his gun in spite of his wound being so painful he could not even stand up. Not only did his decision place his life in continued danger from the cross fire of the gunboats, it no doubt made his wound more severe and probably resulted in the wound being fatal.''

No comments: