Wednesday, March 3, 2010

HOUSTON'S WFSI SITES

By Mike Jones

Major Richard W. Dowling
Hero of Houston (LSU Library)
After a 30 year quest to find the burial place of one my Confederate ancestors, I have found a likely place in an old graveyard in Houston, Texas and also discovered that the city has more War For Southern Independence sites than one would think in a place where there were no battles.

My ancestor, Pvt. Solomon Jones, served in Company E, 11th Battalion (Spaight's) Texas Volunteers and, according to family oral history, died in the war leaving his widow and seven children having to travel about 200 miles back to their home in Southwest Louisiana, taking turns walking and riding on one horse.

Unfortunately, Solomon's military service record is very incomplete and does not give when, where or how he died, let alone where he was buried. However, by piecing together the best information I can come up with based on family oral history,  his record, that of his brother-in-law, Pvt. Nicolas Kibodeaux who served in the same unit, and following the movements of his regiment, I believe it likely he died in Houston, Texas in January 1865 and is possibly buried in the Confederate section of the Old City Cemetery at Elder and Girard streets in Houston.

The cemetery, which was established as a city-owned burial ground, was established in 1840 and is said to have hundreds of Confederates buried there. Thus far, no records have been found to identify the soldiers buried there.  Now the cemetery has various buildings and parking lots built directly over it. But a monument has been erected at the site to honor the Confederate soldiers buried there.

Ironically, the old Jefferson Davis Hospital, now converted into loft apartments and renamed, was built on the cemetery in 1924. It was named for President Davis to honor the Confederates buried there. The historic structure is now said to be the "most haunted" place in Houston with the ghosts of angry Confederate soldiers, doctors, nurses and patients haunting it. The site is a popular stop on local ghost tours.

 Dick Dowling Monument
(M. Jones photo)
In my research, I found that Houston, which was the headquarters of the Department of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in the War Between the States, has a number of historic markers and monuments related to its Confederate history.

Major General John Bankhead Magruder, departmental commander,  made Houston his headquarters, which was located in the Fannin Hotel. Houston was spared the direct horrors of war thanks to the aggressive actions of Magruder and the military units under his commandd, which won significant victories at the Battle of Galveston, Jan. 1, 1863 and the Battle of Sabine Pass on Sept. 8, 1863. However Houston was a vital headquarters supplying all forms of support, from manpower to supplies, that made those victories possible.

Besides being the departmental headquarters, it was also the major quartermaster depot in Texas supplying uniforms, rifles and accoutrements and ammunition. Houston also had three prisoner of war compounds, troop training fields, military hospitals, two foundries, five railroads and an inland port for blockade runners.
                                                                                                 
Besides the Confederate monument at the old Jefferson Davis Hospital, there is also a marble statue honoring Major Richard William "Dick" Dowling, the hero of Sabine Pass who was a Houston resident, at Hermann Park. Houston also has two streets named in Dowling's honor, Dowling Street and Tuam Street, his native place in Ireland.  The Spirit of the Confederacy Statue (pictured at right) and the Terry's Texas Rangers monument, are both in Sam Houston Park near downtown Houston. The Spirit of the Confederacy Statue features a twice life-size bronze sculpture of an angel.

The city also has five state historic markers related to Houston's Confederate history. These are:
* Site of Confederate Prison Compound at 1 Main Street, University of Houston (Downtown). This was the site of the old Allen Brothers warehouse on Buffalo Bayou that during the war housed prisoners of war. In January 1863, it housed 350 prisoners captured in the Battle of Galveston. The city had two other POW compounds.

* Site of Old Houston Academy at Caroline and Rusk in downtown Houston. This academy was founded in 1856 and lost most of its students to the Confederate army. In 1864-65, the building was used as an army hospital. It was also a parade ground for ceremonial occasions. In 1867, the body of General Albert Sidney Johnston laid in state there before being taken to its final resting place.

* Site of Sunken Confederate Ship at Travis and Commerce in downtown Houston. Confederate blockade runners sailed up Buffalo Bayou to deliver vital war materials to Houston's arsenal and supply depot. One such ship was the "Augusta" which arrived safely in Houston, but sprang a leak. Although it was towed to the Milam Street landing, it sank before it could be unloaded. For years afterward, when the bayou water level was low, the ship would reappear, and divers were able to recover many relics. About 1910, due to unknown causes, the ship was blown up and its remains sank slowly into the bayou silt. In 1968 the Southwestern Historical Exploration Socieity recovered many artifacts, icnluding an aged cannon ball, musket balls, bayonets, coins, square nails, chest locks, and numerous pistol balls.

* Texas Railroads, C.S.A., at Texas and Crawford streets in downtown Houston. Harris County in 1861 was the center of 492 miles of state railroads, including the Texas & New Orleans which only went as far as Orange; Houston & Texas Central to Millican; Houston Tap & Brazoria to Columbia; Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado to Alleyton; and the Galveston, Houston & Henderson to Galveston. The railroads played a vital role in moving troops and supplies.
*Site of Confederate Powder Mill, Spring Creek Park in Tomball. This was the site of a powder mill, established in 1861, athat made cannon powder for the Confederate Army. The mill was destroyed by an explosion in 1863 killing William Bloecher, Adolph Hillegeist and Peter Wunderlich, employees of the mill.

The Museum of Southern History, formerly located in Sugar Land, Texas, is now housed at Houston Baptist College. The museum exhibits include an original Confederate battle flag, uniforms and weapons. On display are the Confederate uniform of Pvt. Henry Brunet of Fenner's Louisiana Battery; the battleflag of the 36th Alabama Infantry; and the uniform frock coat and hat of Col. Gustave Cook of Terry's Texas Rangers. Also to be seen are artifacts related to the Battle of Galveston, Jan. 1, 1863, including a 32-pounder cannon reproduction.

1 comment:

robotcobra said...

If you look at a site called 3fold.com it will show a Texas map during the civil war. it shows battle sites in Texas.