Saturday, September 22, 2012


Dick Dowling Monument at Sabine Pass State Battleground.
(Photo by Mike Jones)
By Mike Jones
          PORT ARTHUR, Texas -- The Battle of Sabine Pass was reenacted September 8, 2012 on the actual 149th anniversary of the battle. The Sabine Pass State Battleground has been fully repaired from hurricanes Rita and Ike and looks great.

Major Richard W. "Dick" Dowling, commander
of the Jefferson Davis Guards in the Battle of
Sabine  Pass. He is wearing the Davis Guards
Medal awarded to the men after the battle by
the grateful citizens of Houston, Texas.
(Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photographs,
DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries,
Southern Methodist University)
          There are historical  markers, an informative kiosk at the battleground, which also highlights the events there in the Spanish-American War and World War II. The Dick Dowling Monument has been cleaned in recent years and probably looks as good as it did when it was dedicated in 1937. Herring Coe, the Beaumont sculptor who created the statue of Dick Dowling, also has outstanding sculptures at the Vicksburg National Military Park for the State of Texas monument, and at the Gettysburg National Military Park for the State of Louisiana monument.
          The reenactment was small this year but well received by the public. There are big plans for next year to have a 150th anniversary event that will draw hundreds of reenactors. In the actual battle, the Union was planning to invade Texas through Sabine Pass with an initial invasion force of 5,000 troops, four gunboats and 18 troop transports. The expedition was led by Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin for the Army, and Lt. Frederick Crocker for the Navy. Sabine Pass was defended by 1st Lt. Richard W. Dowling and his 47-man, Irish-Texan, contingent of Company F (Jefferson Davis Guards) of the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery in Fort Griffin, an earthen structure. Dowling had four 32-pounders and two 24-pounders at his disposal to defend against the attack.
An illustration of how Fort Griffin looked at the time of
the battle from a park historic marker. (Photo by  Mike Jones)

            The battle opened at 6:30 o'clock in the morning of September 8, 1863 when the gunboat U.S.S. Clifton entered the pass to bombard the fort and reconnoiter the Confederate position. However Dowling kept his men under cover to mask their numerical  weakness. After an hour of shelling, the Clifton withdrew. At 3:40 o'clock that afternoon, the assault began. The pass was divided up the middle by a long oyster reef, which divided it into the  Louisiana channel on the east and  the Texas channel on the west. The Clifton entered the Texas channel while  U.S.S. Sachem and U.S.S. Arizona steamed up the Louisiana channel. The U.S.S. Granite City was to escort the transports up the Texas channel to protect the transports off-loading the Union troops. The gunboats entered the pass and opened fire on the fort. The Irish-Texans had placed range markers in the pass during practice and were ready to zero in on the invading ships. Confederate gunners opened fire when the enemy ships reached the 1,200 yard range marker. After a few rounds, the steam drum of the Sachem exploded, scalding many men to death, and disabling the ship. The Arizona ran aground. The Clifton charged up the Texas channel but the Irish-Texan artillerymen blasted its tiller rope, causing it to run aground and also exploded its steam drum. The Arizona had to be pulled off the Louisiana shore, and the Granite City retreated and no troops were landed. The fleet soon turned around and headed back to New Orleans.
          Texas was saved from invasion, and Houston and Beaumont were saved from the fate of other southern cities, like Atlanta and Vicksburg. The battle lasted only about 45 minutes but 56 U.S. sailors and soldiers were killed, about 350 captured, along with the gunboats Clifton and Sachem. Dowling and his men suffered no casualties at all. The  Davis Guards received the thanks of their country. Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder, Confederate commander of Texas,  honored the men with a special badge and the Davis Guards were presented special medals from the  citizens of Houston, the only such medal for  valor issued to Confederate soldiers during the war. The Confederate Congress and President Jefferson Davis honored the Davis Guards with a special proclamation. Dowling said the fort fired 137 shells during the short battle.

       Here are some pictures of this year's reenactment:


Monday, September 10, 2012

150-Years-Ago -- Harper's Ferry and Sharpsburg

Battle of Sharpsburg, Md. Sept. 17, 1862, bloodiest day in American
military history. (Library of Congress)
Battle of Sharpsburg battle map. Click to enlarge. (National Park Service)

Louisiana Confederate
(Library of Congress, Liljenquist Family Collection)
Colonel Edmund Pendleton's Official Report of October 20, 1862 for Starke's Brigade (Official Records War of the Rebellion, Vol. 19) 

Lt. Mann Mann Page
[Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, First Division, Jackson's Corps.]
Camp near Martinsburg, W. Va., October 20, 1862.
                Lieutenant: In obedience to the order of Lieutenant-General Jackson, requiring of Brigade Commanders reports of the participation of their commands in the late engagements with the enemy, I have the honor to submit the following statement of the part taken by this brigade in the capture of Harper's Ferry and the immediately following battle of Sharpsburg, Md.:
                Having marched from Martinsburg about dawn on the morning of September 13, we reached the vicinity of Bolivar Heights, where the enemy was strongly entrenched, shortly after noon on the same day, and bivouacked on the Charlestown Road just beyond the range of his guns until 2 o'clock the next day. At that hour we were ordered to move by an unfrequented road to our left and almost at right angles with the Charlestown road, to a position nearer the Potomac, supporting the Baltimore battery of light artillery, commanded by Captain Brockenbrough and attached to this brigade, which opened upon the enemy and continued its fire until dark, the enemy responding, but without damage to us.
                At 8 p. m., when darkness entirely concealed the movement, we were ordered to move forward in closer proximity to the Potomac, and within close range of the enemy's artillery, in obedience to which order we silently occupied a wooded ridge overlooking the river, and along the crest of which a road leads directly to the enemy's fortified position.
                The brigade being formed in line across, and at right angles with, the course of the ridge, we lay upon our arms till nearly daylight, the quietude of the night being unbroken, save by a sharp musketry fire of a few minute's duration in front of our right and few hundred yards distant, which ;proved to have occurred between two regiments of the enemy on picket duty, who had mutually mistaken each other for foes.
                Shortly before dawn we resumed our position of the evening before, again supporting the Baltimore battery, which reopened its fire and delivered a few telling shots, some of them, I regret to say, after the besieged hoisted the white flag. It is but justice however, to add that from the position we occupied the flag was imperceptible, nor were we aware of the surrender until a message was received from the Major-General commanding, directing a cessation of the fire.
                It gives me pleasure to be able to say that not a single casualty of any kind is to be reported in this brigade on that occasion, although the result was so glorious to our arms.

                Having previously cooked two days' rations, we left our bivouac near Bolivar Heights on Tuesday, September 16, at 2.30 a. m. and took up the line of march by way of Shepherdstown; again crossed the Potomac, and halted about noon in the vicinity and to the southwest of the town of Sharpsburg, Md., where we rested in line of battle till near sunset, at which time we resumed our line of march and moved forward about a mile to take the position assigned to us on the extreme left, preparatory to the anticipated combat of the next morning. In doing so we encountered the shells from three of the enemy's batteries, and had the misfortune about dark to lose several of our number, among whom was the gallant young Gordon, a Lieutenant in the Ninth Louisiana Regiment and acting assistant adjutant-general of the brigade, who was killed by a shell which cut off both his legs at the thigh. Under command of Brigadier-General Starke, who remained with us constantly, we lay upon our arms all night, throwing out a line of skirmishers in front and to the left. During the early part of the night we were much disturbed by several of the enemy's batteries, which, crossing their fire, cut the tree-tops over our heads, and our rest was broken at intervals during the whole night by occasional and spirited firing between the skirmishers.
                At the break of day on the 17th the artillery reopened, and the rapidly increasing rattle of musketry notified us of the commencement of a general engagement with a foe vastly superior to us in numbers and confident of an easy victory. Our men, although much worn down with long and rapid marches, and but recently from the bloody fields of Manassas, were again ready to meet our boastful enemy, with undaunted front, and when, at 7 a. m., the order forward was given, it was heard with enthusiasm and obeyed with alacrity from one end brigade to the other.
                We had scarcely emerged from the woods in which we had rested during the night, when we found ourselves face to face with the enemy, heavily massed and within close musket range. Still, we charged forward in the face of a murderous fire, which thinned our ranks at every step, until our progress was arrested by a lane, on either side of which was a high, staked fence stretching along our whole front, to pass which, under the circumstances, was an impossibility. The men, being formed along this fence, kept up an accurate and well-sustained fire, which visibly told upon the enemy's ranks; and, although we suffered greatly, as well from musketry in front as from a battery on our left, which enfiladed us with grape and canister, still, not a man was seen to flinch from to conflict. By some mistake or misapprehension, the troops which were intended, as I have since been informed, when the order to retire was given and obeyed, the men withdrawing in tolerable order, and fighting as they fell back.
                It was in this early part of the engagement that our brave and chivalric leader, Brigadier General William E. Starke, loved and honored by every man under his command, fell pierced by three Minie-balls, and was carried from the field in a dying condition, surviving his wounds but an hour.
                The enemy, flushed with their supposed success in the first onset, rent the air with shouts, and pressed upon us with redoubled energy. Their exultation was, however, but short-lived. The command of the brigade having devolved upon Colonel L. A. Stafford, of the Ninth Louisiana, he lost no time in reforming our somewhat disordered line, when, other troops coming to our support, we gathered our strength for a fresh charge upon the rapidly advancing and exulting foe, and, with a determination to win or die, hurled ourselves against his lines with an impetus which first staggered, then drove him, fleeing, from the field, and leaving behind him hundreds of his dead and wounded. The enemy being thus completely repulsed on his right, did not again offer to renew the combat on that portion of his lines during the day.
                Later in the day the brigade was again called out to support a battery, when, in consequence of a severe contusion of the foot, received by Colonel Stafford early in the action, which prevented his taking the field, the command devolved upon the undersigned. Those who had passed unharmed thorough the severe conflict of the morning evinced again their readiness to meet the foe by promptly taking the field, though they were not again called upon to fire a gun.
                I beg leave to speak in the highest terms of the gallantry and fearlessness displayed by Colonel L. A. Stafford, of the Ninth Louisiana Regiment, who commanded the brigade in the morning. Colonel J. M. Williams, commanding the Second Louisiana Regiment was severely wounded by a Minie-ball, which passed through his chest, while gallantly leading his regiment in the first charge.
                Lieutenant Colonel M. Nolan, of the First Louisiana, though painfully wounded in the leg, remained at his post during the fight, commanding his regiment with coolness and bravery.
                The Tenth Louisiana was commanded in the engagement by Captain Henry D. Monier, who faithfully discharged the duty devolved upon him.
                It is a noteworthy fact that not a single field officer in the brigade who was on duty that day escaped untouched. I was so fortunate as to escape with only a slight contusion of the ankle from a spherical-case shot, which passed between my feet. When all did their duty so heroically it would seem almost invidious to mention particular names, but on some other occasion which shall seem opportune it will give me pleasure to mention the names of those officers who merit special notice. A list of the casualties in the different regiments composing this brigade has been heretofore furnished.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel Fifteenth Louisiana Regiment, Commanding Brigade.

In Memoriam to Pvt. Armelin Linscomb of Company K,  10th Louisiana Infantry, wounded in the neck and captured but survived:
Pvt. Armelin Linscomb of Vermilion Parish,
Louisiana. (1842-1914)
(Copy print, M.D. Jones collection)

Monday, September 3, 2012

150-years-ago -- Contemporary News Report on the Second Battle of Manassas

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
September 2, 1862
Corporal Samuel H. Overton of A Company,
 44th Virginia Infantry Regiment
and A Company, 20th Battalion Virginia
 Heavy Artillery Regiment in uniform
 and kepi with bayoneted musket.
(Library of Congress/Liljenquist
Family Collection)

Battle of Manassas.

Triumph of our forces over the combined armies of McClellan and Pope.
           Our information is such as to give encouragement to the hope that the sacred soil of Virginia will soon be rescued from the hands land divested of the polluting tread, of the Yankee invader. The great battle of Saturday last, fought on the memorable and classic ground of Manassas, resulted in the overthrow of the combined armies of the Federal Government, with a loss that is perhaps unequalled in the annals of the present war. We write without particulars; but the dispatches received by the President, and now given to the public, warrants the belief that our triumph is complete and glorious, and that the Confederate army is probably to-day within hauling distance of the Federal capital.
           The first dispatch received yesterday morning represented that the enemy had made several attempts to break through our lines, which intercepted their retreat towards Alexandria, but were repulsed each time with heavy loss. No mention of the casualties on our side was made, except that Gens. Ewell and Trimble were badly wounded, but not mortally, and Gen. Taliaferro slightly wounded.--A large number of prisoners were said to have been captured by our troops. This fight occurred in the vicinity of Manassas Plains. The indefinite character of this dispatch created some anxiety, and although it was stated that the enemy had been repulsed, still some uneasiness was felt, and some apprehensions entertained, for the safety of the gallant corps that, to the public, seemed to be between the two armies of the foe. These apprehensions were dispelled, however, by the later and more authentic intelligence of the day.
             Late in the afternoon, a dispatch was received by the President from Gen. Lee, conveying information which left no grounds to question the glorious success of our arms. This dispatch stated that on Thursday Gen. Jackson's corps repulsed Gen. Pope; Gen. Longstreet repulsed McClellan on Friday, and that on Saturday Gen. Lee attacked the combined forces of McClellan and Pope, utterly routing them with immense loss. Our army, it was stated, was still pursuing them, but in what direction we did not learn. If it be true, as previously represented, that our forces had gained the rear of the enemy, and repulsed their attempts to recover their intercepted lines we do not understand by what route they are now endeavoring to effect their escape. Large supplies of valuable stores were captured, some of which were destroyed by our troops. Our loss is represented to be heavy in valuable officers, though no names are given.