Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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stopping but a day or two in Hous-
ton, he went down to Virginia Point,
opposite Galveston; thence coolly

> Maj 17, 1862.


* Deo. 28.

•Aug. 16-18.


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paasing over to the city by night,
with 80 men, supported by some
300 more, oooUy inspecting its de-
fenses and military capacities with-
out resistance or demur. Even the
long wooden bridge connecting the
city with the main land, with the
railroad track leading over it to Vir-
ginia Point, were neither broken up
nor guarded ; so that Magruder had
the most liberal facilities a£Fbrded him
for the enterprise he meditated. He
decided that, though he could readily
seize the old defenses, he could make
nothing of them, and that he must
operate by steamboats; as he had
advices fix)m New Orleans that more
Federal troops were coming. So, col-
lecting guns, troops, and volunteers
from the adjacent region, and steam-
boats from all the rivers flowing into
the Bay, he prepared for a speedy

His arrangements appear to have
been made with judgment as well
as energy, and his command of men
was virtually unlimited ; but his guns
(6 siege and 14 field-pieces) were in-
adequate, and his vessels (three or
four ordinary river steamboats, their
decks shielded by cotton-bales) glar-
ingly so. It is diflScult to resist the
impression, on reading his report, not
only that Benshaw was a traitor, but
that Magruder acted with full knowl-
edge of that fact ; since otherwise his
enterprise was sheer madness. That
the Bebels were preparing to expel us
from the city and harbor was perfect-
ly understood in Galveston through-
out at least the day* previous to the
attack. Aside from the " intelligent
contraband" usually present and vo-
cal on such occasions, the hush of ex-
pectation, broken only by ftulive and

ominous whispers, gave proof that
every Eebel in Galveston anticipated
a speedy change of flags. Yet no
preparation was made for resistance ;
no streets were patrolled ; no unusual
vigilance evinced ; even the wooden
bridge, two miles long, connecting
the island city with the hostile main-
land, was neither burnt, taken up,
barricaded, nor even observed on our
part;' so Magruder, unresisted and
unchallenged, advanced over it, about
midnight, with his forces and ,guns
(the latter on cars), into and through
the city, as though he were trav-
ersing the streets of Houston, to
within two squares of the wharf
whereon the Massachusetts men were
quartered, posted his guns in the
most advantageous positions, un-
hitched their horses and sent them
to a place of safety — the guns hav-
ing been brought to bear on our ves-
sels, but awaiting the arrival of the
boats before opening flre. At 4 a. m.,
however — ^the moon having set, ob-
scuring the movements on shore, but
leaving our gunboats distinctly visi-
ble to the Eebel gunners in the clear
star-light — ^Magruder, unable to wait
longer for the fleet, lest he should be
overtaken by daybreak, flred the sig-
nal-gun himself; while Col. Cook led
a storming party of 600, supported
by Griffin's battalion and by sharp-
shooters, to the assault on our Mas-
sachusetts men encamped on the

The assault miscarried. The wharf-
planks having been taken up between
our men and the land, and piled up
to form a rude barricade in their
front, it was necessary that the assailr
ants should wade through the water
of the bay, carrying scaling-ladders

'Dec 31, 1862.

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as well as muskets ; whfle not onlj
were oar landsmen by this time wide
awake and firing vigorously, bnt our
vessels were dispensing grape and
'canister with the proverbial generos-
ity of sailors, "nie water proved
deeper than had be^i calculated ; the
scaling-ladders were said to be too
short; and, after a brief struggle, the
stormers recoiled and took shelter
behind the nearest buildings ; while
the guns of our vessels, hardly 800
yards distant, proved too many for
the lighter pieces of the hastily con-
structed Eebel batteries, driving off
their gunners and completely si-
lencing their fira Daybreak was
imminent ; and it seemed for a mo-
ment that victory was alighting on
the banners of the Union. ^

But now two Eebel steamboats
appeared, and speedily put a differ-
ent face on the matter. Ably han-
dled by Commodore (or Major) Leon
Smith, heavily barricaded witii cot-
ton-bales, and amply manned by
volunteers from Sibley's brigade, un-
der Cols. Green and Bagby, they
dashed down the harbor — ^the Bayou
City and Neptune rushing from
either side on the Harriet Lane, Capt.
Wainwright ; running into her with
aU their force, and sweeping her
decks with a deadly fire of small

They met no traitors nor cowards
among her chief ofKcers. The Nep-
tune was disabled by the Harriet
Lane's return blow, sinking soon af-
terward, in eight feet water ; and the
Bayou City narrowly escaped a simi-
lar fate, barely evading the direct
force of the Lane's crashing assault,
which swept off her larboaid wheel-
house. Meanwhile, Wainwright's
heavy ^uns were crashing through

his adversary, whose only cannon, a
6S-pounder, had burst at the third dis-
chai^,but whose heavy musketry fire
was so aDuoying that it doubtless in-
terfered with the steering of our ves-
sel ; so that the Bebel boat, turning
once jnore^ drdve her prow into the
iron wheel of the Lane, fixing it
there; when Smith was enabled to
board with his more numerous crew,
and our overpowered men^ after a
brief resistance, surrendered ; but not
till Wainwright had been killed, and
Lt.-Com'g Lee mortally wounded.
Lee's father was a Bebel Major, en-
gaged in the attack, and one of the
first to recognize his dying son.

The Owasco had been coaling be-
low the town, but had got imder way
soon after the fight commenced ; en-
gaging the Bebel batteries until she
observed the cotton-boats in conflict
with the Harriet Lane; when she
steamed up to assist her ; grounding
repeatedly on the way, owing to the
darkness and the narrowness of the
channel. Approaching the Lane,
she was received with a heavy fire oi
musketry, while her own 11-inch gun
could rarely be brought to bear ; so
she speedily backed out of the en-
counter, returning to her fruitless
contest with the shore batteries.

The Westfield, Eenshaw's flag-
ship, had started to meet the Bebel
steamers on the tidings of their ap-
proach ; but soon got hard and fast
aground at high tide, and began sig-
naling for assistance. The Clifton,
Lt.-Cc»n'g Law, thereupon went up to
her, and began to pull her off; when,
upon seeing the flashes of guns fi^m
the Bebel batteries, Benshaw ordered
her back to the city.

It was now aft;^ 7 A.H., and broad
day. The Bebels raised a white flag

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on the Harriet Lane, and sent a
trace-boat to the Clifton, demanding
the Borr^ider^ of our fleet! Law re-
pelled the snggeetion, yet accompa-
nied the Bebel officer to Benshaw on
the Westfield, who rejected the pro-
posal ; ordering our vessels afloat to
get out of harm's way so soon as
might be, while he, despairing of
getting the Westfield off^ would blow
her up, and escape with his crew on
the transports Saxon and Boardman,
lying near him. He did blow her
up, accordingly; but the explosion
must have been premature, since
lienshaw himself^ with Lt. Ziimmer-
man, Engineer Green, and ten or
fifteen of his crew, perished with
her.* An eye-witness states that
aU had left her but Benshtfw him-
Belf when she was fired (it was said
by a drunkard) and blew up, kill-
ing eight or ten officers and men in
the captain's gig beside her.

Meantime, our soldiers, left to their
fate, and wholly without artillery,
had been summoned by Gen. W. B.
Scurry ' to surrender, and had done

so. Two coal-barques — ^the Cavallo
and the Elias Pike — ^were captured "
by the Rebel steamboat Carr — one
of two or three that came down the
bay some time after the Neptune and *
Bayou City. And Law, considering
the Owasco his only efficient vessel,
and she not equal in a fight to the
Harriet Lane, precipitately aban-
doned the blockade, running off with
the sad remains of our fleet to New
Orleans ; though houriy expecting a
transport down from that city, which
would almost inevitably run into the
enemy's clutches if not warned of
the changed condition of affairs.

Magruder reports his entire loss
in this %ht at 26 killed, 117 wound-
ed, and the steamer Neptune — ^her
crew and guns being saved. He
says he captured (beside the Harriet
Lane, with all her armament, the
schooner and barques), "350 prison-
ers, beside officers ;" while our losses
include the Westfield also, with her
splendid battery of eight heavy
rifled guns. He came very near en-
trapping the steamship Cambria,

^ There are all maimer of oonflicting state-
ments oonoemiog this tnioe: eadi party charg-
ing the oih»T with Tiolatii^ it by acting while
it lasted as if it had no existence. One Union
writer says that the Rebels only demanded
that onr Tessels should quit the harbor with-
in three hours. This would render Benshaw's
conduct with regard to his ship less mysterious.
TJie Houston Tdegraph of Jan. 5 had an account
of the whole affiur by an eye-witnesS| who
makes the truce a Bebel trick from its inception.
He says:

" The propeller Owasoo 4ay in the channel,
about three-fourths of a mile from the Bayou
aty and Harriet Lane. As the Lane was board-
ed, &e Owasco steamed up to within 200 or 300
yards of them, firing into both. The force of
the collision drove the Bayou City^s stem so far
into and under the wheel and gunwale of the
Lane that she could not be got out The Lane
was also so careened that her guns could not be
worked, and were consequently useless. They
both lay, therefore, at the mercy of the Owas-

co. Herculean efforts were made to extricate

" The Owasco, evidently fearing tiie L«no*t
guns, withdrew to a position about a mile dis-
tant. It became plainly evident that, unless the
Bayou City and Harriet Lane could be s^Hurated,
the enemy could escape if they willed, lb gam
iimej therefore, a flag of truce was taken to the
Owasco and Olifton, now lying dose together,
and a demand for a surrender. Time was asked
to communicate with Ck>m. Benshaw, who waa
on the Westfield. A truce of three hours was
agreed upon. During Oie iruce with the veneia^
the unconditional surrender of these [Mass.] men
was demanded and complied witlL"

" Magruder, in his official report, unqualifiedly
asserts that he had given Benshaw three hours'
truce, and that the latter had agreed to mrren-
der — ^which is so irreconcilable with established
facts that I can only credit it on the assumption
that they had acted in concert throughout.

' Formerly representative in Congress from

^ Magruder says a sohooiMr also.

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wliich arrived oflf the bar on the 3d,
containing (he says) " E. J. Davis and
many other apostate Texans, beside
several hundred troops, and 2,500
saddles for the use of native sympa-
thizers." Her captain, however, was
seasonably warned to escape. One
.Galveston Unionist, named Thomas
Smith, who was landed from her
yawl, he caught, tried, and shot as a
deserter from the Rebel service. And
that was the sum of his "spoils" —
Com. Farragut, soon after, sending
vessels to reestablish the blockade,
before the Harriet Lane could be got
ready to run out and roam the seas
as a Rebel corsair.

But at Sabine Pass, a perform-
ance soon after occurred which was
scarcely less disgraceful to our arms
than this at Galveston. The broad
estuary at the mouth of the Sabine
was blockaded by the Union gunboat
Morning Light, 10 guns, and the
schooner Velocity, 3 gims; which
were attacked " by two Rebel gun-
boats — Josiah Bell and Uncle Ben —
fitted out in the Sabine for the pur-
pose, under command of Major O. M.
Watkins, who chased our vessels out
to sea and captured them after a very
feeble resistance. Watkins reports
his captures at " 13 guns, 129 prison-
ers, and $1,000,000 worth of stores."

The blockade of Galveston having
barely been reestablished under Com.
Bell, of the Brooklyn, a sail was de-
scried " in the south-east ; when the
guuTjoat Hatteras, Lt.-Com'g R. G.
Blake, was signaled by Bell to over-
haul her. The stranger aflfected to fly ;
but Blake soon observed that he did
not seem in any great hurry. Clear-
ing his decks for action, he stood on ;
and, when four miles distant, he saw

that the chase had ceased to steam
and was waiting. Blake, whose guns
were short as well as few, ran down
to within 75 yards and hailed ; when
the stranger answered his hail by
proclaiming his craft Her Britannic
Majesty's ship Vixen. Blake there-
upon offered to send a boat aboard ;
and was proceeding to do so— each
of them maneuvering for a better
position — ^when the stranger shouted,
"We are the Confederate steamer
Alabama," and poured in a broad-
side ; which was promptly returned.
The Alabama being every way the
superior vessel, Blake had no hope,
save in closing with and boarding
her ; which he attempted to do ; but
the Alabama had the advantage in
speed as well as force, and easily
baffled him. Both vessels were firing
every gun that could be brought to
bear, and as rapidly as possible, at a
distance of but 30 yards — ^the Alaba-
ma having received considerable in-
jury — when two* of her shells simul-
taneously entered the Hatteras at
the water-line, exploding and setting
her on fire ; and a third pierced her
cylinder, filling her willi scalding
steam, crippling her walking-beam,
and disabling her engine; while
water poured in profusely firom the
rift in her side, threatening her with
speedy destruction. The Alabama
now working ahead, beyond the
range of the Hatteras^s guns, Blake
ordered his magazine to be flooded,
and fired a lee gun ; when the enemy
afforded assistance in saving our
men — the Hatteras going down ten
minutes afterward. Her crew — (118,
including six wounded) — ^were trans-
ferred to the conqueror ; she having
had two killed. The Alabama,

" Jan. 21, 1863.

■ JazL 11, 3i p. u.

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thougli considerably cut up, bo as to
be compelled to run into Kingston,
Jamaica, for repairs, bad but one
man wounded. And no wonder;
since tbe Hatteras's heaviest guns
were 32s, while of the Alabama's (9
to our 8), one was an 150-pounder on
a pivot, another a 68 ; and she threw
324 pounds of metal at a broadside
to the Hatteras's 94. With such a
disparity of force, the result was in-

Gen. N. P. Banks, having as-
sumed" command of the Depart-
ment of the Gulf, found himself at
the head of a force about 30,000
strong, which had been oflScially
designated the ^Nineteenth Army
Corps.' With this, he was eirpected,
in cooperation with Grant's efforts
up the river, to reopen the Missis-
sippi, expel the Kebels in arms from
Louisiana, and take military posses-
sion of the Red River country, with
a view to the speedy recovery of
Texas, whose provisional Governor,
Gen. Andrew J. Hamilton, surt-ound-
ed by hundreds more of Union refii-
gees, was with him at New Orleans,
and naturally anxious for an imme-
diate movement upon their State;
which they believed ripe for restora-
tion. Their hopes of such a demon-
stration, however, were soon blasted,
as we have seen, by our needless and
shameful disasters at Galveston and
Sabine Pass. Meantime, Gcd . Banks
had dispatched " Gen. Cuvier Grover,
with 10,000 men, to reoccupy Baton
Rouge, which had been relinquished
to the enemy, and which was now
recovered without a struggle.

From New Orleans, a single rail-
road reaches westward to Brashear
City on the Atchafalaya, where that

jumble of grand canal, river, sound,
and lagoon, receives the waters of the
Bayou Teche — each of them heading
near, and at high water having navi-
gable connection with. Red river.
South of the railroad and east of the
Atchafalaya, the country had abeady
been in good part overrun by our
forces ; but our possession of it was
imperfect and debated. Beyond and
above, aU was Rebel; while fortifi-
cations at Butte k la Rose, well up
the Atchafalaya, and Fort Bisland,
at Pattersonville, on the Teche, were
intended to bar ingress by our gun-
boats from Red river or by our land
forces ftx)m New Orleans. Fort Bis-
land was flanked by Grand Lake on
die right, and by impassable swamps
on the left ; a Rebel force, estimated
[too high] by Gen. Banks at over
12,000 men, held these strong works
and the adjacent country; while to
hold New Orleans securely, with its
many protecting forts and approach-
es. Key West, Pensacola, Ship Isl-
and, &c., with all Texas backing the
zealous and active Rebel partisans in
Louisiana, who were promptly ap-
prised by their spies of any weidk
spot in our defenses — to say nothing
of the danger of hostile attacks from
the side of Alabama and Mississippi
— required the larger part of his
corps ; so that Banks found his dis-
posable force reduced by inevitable
details to less than 14,000 men;
while the Rebel array in and around
Port Hudson was reported by his
spies at 18,000; rendering a siege
without large reenfbrcements impos-
sible. He, therefore, turned his at-
tention first to the line of the Atch-
afalaya. •
An attempt to open the Bayou

' Deo. 11, 1862.

** Deo. 18, 1862.

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Flaqnemine, connecting with the
Atchafalaja near Butte k la Sose,
haying failed — ^the bayou being found
80 choked by three years' accumula-
tion of Buags and drift as to be im-
passable by boats — Gen. Weitzel's
force on Berwick's Bay was increased
to 4,500 men, with a view to an ad-
vance to and operations in the Teche
region. Starting " from Thibodeaux,
Gen. Weitzel embarked 'his infantry
next day at Brashear, on the gunboats
Calhoun, Diana, Kinsman, and Es-
trella, Com. McEean Buchanan, who
moved slowly up the bayou to Pat-
tersonville ; the artillery and cavalry
going by land. Encountering for-
midable obstructions at a place
known as Carney's Bridge, a few
miles above, Com. Buchanan, after
reconnoitering, dropped down a short
distance for the night; returning
next morning" to attack; while the
8th Vermont was sent around to
flank the defenses on the north.

The obstructions were found vexar
tious rather than formidable: con-
sisting of a steamboat filled with
brick and sunk across the channel,
with the great iron-clad gunboat
Cotton behind it ; a battery on either
flank, and some torpedoes in the
bayou below. One of these was ex-
ploded under the Kinsman; lifting
her stem into the air, but not crip-
pling her; when she fell back to
avoid another just ahead, whereof a
n^o fugitive from the Cotton gave
timely warning. Com. Buchanan, on
the Calhoun, either not hearing or
despising the caution, at once took
the advance, standing on the bow of
his vessel, spy-glass in hand, in the
midst of a ftirious cannonade from
the Cotton and Bebel batteries, and

the more deadly fire of sharp-shooters
from rifle-pits ; when, at 10 a. m., a
bullet through his head struck him
dead on the instant.

By this time, the 8th Vermont had
gained the Bebel rear, and was mar
king a rapid clearance of their rifle-
pits; while the batteries of the Ist
Maine, the 4th and 6th Massachusetts,
supported by sharp-shooters from the
76th and 160th New York, had flanked
the defenses on the other ride, and
were sweeping the decks of the Cot-
ton, whose crew beat a retreat, as did
most of the Eebels on land, whereof
but 40 were taken prisoners. The
Cotton was flred during the ensuing
night, and utterly destroyed. The
force here beaten consisted of the
28th Louisiana, with Simms's and
the Pelican battery, under Col. Gray
— ^in all, but 1,100 men, beside the
crew of the Cotton. Our loss was
7 killed and 27 wounded.
' Gen. Banks being still intent on
opening the Atchafalaya by the med-
itated advance through, the Bayou
Plaquemine to the capture of Butte
k la Bose, the next month was wast-
ed on this enterprise; and the sue
cess at Carney's Bridge was not oth-
erwise improved. Meantime, some
200 Western boys defeated" a like
number of the 3d Louisiana cavalry
at Old Eiver ; losing 12 men, killing
4, wounding 7, and taking 26 pris-

Admiral Farragut, having heard
of our loss of the Queen of the West
and De Soto*' below Vicksburg, de-
cided that it was his duty to run the
Kebel batteries at Port Hudson, in
order to recover the conmiand of the
river above.; so he called on G^n.
Banks for cooperation. Hereupon,

*JaxLll, 1863.

••Jan. 14.

" Feb. 10.

>* See page 298.

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our forcee were hastily recalled from
the Atchafalaya and oonc^itrated at
Baton Eouge; where they crossed
and advanced/' about 12,000 strong,
driying in the Bebel pickets, to the
rear of the Port; Farragut having
intended, under cover of a land at-
tack on that side, to run the batteries
early next morning. He judged best,
however, to anticipate Gen. Banks's
attack, the night being intensely
dark ; so, in his stout flag-ship Hart-
ford, lashed side t^side with the Al-
batross, he led the perilous adven-
ture; arriving abiMst of the Bebel
batteries a little' befpre midnight.

If he had counted on passing un-
observed, or shrouded in darkness,
he was much mistaken. Hardly was
he within range of the nearest Rebel
guns, when signal-lights were seen
flashing fix)m every direction, includ-
ing the opposite shore ; and, directly,
the flames of a vast bonfire in fix>nt
of the heaviest batteries shot up into
the sky, lighting the entire breadth
of the river 90 though it were mid-
day. Bockets were soon streaming
in the air ; now a gun from the west
bank saluted the Hartford, which
instantly returned the compliment;
and the next moment the earth trem-
bled to the roar of all the Bebel bat-
teries; whereupon our mortar-boats
below began firing 13-inch shell at
the enemy; and the frigates Hart-
ford, Mississippi, Bichmond, and Mo-
n<mgahela, and gunboats Albatross,
Gtenesee, Eineo, Essex, and Sach^n,
as they severely came within range,
fired broadside after broadside ; the
brass howitzers in their tops and the
heavy pivot guns at the bow and
stem being industriously worked;
while the atmosphere was soon so

thick with sulphurous smoke that
great care was needfully exercised
by our commanders to avoid firing
into eadi other; our aim being now
directed by the flashes of the ene-
my's guns; which, changing from
shell to grape as our vessels came
within musket and pistol-shot, swept
our decks by murd^ous discharges ;
some of their batteries being placed
on bluffi so high that they coidd not
be harmed by our shots ; while the
crescent shape of the defenses, fol-
lowing the curve of the channel, ena-
bled them to rake each vessel as it
approached^ and again as it receded.
The greatest care was. requisite to
avoid grounding or colliding in the
dense darkness which followed the
burning out of the Bebel bonfire;
and there were several narrow es-
capes from these ever imminent dis-
asters. It warf Hi P.M. when the
first gun spoke : and by 1 the fight
was virtually over — ^the Hartford and
the Albatross having passed ; while
most of their consorts had failed, and
dropped down to their anchorage be-
low — ^when a fiwh blaze told of a
heavy loss. The Mississippi had run
agroxmd directly abreast of the heavi-
est and most central battery ; where
she was soon discovered and became
a target for them all. Here Capt.
Melancthon Smith fought her nearly
half an hour, till she was completely
riddled ; when he ordered her set on
fire and abandoned ; and she was ;
burning aground till she w^ so light-
ened that she floated ; when she drift-
ed down the river a blazing ruin,
exploding, several miles below, when
the flre had reached her magazine.
Of her 233 officers and men, but 29
were missing at roU-call next day.

» March 13-14.

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The Bichmond had been etopped
on her course by a shot through her
steam-drum, and lost 8 killed and 7
wounded. The Eineo was disabled
by a shot through her rudder ; Capt.

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