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Section Xvi. -- Texas, Home And Back To The Bed River

Section Xvi. -- Texas, Home And Back To The Bed River image
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Of the eieren States that seceded and inaugurated the war ol tua Rebellion, none carne ofE so easily as Texas. The immense extentof this State, its sparse population during war-time and its position way ofl to the Southwest of the populous centers were some of the causes of this partial exemption from the ravages of war. October 8, 1863, Commodore Renshaw with a fleet of vessels took possession f Galveston, Tex., without meeting resistence. Towards the end of the year a small body of troops, about two hundred and fifty in number, was sent by General Banks to assist ia holding the place. Meanwhile General J. B. Magruder, who was in command of the Confedérate Department, carne from Houston and before dawn on the morningof January 1, 1883, attacked the troops with a storming party ; nd with artillery and some steamboats protected with cotton bale, manned with sharp-shooters and provided with cannon, attacked the fleet. The Federáis were unprepared f or a sudden attack. The Harriet Lane, one of the Federal gun-boats, however rao into a Confedérate vessel and sank her, but at nearly the same moment another Confedérate boat became entangled in the wheeis of the gun-boat in such a way that she was powerless to escape or offer resistenc8,when a swarm of Confedérate sharpshooters boarded her and took possesïion. Commodore Ren9haw meantime had the miafortune to run aground with the flagship (the Westñeld), and finding it impracticable to get off in season it was decided to bkw up the vessel. This work was put in the hands oí a man who was, so it is stated, rendered incompetent by drunkenness. At any rate the explosión was premature, and Commodore Renshaw and a number of others lost their lives. The remnant of the fleet escaped to New Orleans, and the infantry and stores at Galveston feil into the hands of the Confederates. The blockade about Galveston was, however, promptly renewed by Commodore Bell with a competent fleet. January 11, 1863, the Hatteras, a Federal gun-boaí, gave chase to a strange sail, seen in this vicinity, and when some distance out to sea was turned upon and destroyed by the stranger, that turned out to be the fatnous Alabama, Alittle later, two Federal gun-boats, on duty at Sabi Pass, were suddenly at tacked and captured by two Confedérate vessels that came down the Sabine river. Thus, in Texas the Confederates were having things their own way. The operations of Banks in the Teche country in the early spring of 1863, and against Port Hudson later, engaged the attention of all the f orces at nis disposal. Toward the close of the year, Banks again turned hls attention to the repossession of Texas soil, and De Crow's Point, a barren waste of saud near Matagorda bay, was one of the repossessed portions of the Star State in December, 1863. Here the writer's regiment landed toward the close of the year. The whole region seemed a cheerless waste of sand, but to the sea-sick soldiers any bit of land was preferable to salt water. The tents were pitched and staked down tightly, but the frequent sweeping winds often laid them flat upon the ground. The only fuel was gome sobby drift-wood that was as scarce in quantity as well as poor in quality. Water was obtained by digging shallow wells and was brackish and very unpleasant to drink and use for cooking purposes. Coffee made with it was vory unpalatable. For nearly six months a chronic disorder had been affectin? the writer, and about the middle of January a change of surroundings was deemed essential for restoration to health. Accordingly, a furlough was procured, and upon a gulf steamer with a sea smooth as glass, the trip to New Orleans was made without sea-sickness. At the last men tiohed place a steamboat was taken for Cairo, and then the balance of the trip was made by rail. It was while waiting at a railway junction that the flrst meal of civil life eaten for many days was partaken of. The reader can scarcely imagine the impression made by the sight of a white table-cloth, and the dishes, knives, f orks and spoons of civil life, af ter cighteen months of camp and campaign f are. The writer reached home and settled down to the business of striving to improve his shattered health, but meantime read and learned all he could concerning the progress of the war. Upon leaving the field and the camp f or a time, the writer had expected to get away irom the aight of blue-coats. But everywhere these were seen; they crowded steamboats, sprinkled the corridors of hotels, thronged depots and packed passenger trainsupon the railways. They swarmed in the busy avenues of cities, were seen on every hand in village streets, and one or more could at almost any time be found on every quiet lane and country road. Indeed, throughout the years 1865-4-5 the Union soldier was almost literally omnipresent, save in the parts of the South directly under the control of the Confedérate arm ies. After Grant's remarkable success at Vicksburg, the eyes of the country were turned upon him, and in the autumn of 1863 he was given a much more important command than he had hithertoenjoyed. This was the military división of the MisBissippi, that moluded the Departments of the Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee and trans-Mississippi. With forces from these several departments an important victory was won over Bragg at Chattanooga in November, 1853. But yet greater responsibilities awaited him, and in the early part of 1864 Grant was given command of all the armies t f the Union. The papers of the time were filled wüh eulogistic notices of him, and all at lastj seemed to feel that ho was the right nianj in the right place. When he established his headquarters in tho field with the Army of the Potomac, the Northern people were confldent Lee would te overpowered, Richmond captured and the war speedily ended. But the bloody battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, in which the Army of the Potomac lost so heavily, proved that the Confedcrates about Richmond yet possessed grcat power. The papers were filled with loncminute accounts of these battles. Atth?time the only redeeming feature seen about these from a Unioq Btand-point seemed to bc the capture of a whole división oí Confederates under General Edward Johnson by General Hancock' s corps. The writcr grew weary,and chafed under the necessity of remaining away from nis regiment, and feit as uneasy as a caged bird. For, however hard it may have been for a youngmanwith other plans m view to, for the time, relinquish these and join the army, and however much camp life may at firsthave gone discordantly to nis tastes and failing9, nine times in ten the young soldier when thoroughly broken in, especially aíter one or two active campaigns, is tented only when with his command. By and by carne inklings of another active campaign about to be entered upon by the Army oí the Gulf, oi which the writer's regiment formed a part. Later came word of an important movement up Red river under Banks. And towards the end oí April, J864, word was received that this campaign had ended in disaster, and that many of tne writer's regiment were killed, wounded and takeu prisonera. It is hard for one who has never been similarly circumstanced to realize the exact feelings of the writer when lirst hearing oí this disaster. He had some such interest in his regiment as one feels in his own familv, and yet it was different It produced an indescribable feeling and a burning desire to be with the command and share its fortunes, whether good or ilL Atfirst all sorts of rumors were prevalent concerning the loss sustained by the regiment. This comrade was reported killed, another fatally wounded and a third captured. By and by, however, letters from comrades were received, and it was found that the regiment had been very badly crippled, a number killed and wounded, but many more made prisoners. General Banks was greatly blamed for the disaster. In Maren he had started a column up lted river with which a fleet upon this stream under Commodore Porter was in co-operation. But the advance when near Mansfield, La., was attacked tiy a vastly superior iorce and driven back in disorder upon the main army. With the assistance of General A. 3. 'Smith in command of a detachment from ths Army of Tennessee, the Confederate3 were held in check while the whole army under Banks retraced its steps, and the fieet aftergreat labor in building a dam, the water in the river having faüen, was finally brought off in safety.


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