Confederate Veterans' Column in Galveston Daily News, 1899


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Confederate Veterans' Column in Galveston Daily News, 1899


Dowling, Dick, 1838-1867--Sabine Pass


The Confederate Veterans' column details numerous aspects of the Battle of Sabine Pass, Dick Dowling, and the Davis ("Davie") Guards. Dick Dowling's unmarked grave in Houston is bemoaned; a recount of the Battle of Sabine Pass is given by someone who wasn't in the fort, but was a commissioned officer just nearby and saw the latter half of the action; the pride and recognition for Dick Dowling and the Davis Guards is chronicled by the author.


Galveston Daily News


Sept. 3, 1899. "Confederate Veterans' Column." Galveston Daily News, Page 14.


Published here by Rice University


September 3, 1899




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Sept. 3, 1899. "Confederate Veterans' Column." Galveston Daily News, Page 14.

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Confederate Veterans' Column

Galveston, Tex., Sept. 2--To the Veterans--Comrades: The 8th instant is the anniversary of one of the most remarkable battles ever fought. It was remarkable not only for the bravery and heroism of those engaged in it on our side, but for its far-reaching and beneficial results. It saved Texas from the devastation of an invading army at the time, repulsed, beat back, and delayed Banks, and gave that magnificent commissary his first lesson in confederate pluck, followed not long after by the lessons he received at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill. I refer, of course, to Sabine Pass, when Dick Dowling, with his forty-two Irishmen and his American doctor, won the grandest victory of our war.
I do not intend to refer further to that fight. You are all familiar with its history and with its results. All I desire to do is to call attention to the facts that the 8th instant is the anniversary of that battle; that Dick Dowling sleeps in an unmarked grave in a Houston cemetery, and that Camp Dick Dowling No. 197, U.C.V., the local camp at Houston, is making a strong effort to secure funds for the erection of a suitable monument over his grave. That camp has appointed a suitable committee to take charge of the matter, and a strong appeal has been made through the press for assistance. One or two camps have responded, I believe, and others have promised to take the matter up at "their next meeting." All that has been gone through with once or twice before, however and each time it has fallen through, simply because it was a camp matter and did not have enough individuality about it, if I may use the word.
The committee has never asked any assistance, but I propose to give it to them anyway, because I know they will accept it gladly, and I want every confederate soldier in Texas to do exactly what I am going to do. On next Friday, September 8, I am going to go to the post office and send Captain Phil H. Fall, the adjutant of Camp Dick Dowling No. 139 [sic], U.C.V., Houston, Tex., a money order for as much cash as I can possibly spare on that day. If I can spare $5, he shall get it, and I want every confederate soldier in Texas to do the same thing.
Don't wait for your camp to pass resolutions, make an appropriation, write a formal letter and send it in. That will all be done, perhaps, but that is red tape, and I now ask for the privates to act on their own responsibility and let the officers of the camp follow later. If Dick Dowling can see and appreciate what is being done, I know he will much prefer a monument erected with the dimes, quarters and half-dollars of his old companions in arms than to have one erected with the $5, $10, $50 contributions of the camps. In the way I propose it becomes our monument, and that is the kind he deserves and should have.
In order to renew interest in the battle of Sabine Pass and the events following it, I give this morning some very interesting sketches written by Mrs. Margaret L. Watson of Beaumont, a lady from whom I hope to hear often. --S.O. Young

The Battle of Sabine Pass.
Beaumont, Tex., Aug. 29.--The writer interviewed Lieutenant J. M. Chasten, an old veteran of the confederate side of the civil war, believing that he would be as correct in his statements as any man who had to depend on his memory could be. While he was not in the fort at the time, he was so nearly connected with the event that his testimony is of great value, which is as follows:
I was a commissioned officer in Griffin's battalion. I was second lieutenant in company F; my captain was Charles Bickley. While in Houston in 1863, about the latter part of August, we got orders to go to Arkansas post. The railroad was so bad, so worn out, that it could not take us all off, and two companies, company F and Captain Cooke's company were left in Beaumont. A word about the condition of my company at this time will explain matters better. As our battalion had been ordered to Arkansas post many of our men had been given furloughs to go by their homes. My captain, Charles Bickley, was left in Houston on a court-martial; the first lieutenant was at home sick; I was left in command of forty men, all the others being, as I stated, off on furloughs.
On the evening of September 7, 1863, firing was heard at Sabine Pass. We got orders about dark to go to the pass, that it was attacked by the federals.
We went aboard the steamer Roebuck, a transport that ran down the Neches river to Sabine Pass. We were ordered to stay there until the train came in from Houston. The train came and brought Commander Leon Smith. The boat was ordered to depart; it was then 10 or 11 p.m. We dropped down to what was then known as Kidd's landing and there Commodore Smith got off and got a horse or a mule and went to the pass by land. The Roebuck with us on it arrived as Sabine Pass very early on the morning of the 8th of September.
As soon as we landed, as I had been in the artillery, I was ordered aboard the Uncle Ben, a steamboat made a gunboat by cotton bales piled up for breastworks. This same boat won what is known as the Morning Light seafight in 1862.
About this time, the Yankee fleet was coming in from outside, and were very near the fort. I could see no sign of anybody near the fort--no sign of even life. All at once the Davie guards came out and opened fire on a vessel, which proved to be the Sachem, coming up what was known as the Louisiana Channel. Another one, which proved to be the Clifton, was coming up the Texas channel; another vessel, which proved to be the Arizona, was following these two mentioned. In a few minutes smoke and steam were seen flying from these vessels, and as soon as the smoke cleared away, so that we could see, a white flag went up on the Sachem, and the guns of the fort were then turned on the Clifton, and in a few moments a white flag went up on the Clifton. Then the firing was turned on the Arizona, and the steam raised from her like the others. The Arizona put up a flag of truce when she got crippled, then kept backing until she got out of the channel; she was seen then to throw out horses and provisions and every conceivable thing possible. The horses had their halters tied to their forefeet and not one of them lived. The drove axes into molasses and everything of the kind and threw them overboard. Bacon and flour were the only things that came ashore fit to use. The Uncle Ben was turned loose and dropped down about three-quarters of a mile, and I was ordered into the fort. I jumped off with twenty men and double-quicked into the fort. About this time the Yankee fleet were all down to the bar. They had twenty-one vessels all told. Nineteen came inside of the bar. I had not been there but a few minutes when I saw four men go out on the Louisiana side. I asked Lieutenant Dowling for a boat and some men to go after them. He told me to take as man as I wanted. I did so and captured three; one got away and then men said he was one of the pilots who brought them in. This man was one of our own people who had turned traitor and was piloting these vessels in. His name is well known to the old citizens of Sabine Pass.
The Uncle Ben then towed the steamer Sachem up to the wharf, where a most pitiable sight met the eyes of those present. A ball went through the steam drum of this vessel, literally cooking the men. The surgeon was working with the poor creatures; he had emptied barrels of flour and thrown them in; the skin came off their hands and face like a mask. One negro was so white you would never know he was black, only for a piece of his scalp showing his wool. The Uncle Ben then returned for the Clifton, but by this time she was aground, the tide being so low. All the captured men were brought up to the wharf; the object was to send them all off as soon as possible, as they expected to be attacked again next morning.
When these men were landed on the wharf there were hardly enough men to guard them, but about dark the Grand Bay, transport, came down from Niblett's Bluff with Captain Clepper's company aboard; then the prisoners were counted aboard the steamer Roebuck; the number was 472 men. Captain Clepper was put in command of the prisoners and started to Houston that night. Next morning only the regular blockade was in sight. For days and weeks dead men were found on the beach and buried by men detailed for that purpose with all due respect. It was cruel to see the fate of the magnificent horses, all tied to drown. I did not see one mule, as has often been stated. That the object was complete destruction was in evidence everywhere.
The writer then asked Lieutenant Chasten to state how many men were in the fort at the town. He paused a moment as if counting in his mind and replied: "Forty-one all told." Where was Captain Odlum, the captain of the Davie guards, at this time, for we know he was at Sabine Pass? "Well, I will explain this: Colonel Griffin, commander of the post of Sabine Pass, was off in Houston on a court-martial and Captain Odlum was placed in command of the post and his duty was there but he and Dr. Murray, the surgeon of the post, were running backwards and forwards all the day of the battle. Lieutenant Dick Dowling was strictly in command of the fort."
"Was anybody hurt in this fight?" "No, not to amount to anything. One Davie guard was grazed on the heel." "Do you call to mind any incident of this fight that impressed you?" "Yes, as I was double-quicking with my men to go into the fort I passed a house; out ran a woman and caught me by the arm and double-quicked with me right into the fort, and it proved to be Mrs. Mulheron, the wife of one of the Davie guards, and she was met right in the entrance by her husband, and they rushed into each other's arms with great rejoicing.
I asked: "Was this the first time you met Dick Dowling, and what was he doing when you saw him first?" "Yes. Why Dick Dowling was standing outside on the bank looking at the Sachem when I got there." "Did you hear how the Davie guards occupied themselves while in the fort waiting for the attack?" "Yes; they said they were in the boom-proofs; got everything ready, and while waiting for orders were playing cards to pass the time away."
Another thing I will never forget was when I was counting the prisoners on the transport to send them off one of the men had all the fingers of his right hand shot off but one. I learned this man had been promoted for bravery at Vicksburg. Some of our boys said to him, "Haven't you got enough?" when he came out with an oath of bitter defiance. Well, poor fellow, I expected he died, as all these prisoners were sent to Bryan, and many died from bad water, hardships and climate. They were almost all from Maine, a fine-looking set of men, but they stayed in camp long enough to wear out all their clothes, and were glad to get any old hat or shirt, and when last seen looked like the rest of the old confeds.
After the battle two of the Davie guards were walking along the beach, looking what was to be found, when the body of a negro came drifting down with a life preserver on. One remarked, "there goes another dead man." The other paused and said, "Be Jasus [sic], we will see if he is a dead man," and got him by the feet and when his head went under he began kicking pretty lively. They brought him in the fort, and when he was examined to see what was on him we found only the top of a skull all bloody stowed away in the breast of his shirt. He said this was the head of the gunner on the starboard side of the Clifton he had picked up, and was trying to carry it home to his wife. This man was head cook or steward on the Clifton, and had a wife and nine children in New York. Dick Dowling kept him with him as cook till the war ended.
What the citizens were doing on this memorable day of the 8th of September 1863: Neil McGafffey [sic] killed a beef and cut it up and sent it around to the ladies to cook; everybody was asked to bake bread, biscuit, cake or anything they had. Increase Burch had a fine sweet potato patch; he began to dig potatoes and cook them. Coffee was made by everybody that could make and furnish it. Mrs. Kate Dorman got in her buggy and Mrs. Vosburg accompanied her, and they carried food to the fort. By the time the fight was over they met these ladies with refreshments. Everything possible was done to honor these brave men by the citizens of the Pass, not only then, but as long as they remained in the fort. Dick Dowling was ordered to Houston some time the following spring, and Lieutenant Chasten was officer of the day every other day up to the end of the war.
The writer knows this to be true, as she was there at the time and visited the fort at least once a week with the young wife of Lieutenant Chasten [sic], and was as familiar with all the details mentioned as one can be who hears them recited by so many persons.
The life of this old veteran up to this time had been spent mostly at Sabine Pass. He clings to the pass with its storm-tossed and wave-worn shores like one whose heart is entwined with its destiny. Always happy, always ready to divide with one in trouble and sorrow. The friend of every child and every poor widow, honoring and serving the aged fathers and mothers on both sides of his house, it is but natural that his worldly store should be small. The tidal wave that swept off the town of Sabine Pass in 1886 took all he had save his family, which was saved. Still, the house tossed about in the waters of that awful night has been placed back and made comfortable and shelters each day kind and loving friends.
His aged mother, now 94 years of age, finds him her only support.
Lieutenant Joe M. Chasten, "Uncle Joe," as everyone calls him, was born in Tuscaloosa county, Alabama, August 1, 1832, is now 67, came to Texas in 1855. He married in November, 1863, Miss Mary Eliza Vosburg, one of the belles of Sabine Pass in those days.
This happy pair has proved an ideal marriage, with sweetness and patience and remarkable fortitude has Aunt Mollie shared with Uncle Joe his joys and his sorrows. Both being gifted with musical talent, their home echoes to music of instruments and music of hearts. Lieutenant Joe Chaston [sic] seems to be well and strong. His kindly blue eyes beam with benevolence and light up with the fires of youth when he speaks of those days that tried men's souls. Yet as I have seen in the eyes of all old confederate veterans when speaking of the past and realizing the present, a shadow of unspeakable sorrow. Their cause was lost; they took up the threads of their life as best they could after the struggle and by their patience and pluck retrieved the fortunes of their country, to find often their boat stranded on the sea of prosperity, and new faces, new industries, push them aside and as their old comrades drop off one by one they suffer with a loneliness only the good God knows. Now at this time the country seems to be going wild on the building of monuments. when, oh! the unspeakable sweetness of a word or act, of remembrance.
So few are left now. Why not the Daughters of the Confederacy and other organizations of this kind remember the services, the date of these battles, and by a kind letter, if nothing else, give a little comfort, a little assistance, to those living?
A few weeks ago I stood in the moonlight with Lieutenant Joe on the open field where we could see the little clump of trees that marks the old fort. We could see once more the ever-revolving light of the light house -- that light we both had watched with such anxiety during those days when the enemy stood outside the bar.

This name was so dear to all who knew him. The writer met him in January, 1864. He was then in command of the fort at the pass. The magnetic influence of this man was remarkable. He was then very young, about 22 or 23, I think, with the fairest, rosiest complexion, the bluest eyes and always smiling. He just won every heart and no one could cail to just love him, and one could well imagine what a man like that could do with the generous heart of an Irishman, and of the 32 of his command. He had his young wife and infant son with him. His wife was a fair type of Irish beauty, modest and sweet, and the boy was like a young Cupid; he lost this son that winter.
There was a rifled cannon captured on one of these vessels and this was placed in the fort. We used to get on all the lookouts to see this gun at target practice--he named it Annie, in honor of his wife. The blockading ships used to reply when they heard this gun; it made them angry to hear the Annie.
I often think of the old Greek axiom: "Whom the Gods love die young."
Dick Dowling died with yellow fever in 1867, in the prime of his young manhood. He dwells in memory always young and joyous; he escaped perhaps the many ills of life, the weight of years, with its weary cares, never seemed to be possible to associate with this hero.
When we hear that reveille on the other shore we will find him there perhaps waiting for his old friends and comrades who have nearly all answered to roll call.

These men who saved Texas from invasion repulsed 20,000 troops, captured 472 men and two gunboats, were all Irishmen from the captain down. They were men of mature years--very few were young--men of brawn and muscle; quiet in manner if treated right, but woe be to you if you offended one of these little ones; you would hear from him in true Irish style. When off duty they were always smoking their pipes or spinning yarns or meditating alone in the shade.
Our railroad men, at the present time, when resting from their labors, bring to my mind the dear old Davie guards, and my heart goes out to them. --MARGARET L. WATSON.

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