A painting of the Battle of Sabine Pass by Donald M. Yena believed to be in the possession of Texas Tech University
the fort things were fast and furious.
After the third round, one of the field howitzers came off its carriage
and was no longer used. A cannonball
struck the sights of one of the 32 pounders just after Dowling sighted it and
stepped back. He was not hurt. Another cannonball struck the elevating
wheel of one of the other guns. A piece
hit one of the Irishmen, but it caused no harm. He held up the piece and told Captain Bailey, "The Yanks are
getting too familiar, Doc." The
following scene in the fort was reported by W. P. Doran, a war
...the marksmanship was marvelous, the men were thoroughly drilled, knew their places, and remained cool.
They had no fear, no
dread. The guns were aimed with sangfroid and results carefully noted.
were not always business in the fort.
When the Sachem blew up, all three officers, Dowling, Bailey, and
Smith simultaneously reached for the Stars and Bars. They waved the flag together on the parapet. The Davis Guard gave up a cheer at this
spontaneous gesture by their officers.
sharpshooter fire of the New York 75th Regiment and a deriding return cheer
heard from the Clifton quickly focused the Irishmen on their new
target. One of the 24 pounders could
not get an angle on the Clifton. The
Clifton was too close to the fort for the cannon to take it under
fire. Some Davies got shovels and dug
out enough earth to depress the gun to an elevation that laid its fire onto the
Clifton. The guns then, with
swift efficiency, fired on the Clifton.
The Irishmen did not take time to swab the guns between rounds. They knew this would be their one major
use. The guns became so hot that two of
the men had their thumbstalls (a protective pad for the thumb, usually made of
leather) burned off and their thumbs were seared to the bone.
the middle of all this hectic activity, one of the Davis Guard left the fort
and jumped into the water. He swam to
where a large negro man was swimming from the Sachem to the
transports. The Davie swam after him. Many of the townspeople were on
rooftops. They used spy glasses to
follow closely the events unfolding before them. This wild act of the Davie diving into the river in the midst of
shot and shell was well remembered by many of the townsfolk of Sabine City
years after the battle. The Confederate
caught the negro and forced him to the Texas shore. He was later presented to Dowling and became his cook, which was
the Union soldier's job aboard the Sachem.
Clifton was still coming on at full steam, firing every gun she could,
and with her sharpshooters on deck firing furiously. Suddenly, a round went though the wheelhouse and broke the
steering cable. The Clifton veered into the Texas bank just about a
hundred yards from the old fort, stuck fast.
The sudden stop sent the crew and sharpshooters on the Clifton
sprawling. They quickly recovered and
were back on their guns. The Clifton
was about 400 yards from the fort.
She hit the bank at such an angel, that only the forward nine-incher,
and two 32 pounders could be brought to bear on the fort. Crocker brought another gun into play by
blasting his own superstructure out of the way.
signalman aboard the Clifton like the signalman aboard the Sachem,
was frantically signalling the rest of the fleet for assistance. The Sachem ran up the white
flag. Most of her crew were dead or
overboard. Many of them cooked by the
steam, the flesh falling from their
<The Davis Guard cheer upon seeing the white flag go up on the Sachem. This is a detail from an illustration that accompanied a story about the battle in the men's magazine, True, December, 1963. The artist was Tom Levell.