A painting of the Battle of Sabine Pass by Donald M. Yena believed to be in the possession of Texas Tech University

Inside 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 correspondent.

...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.

Things 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.

The 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.

In 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.

The 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.

The 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 frames.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<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.