The following graphics are from interpretive displays at the Battle of Sabine Pass Park: (with minor spelling corrections, Secham to Sachem and Joshua Belle to Josiah H. Bell )


In fact, there was no field artillery. Captain Lamson's imagination, under duress of what was in front of him, played on his fears. It may be that he saw Daly's men. Those on board the Granite City were in the best position to see them. It may be the scouts had the small six pound field piece Captain Kellersberger did not use in the fort. There were other pieces of information that might have fed the problem.

General Weitzel froze. He could not order the landing of his troops as he could not believe the destruction he was witnessing on the Clifton which was not that far forward of the landing area. He knew, were he to land, the fort's fire would next be turned on his landing force.

All on board the Union ships could see the black smoke rising from the cotton clads approaching from the north. Maybe Odlum's visual trick played a part as well. Once the initial move was made, the Union fleet got in a panic to leave. Provisions, equipment, even horses and mules were thrown over board to insure they could cross the bar quickly. The Arizona, with its white flag still flying, got unstuck and backed down the Louisiana channel. In his eagerness to escape, the captain of the Arizona got stuck again. The Captain of the Arizona did another thing to preserve his place in history, he confirmed Lamson's erroneous sighting of the field artillery.

After all the Union ships left and were safely out of Sabine Pass, the Senior Naval officer, Captain Dana of the blockader Cayuga, ordered the gunboats Arizona and the Granite City to stay with his ship as protection from the possibility that the Sachem and the Clifton could be quickly repaired and mount an attack. This decision scuttled any further cooperation between the Navy and Army to attempt another landing elsewhere.

Most of the transport vessels had a shallow draft and were not sea going vessels. That fact, and news there was a possible storm on the way, forced the decision to get the troops safely back to New Orleans.

In the fort, Dowling was suddenly faced with a problem. Below him the Clifton had surrendered, as well as the Sachem in the Louisiana channel. Men swam and came in small boats to the Texas side. There was some thought among them to charge the fort - until they heard the command from the fort for the gunners to load grape and cannister.

The drawing below is another from Francis Lubbock showing the surrender to Dowling

They then gave themselves up. There were over 200 of these men! Dowling only had about 43 men. Quickly, the Irishman devised a plan. The Confederates, too, saw the smoke of the steamers coming down the Sabine. Dowling knew reinforcements would soon arrive from the cotton clads. Dowling had some of his men stand on top of the parapet. He took five out with himself to the Texas shore to gather the prisoners. The men on top of the parapet were to discuss and otherwise talk to the men men in the fort about being ready with the grape and canister in case there was a problem with the prisoners. They were to talk to more men than were there so as to give the impression there were considerable more men than there actually were.

Mulhern and Sullivan, the men who took the dishes back to Mrs. Dorman, rejoined the Davis Guard at this point.

The Uncle Ben dropped off some men and went out to tow the gunship Sachem into the wharf by the fort. The Roebuck arrived at the wharf at the fort and off loaded approximately 95 men to reinforce the Davis Guard. These men double timed around the fort to assist Dowling's men with the prisoners. They were soon joined by men from the Florilda. Also helping to guard the prisoners was Mary McGaffey Jackson.

Dowling, who was stripped to the waist and covered with soot and gunpowder, met Lieutenant Crocker. Crocker was in the uniform of a United States Naval Officer. Crocker found it difficult to believe Dowling was the commander of the fort. Lieutenant Dane, brought to shore by the Uncle Ben was more vocal,"Are you the shaughran (Gaelic for rogue) who did all that mischief?"Dane said Dowling looked about 19 years old, was very retiring and modest. He asked Dowling how many men and guns he had. Dowling replied "four thirty-two pounders and two twenty-four pounders, and 43 men.""Do you realize what you have done, sir?", Dane continued; ..."you and your men have in your miserable little mud fort among the rushes have captured two gunboats carrying 14 guns, a number of prisoners, many stands of side arms, and plenty of good ammunition. And all that you have done with six popguns...and that is not the worst of your boyish tricks. You have sent three Yankee gunboats, 6,000 troops, and a General out to sea in the dark. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, sir." Dowling asked why the fleet left. Dane told him, "My impression is that our fellows had a sudden attack of homesickness."

The remarks of Dane are taken from an account he wrote in the New York Herald sometime after the battle.

Other than the two Davis Guard members with burned thumbs, another with a grazed heel and a fourth who was marked with some grapeshot, no one from the fort was hurt.The Davis Guard fired 137 rounds in 35 minutes.The guns were so hot they were still warm to the touch the next day at 3:00 P.M.

Kate Dorman got in her buggy with another load of food and some home brewed beer and rode out to the fort. As described by Mrs. S. W. Sholars of Sabine City, she was warmly greeted by the men. One of them took her in his arms, lifted her out of the cart, and ran with her to the flag staff. She leaned against the staff, with tears coursing down her cheeks and eyes sparkling, stretched out her arms and said:

Boys, I wish my arms had been made of rubber, so that I could hug you all at once.

< Kate Dorman who stood a lot taller then her 4'10" in the hearts of the Davis Guard

An article in a Houston newspaper said:

The noble men belonging to the Davis Guards, who are all natives of the "Green Emerald Isle," deserve well of the nation.Nobly have they proved their devotion to the land of their adoption.

Let no one hereafter cast any imputations on the honest Irish soldier. He is true to his friends and country, and when the gallant deeds of valor, as was displayed inhere, are recorded on the page of history, there you will find the names of the heroes of Sabine.They had no property at stake in the contest, and no other motive than to battle for the rights and the sacred rights of the home of their adoption.

The Confederate Congress passed a commendatory resolution for:

One of the most brilliant and heroic achievements in the history of this war, and entitles the Davis Guards to the gratitude and admiration of their country.

President Jefferson Davis at different times described the battle as:

I believe the brave garrison did more than an equal force had ever elsewhere performed...

...that battle was more remarkable than the battle of Thermopylae, and, when it has orators and poets to celebrate it, will be so esteemed by mankind. the defense of SabinePass, which for intrepidity and extraordinary success must, I think, be admitted to have no parallel to the annals of ancient or modern warfare.

The only medal struck in the Confederacy to commemorate a victory was made of silver with a green ribbon and presented to the members of the Davis Guard present at Sabine Pass.

The medals were presented with a green ribbon attached. On the front were the capital initials "D G" for Davis Guard and a Maltese cross. The obverse had in script: Sabine Pass, Sept.8th 1863

For details on the Davis Guard Medal follow this link >

Dick Dowling wearing his medal

General Magruder in a General Order dated September 13, 1863 and issued from aboard the captured Clifton, stated:

The Major General Commanding again returns his warmest thanks to the gallant soldiers of Texas for their unsurpassed devotion and heroism, under the most trying circumstances of war. That a band of forty men, defending a fort of six guns, should have foiled an army of fifteen thousand, supported by powerful gunboats, in an attempt to land, would have been deemed incredible on any other soil save that of Texas. The results of this engagement are as valuable as the conduct of the men was brilliant and heroic.

Leon Smith in his official report stated:

Too much credit cannot be awarded Dowling, who displayed the utmost heroism in the discharge of the duty assigned him and the defenders of the fort. God Bless the Davis Guards one and all!

Andrew Forest Muir, a noted historian at Rice University in the 1950s and a Guggenheim Fellow, whose grandfather, a Welshman, served with Dowling in Cook's Regiment of which the Davis Guard was a part, wrote:

The Davis Guards were responsible for what was,without question, the most brilliant victory of Confederate forces in Texas. This was the Battle of Sabine Pass that took place on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8th, 1863. For bravery this engagement ranks with the Defense of the Alamo and for military results with the Battle of San Jacinto.

Bruce Catton, the noted Civil War historian, wrote of the Battle of Sabine Pass:

One of the most preposterously lopsided battles of the war...