In the early morning of October 4th, eight Union vessels were in position off Galveston harbor. Four were armed steamers and one was a mortar boat. One of the steamers was the Harriet Lane pictured to the left. The Harriet Lane crossed the bar first to come into the harbor. She was fired upon by the one cannon which guarded Galveston harbor. It was manned by the Davis Guard on Fort Point. Fort Point was at the entrance to the harbor (near where the Bolivar Ferry landing is today on Galveston).

Because of a Confederate decision made earlier, Galveston was presumed undefensible, all the heavy cannon, save the one, were transferred to Houston and other strategic locations on the mainland.

The Harriet Lane and the other Union vessels coming behind her, with their twenty guns, fired on the open fort which had no battlements or bomb shelters. The lone gun at Fort Point was hit in the return fire.

The Davis Guard, with no protection in the open fort, were forced to run under fire for the protection of the city, two miles distant over a naked beach. With shot and shell falling all around, these men were able to make it to the relative safety of the city.

At this point, white flags went up on the Union ships asking for a parley. While the parley was being arranged, citizens were busily loading all their belongings on wagons and carts and leaving the city on the one bridge to the mainland. The following day, Sunday, October 5, 1862, the Confederate commander agreed to evacuate the city under threat of bombardment. Not long after, the flag of the United States of America flew over Galveston. The flag was raised by Lieutenant Jonathan M. Wainwright, master of the Harriet Lane.

......................................................Lieutenant Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright II >

Lt. Wainwright's had served on the U.S.S San Jacinto as well as the U.S.S Merrimack before assuming command of the U. S. S. Harriet Lane. His father, Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright was a prominent Episcopal bishop in New York.


The government of Texas first, and then its citizens, were having second thoughts about the Confederate States of America in late 1862. Union troops were occupying ports in Texas. General Grant was advancing down the Mississippi from Vicksburg, and Union forces from New Orleans were attempting to link up with him. It was clear to the western governors of the Confederacy that they may soon be on their own. One of these Governors was an Irishman, Governor Harris Fagan of Arkansas. Some of these politicians considered a move to secede from the Confederate States of America.

In 1861, Texas was generous with its volunteers, its money, and its food, most all of which was sent out of Texas. The Confederacy took the sons of Texas and sent them to fight and possibly die outside of Texas. More than 400,000 southern men died in battle in the East's major engagements of 1861-1862. This made a lot of Texans, widows and orphans. They were paid war relief funds by the state, but this was paid in State or Confederate money, which by late 1862 was almost worthless. To make matters worse a conscription law was passed to take the men who had not volunteered. The law was eventually applied to all men between seventeen and fifty. The women of Texas were already straining to keep farm and family together; they did not want to lose any more of their men. The conscription law was unequally enforced; office holders and men of property were considered excused. This policy caused resentment among the men forced to go as well as among their families.

Texas could not afford all these men to leave Texas. Texas was unique among the Confederate states; it was the largest state, with a 400 mile coastline, it was a frontier state. Besides the Yankees, Texas had to worry about possible attacks from Mexicans and Indians. It seemed the Confederacy was taking too much from Texas. The mothers of Texas and the politicians of Texas were both becoming bitter at the callousness of the Confederacy towards the needs of Texas, after Texas had been so generous in helping fill the needs of the Confederacy.

There were other, more personal factors contributing to the growing disaffection. In 1862, the economic effect of the blockade was reaching every community. Medicine and certain foods were becoming very scarce. Items that could be bought had outrageous prices on them. Taxes were doubled. Property was being confiscated. At first the property confiscated was that of Union sympathizers. Later it was the property of those fighting outside Texas for the Confederacy. These men were in no position to even know, let alone contest the action. Passports were required for travel between counties in Texas. Martial law tended to be brutal; anyone suspected of being "disloyal" could be hung or shot.


There was, during the Civil War in Texas, such a thing as a "People's Court." It was extralegal, outside the law, you will not find it listed in Gammell's Book of Law. The "Peoples Court" was some type of community tribunal that met to consider the disposition of "disloyal" persons. In Gainesville, a "People's Court" questioned the loyalty of some forty men, who it was said talked against the South. Gainesville is located in Cooke County which borders Oklahoma, several of its neighboring counties (Montague, Wise Fannin and Jack) joined Cooke County in voting against secession. The people who successfully campaigned for not seceeding in the elections of 1861 were called the "Peace Party."

After Texas did secede, feelings ran high in the whole area. When evidence was found of a pro-Union undergound, forty members of the Peace Pary were brought into Gainesville along with twenty to thirty others in connection with the allegations. In what became known as The Great Gainesville Hangings, all forty Peace Party members were hung with nothing more than hearsay evidence.

Decent people protested such acts. A Doctor Richard Peebles, an Irishman; and four others questioned similar action that was taken in Hempstead, Texas. Doctor Peebles characterized it as "lynch law." Doctor Peebles was exiled to Mexico.

< The Great Gainsville Hanging as depicted by a Leslie's Magazine engraving.


In the area of Kerr and Gellespie counties Fredericksburg area, there were a group of German men who said they were neutrals in the war. Many Germans in Texas were open Union supporters and left Texas when the war started. These men of Kerr and Gillespie counties wished to be left to their farms and wanted no part of the war. After the conscription acts and the increasing martial law, many of these German men expressed a desire to leave Texas.

The martial law was harshly enforced by the local Confederate commander, Scottish born Captain James M. Duff. Duff, a San Antonio merchant before the war, organized an irregular unit in San Antonio which he dubbed Duff's Partisan Rangers. He marched them to Austin for an assignment. Along the way he heard about the German's attitude in the hill country. Either on his own or with the tacit consent of the Confederate authorities in Austin, Duff moved his unit to establish martial law in portions of Kerr and Gillespie County.

Duff's unit harassed the German communities with a "reign of terror." Close to 150 men were lynched naked and their stomachs slit open and filled with stones and dumped into area creeks. There were reports of some of the German women being raped. Crops and homes were burned.

The German neutrals and Union sympathizers organized to defend themselves. Led by Fritz Tegener the group made plans to go to Mexico. In the summer of 1862, 65 German men and boys armed themselves, and quietly withdrew towards the border. Captain Duff learned of their departure and sent a company of men under Lieutenant Collin D. McRae to pursue them. Two hundred miles later, on the Nueces River, Lt. McRae found their camp. The Germans were asleep and had no sentries posted. They did not expect to be pursued. The Germans had been led to believe they had tacit approval to leave, they were told Duff was glad to be rid of them.

There was a full moon that night. Lieutenant McRae ordered his men to attack at midnight. They rode into the camp and fired indiscriminately. Nineteen Germans were shot to death, six trampled to death, and nine surrendered. Duff arrived and refused to allow wounded Germans to receive first aid. Those that did not die from their wounds, McRae had shot with the other prisoners. The rest escaped but were again caught by the pursuing Confederates as they crossed the Rio Grande River. Six Germans were killed there. Eleven of the survivors joined Union units most notably E. J. Davis' unit. The rest stayed in Mexico, went to California or elsewhere or drifted back into Texas when it was safe.

The Texas German communities in Kerr and Gillespie counties were not allowed to claim the bodies, the dead were left where they had fallen, exposed to the elements and animals.

Formal burial is a part of German culture. News of the massacre and the treatment of the dead caused rioting in San Antonio and other towns.

There is today, in Comfort, Texas, near Fredericksburg, a memorial to the Germans killed at the Nueces. There is an inscription on the monument in German, "Treue der Union", True to the Union. It is the only memorial to Union sympathizers erected in the South.

< The Treue der Union Memorial


In Waller County, neighbors J. H. Anderson and Benaiah Jones did not have aedequate fencing between their properties. This resulted in their livestock moving back and forth over each others land. This appeared acceptable to both. Anderson, who was a judge, in June 1861 witnessed Jones' will. Their amicable relationship changed within a month. Jones who was born in Massachusetts and had come from Michigan to Texas, supported the Union with unabashed enthusiasm. Judge Anderson was a staunch Confederate.

Benaiah Jones' parents had been involved in the Revolutionary War. Both were active in support of the Continental Army. The Jones family had moved West as the frontier moved to take advantage of the opportunities the frontier offered. The family stopped in Ohio when Jones was 13 years old. He grew up there and married Lois Olds. His sister, Carolyn, married Lois' brother James. Together the two couples moved on to the Michigan Territory by Conestoga wagon where they founded Jonesville, Michigan. Lois and Benaiah Jones had six sons: Croesus in 1820, Leonidas in 1822, Linnaeus in 18 24, Rhoderick in 1825, Claudius in 1826 and Cordus in 1828. The unusual names for the boys reflected Benaiah's interest in reading classical history. Benaiah Jones did well in Michigan operating a tavern and hotel. He became the community's Postmaster and Justice of the Peace. He later formed a stage line and traded horses. By 1834, Benaiah Jones was a wealthy man.

But then some reverses came, none of them the fault of Jones, and Jones' business and marriage failed. Bahaiah and his oldest son, Croseus now thirteen, decided to move to a new frontier. They moved to Indiana. Not long after they were there, Jones contracted to build eight river boats. Having built them, Jones offered to pilot one of the boats filled with produce down the Mississippi River to Natchez. He arranged for the boats to be towed up the Red River to Alexandria, Louisiana where he sold the produce and the boats. He moved to Texas just after the Texas Revolution. He was 47. He settled in Waller County just outside Hempstead, Texas. In 1842, he married Amanda Hutchinson who was 25 with an infant son. in 1842. Together they had six children. Benaiah Jones, ever industrious, operated an inn on the Hempstead Road and a ranch of about 1,000 acres along side Judge Anderson. Jones raised considerable livestock on the ranch.

Because of his enthusiastic support for the Union in 1861, plus his having been born and raised in the North, Benaiah Jones was called "Yankee" Jones. This did not set well with the Hempstead community that had voted in February, 1862 three to one in favor of the Confederacy. In August of 1861 there arose a dispute between "Yankee" Jones and his neighbor, Judge Anderson, over the ownership of livestock. Things escalated and Judge Anderson was shot and killed. A posse rode out of Hempstead intending to hang "Yankee" Jones on the spot. When they came to the Jones' place and spoke to Jones, he denied killing Judge Anderson. He did say that his adopted son, Amanda's boy William Hutchinson, may have killed the judge in defense of Jones. He told the posse he would accept their verdict however, if they would give him time to get his affairs in order.

Two weeks later after Jones had recorded all his deeds and otherwise gotten his affairs in orders, the posse returned to Jone's home and hung him on a tree in his front yard. Before he died "Yankee" Jones denied he had anything to do with the killing of Judge Jones and questioned the right of the posse to hang him or anyone. He then placed a curse on the posse.


The point is sometimes made by Confederate writers how cooperative and docile the slaves were during the war. Consider the degree of justice normally accorded slaves before the war. Consider the fact their owners and other caucasians of America were killing each other in a war that sometimes had brother killing brother. Caucasians protesting slavery or the war were being killed in Texas under `justice' dispensed by people like Duff and McRae, and institutions like "People's Courts" and the Waller County posse.

What was and is the point of such writers who wrote of the cooperation or docile nature of the slave population of the South? No one would bring any focus upon themselves at the time of such madness. Lee McGillery, a slave, said it succinctly, "a few slaves try to run away to the north after the war started and when white folks of the south find them, they would most of the time jest shoot them." McGillery's quote is from an article in the East Texas Historical Journal written by James Marten entitled "Slaves and Rebels The Peculiar Institution in Texas 1861-1865."

All this and more tended to make Texans less enthusiastic than when they first began to support the idea of a Confederacy. In 1862, the worst happened; Union soldiers were on Texas soil. One reason Texas was generous with her young men to the Confederate cause was to defeat the Yankees in the East and keep the war away from Texas.


Attitudes in some quarters were changed again when Texas got a new military commander and he announced a plan to throw the Yankees out of Texas. He was Major General "Prince" John Bankhead Magruder. Magruder was "Stonewall" Jackson's commander during the Mexican War and was commended several times for his leadership of artillery units in his command.

< General John Bankhead Magruder

Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a respected historian, wrote in 1851 that Magruder was of Irish ancestry. Magruder led Confederate forces against the Union in the first land battle of the war, after Fort Sumter. The Battle of Bethel was fought between Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia on May 10, 1861. Union forces withdrew after a brief skirmish.


The U.S Navy commander in charge at Galveston was Commander William B. Renshaw. He was aware of the change in leadership in Texas and the announced plan to rid Texas of Union coastal positions. Renshaw asked his headquarters in New Orleans for reinforcements. He was told there were none because of operations elsewhere. He then asked for permission to withdraw from his shore position back to the blockading position. This, too, was denied.

< Commander William B. Renshaw

In December 1862, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks replaced General Butler in New Orleans. Banks was a powerful political general. He was previously a long term United States Representative from Massachusetts. He was also, at one time, the Speaker of the House of the United States Congress; and later he became the Governor of Massachusetts. General Banks decided Galveston needed reinforcement and ordered the recently recruited and newly arrived, 42nd Massachusetts Regiment from New Orleans to Galveston.

.......................................................................Major General Nathaniel P. Banks >

Three companies of the 42nd Massachusetts Regiment and the Regimental Commander left New Orleans on the transport ship Saxon. They arrived in Galveston on Christmas Eve, 1862. The other companies of the Massachusetts regiment left on ships that never made it to Galveston before events overtook their deployment. The three companies of the Massachusetts Regiment were billeted in a large warehouse at the end of a 400 foot pier on the northwest edge of the city. The wharf was located at the base of 20th Street. Officially it was known as Pier 18. It was originally built by Ephraim McClean, and was called McClean's Wharf by oldtimers. In 1863, it was known as Kuhn's wharf.

The 260 men of the three companies of the Massachusetts regiment were placed on the wharf for a number of reasons:

>The rest of the regiment was to join them there when they arrived on later ships.

>The position could be easily supported by the naval guns of the small U.S. fleet present.

>The wharf would make for an easy embarkation point if necessary.

When the Confederates pulled back from Galveston in October of 1862, they only withdrew to Virginia Point. Virginia Point was a fortified position on the mainland end of the bridge connecting Galveston Island with Texas. A Confederate detachment stood watch on the Galveston side of the bridge. The Union forces stayed in the city.

           Galveston wharves, site of the action

General Magruder decided, as a result of the arrival of the advance elements of the 42nd Massachusetts, to begin his plan right away. General Magruder had said he would throw the Yankees out of Texas. The time was at hand and he would start at Galveston. The word went out for Confederates to assemble for an attack on Galveston. During the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, Confederate forces built up at Virginia Point and nearby staging locations. Some Hood's Brigade veterans, hearing the Harriet Lane was in Galveston, made a special point of being in on the assault.

One Confederate officer, upon hearing the Harriet Lane was in Galveston, hurried to be a part of the invasion force for a different reason than most. He was Major Albert Miller Lea. He knew his son, Edward, was among the ship's officers. Major Lea had not seen or heard from his son since he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

< Major Albert Miller Lea

The commander of the 42nd Massachusetts Regiment, Colonel Isaac Burrell, was aware of the increased Rebel activity. He asked U. S. Navy officers when the rest of his regiment (seven additional companies) would join those in Galveston. He also asked the naval commander to destroy the bridge from Virginia Point to Galveston. This was not done. Initially the bridge was not destroyed because it was the only means for food to get to the islanders. The U.S Navy did not have the means to provide food for its men and the islanders, so it allowed the bridge to be used to bring food from sources.

.............................................................................................Colonel Isaac Burrell >

When it became apparent that more than food would come across the bridge, the U. S. Navy vessels on hand did not have the ability, because of the shallow draft, to bring it within gun range. A land party could not be sent to destroy it without being greatly outnumbered in the resulting gunfight.


There was going to be a gunfight, and everyone knew it. They even knew when it was. On the last night of 1862, the 42nd Massachusetts Regiment companies were behind two breastworks. The first was about 100 feet from the shore. It was made from the planks in the pier, only a single board width walkway remained the last 50 feet in front of the breastwork. A second such breastwork was constructed near the end of the pier.

Listening posts were stationed in the city. Of the three companies, only one slept at a time. The United State's Navy stationed the Harriet Lane with its five guns in the main channel closest to the interior and out from the west end of the city wharf.

Additional armed ships included: the Clifton, a steam side-wheeler with its eight guns; the Sachem, a gunboat screw ship, with five guns; a sailing yacht, the Corypheus with two guns; the Owasco, a screw ship with eight guns; and the Westfield. The Westfield was another steam side-wheeler with six guns. It was off Pelican Split, a small island opposite Bolivar Point (see illustration). Two transports, the Saxon and Mary Ann Boardman were in the bay. The latter was laden with supplies and food for the 42nd Massachusetts Regiment, it also had onboard additional units to reinforce Galveston.


General Magruder assembled a land force of about 6,000 men. Magruder's surprise tactic was the use of two "cotton clads." These were steamships outfitted with cotton bales and large timbers to form breastworks around the gunwales and decks. The ships were: the Neptune, with two brass howitzers aboard and 150 men; and the Bayou City, with one gun, a 48 pound rifle gun, and 200 troops. The Neptune was commanded by a Captain Conner with a Captain McGovern as pilot. The Bayou City was captained by Irishman James H. McGarvey. Its pilot was Irishman Michael McCormick

A model of the single stacked Bayou City >

Most of the men aboard these two cotton clads were the veterans from the returned New Mexico campaign, including Tom Green and his dismounted calvary. Two accompanying, smaller boats, tenders, had very Irish names. They were the John F. Carr and the Lucy Guinn. The John F. Carr had an infantry company and sharpshooters aboard. The Lucy Guinn, under the command of a Major McKee, was to act as a hospital boat. There are some sources that say it also had sharpshooters aboard.

General Magruder personally planned to lead the land assault on New Year's Eve. The Confederates would concentrate on surrounding the 42nd Massachusetts Regiment companies, and bring to bear a lot of artillery on the U. S. troops. This artillery would have to be brought a distance of about five miles. They would be carried on flatbed rail cars for most of the distance, and then rolled into position. Major Albert M. Lea helped move the guns of Captain McNanus' battery into their assigned places.

The water attack would be under the command of Magruder's personal friend, Leon Smith, a ship's captain who held no rank in the Confederacy. Smith was captain of the General Rusk at the start of the war when it captured the Star of the West.

< Leon Smith

Leon Smith was a native of Maine who left home for a career on the sea at age 13. By the time he was 20, he commanded a U.S. Mail steamship that ran between Panama and San Francisco. He then became the Commodore of the Morgan steamship line that ran between New York and Galveston.

General Magruder designated Smith a Major for the attack. The plan for the "cotton clads" and their two accompanying ships was for the tiny flotilla to stealthily creep down Galveston Bay, past Pelican Island, staying as close to the main shore line as possible. At the appointed hour they were to be in position close to the mainland shore near the west end of the Galveston city wharves. They were then to move easterly down the channel and attempt a boarding of the closest Union ship, and then use it to join and continue the assault.


The Confederate flotilla of cotton clads moving into position during the day on December 31, 1862 led by the Bayou City is pictured above as drawn by a witness and later Governor of Texas, Francis Lubbock.

There was a bright moon the final night of 1862. The sentry posts of the 42nd Massachusetts Regiment could hear artillery wheels and locomotive whistles. The land attack achieved its first objective, the outskirts of the town, by 3 A.M. just as the moon set. By 5 A.M., the Confederates, close to 6,000 men with 20 artillery pieces, were at the Strand, the commercial district beside the Galveston wharf. Looking out onto the harbor, the Magruder's men could see the Union ships. All of them had their guns pointed at the approaches from the city.

Another group of Confederates under Captain Sidney Fontaine, which left Virginia Point first, were in a position to attack Fort Point. Fontaine's batteries were supported by six companies of dismounted dragoons. Magruder gave this group extra time to get to their position. By taking Fort Point, the Confederates could easily fire at any Union ship trying to leave the harbor. There was a drawback, the fort was open to the rear. This meant it was vulnerable to fire from within the harbor. Magruder's men were to divert as much fire as possible to themselves to allow Fontaine's men to take the fort and hold it.

Meanwhile the cottonclads reached a position just north of Pelican Island at midnight. The fire or smoke from their stacks was seen from Union ships near Pelican Island. Signal rockets went up from the Union ships. Not wanting to get engaged before reaching the western end of Galveston harbor, the flotilla moved north to Halfmoon Light giving the appearance of normal intercoastal traffic. There, further north than had been the plan, Major Smith awaited the start of the land attack.