Another etching from Harpers Weekly showing the Westfield crew loading onto the U.S.S. Mary Ann Boardman

The second ranking Union officer, Commander Richard L. Law, was on his way back to the Clifton from the meeting with Commander Renshaw when the explosion occured. Law, had observed the capture of the 42nd Massachusetts. He also noted the Confederates moved the Harriet Lane and the Buffalo Bayou (the Union officers still did know the two ships were stuck fast) to a wharf. It looked like there were about 200 men getting ready to get aboard. Actually they were feverishly trying to seperate the two boats.

< Commander Richard L. Law

Commander Law felt all the movement violated the terms of the truce which called for all vessels to stand fast. Commander Law, with his own observations and Commander Renshaw's last orders before he was killed still in mind, ordered all ships to haul down their white flags even though there was still about a half hour left in the truce, and make for Galveston Bay.

The two transports, the Saxon and Mary Ann Boardman, were either damaged or otherwise impaired and unable to move, so Commander Law ordered the transports abandoned to the Confederates. All men aboard the transports were transferred to other ships. The two barks, the Cavallo and the Elias Pike were abandoned and left behind. All the other Union ships left the harbor safely. When the Owasco began to get underway, Smith and his delegation demanded to be allowed to leave on their boat. This was done. Smith then signalled for the Carr to come up to where he was.

All the Union ships complied so quickly with the order to leave that they left with the truce flags still flying from all he ships. Only the Sachem, the last ship out, came close to being hit by the shore artillery at Fort Point.

Major Leon Smith gave chase aboard the Carr until the Sachem cleared the harbor. Out in the bay, Commander Law decided all ships needed some repair of one sort or another and ordered all to sail to New Orleans. Major Smith came back into the harbor and left James V. Riley in charge of the Cavallo and had the Carr tow the Elias Pike into the harbor and docked it at the 18th Street wharf.


The next day the large Union steam transport Cambria arrived off Galveston with the seven remaining companies of the 42nd Massachusetts Regiment, and the Texas 1st Union Calvary led by Colonel Edmund J. Davis. Also on board were huge siege guns for the purpose of destroying the bridge to the mainland. After narrowly being captured, the Cambria quickly returned to New Orleans. Galveston thus began the New Year as a Confederate city again.

The Davis Guard was a part of the action in Galveston harbor from the beginning to the end. They were at the entrance to the harbor when the Harriet Lane led the other Union ships into the harbor the day the Union took Galveston. The Davis Guard fired the first shot at the Union fleet. They were at Virginia Point manning the guns during the long build up.

Once, the Davis Guard watched as the Union ships took target practice at a target. When they missed, the Confederate gunners then opened fire and hit the target. The Davis Guard participated in the attempts to dislodge the 42nd Massachusetts Regiment from the pier. The Davis Guard were among those firing the last shots at the Sachem. They would get another chance.

A newspaper account of the day had this to say about the Irishmen:

...the artillery boys acted nobly and have covered themselves with glory. They manned their guns as nimbly as though they were behind breastworks. Where all did so well, I feel cautious to draw comparisons; the Irish boys surprised the expectation of their Friends.

The news of the Confederate victory at Galveston passed through the state like electricity. Spirits were lifted and morale improved measurably.

Leon Smith was made Captain of the captured Harriet Lane. It served the South as a blockade runner named the Lavinia.

The poignant death of Lieutenant Edward Lea touched everyone at the time. General Magruder saw to it that the Lieutenant was given a formal, military funeral. Lieutenant Edward Lea was buried in Trinity Episcopal Cemetery o Galveston Island. His headstone contains the words - father is here...

Years later the U. S. Navy named a destroyer in honor of Lieutenant Edward Lea.

Jonathan M. Wainwright II also recieved a burial with honors. He was a Mason and was buried in a Mason service. Leon Smith ended up with Lt. Wainwright's sword. He pledged to keep it to give to the Lieutenant's son. He found the son after the war. His name was Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright III and he was an Ensign in the United States Navy. Leon Smith presented the sword to Ensign Wainwright which was in the hands of his father when he died with some ceremony in a hotel room at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. A few years later, 1870, with that sword in his hand in battle, Jonathan M. Wainwright III died while serving the U. S. Navy in a skirmish with pirates off Mexico. His brother Robert, who died while in the U. S. Army serving in the Phillipines in 1902, named a son after his father and brother, Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV, who became the Medal Of Honor Winner of WWII for his service in the United States Army while in the Phillipines.

Admiral Farragut was livid about the defeat at Galveston. He called it "shameful" and intiated an investigation.


There occurred off Galveston less than two weeks later, on January 11th, an incident that had the United States Navy looking over its shoulder for the better part of a year. After the New Year's Day battle, the Union fleet reestablished a blocking station off Galveston. It was the principal location for the Union's Western Blockading Squadron other than Admiral Farragut's headquarters in New Orleans. There was a great deal of thought given to retaking Galveston. A Union fleet was assembled off Galveston with the intent of mounting an attack.

On January 11, 1863, there appeared just on the horizon, the sails of a strange vessel. The senior Union naval officer on station believed the ship was a large blockade runner laden with war supplies for the South. He sent the warship, Hatteras, to chase it down. As soon as the Hatteras left the Galveston fleet station, the strange ship disappeared from the horizon. The Hatteras was last seen chasing it over the horizon. The Hatteras never came back. The strange sail turned out to be the dreaded Confederate warship, the Alabama. The Hatteras, though twice the size of the Alabama, was sunk in about thirteen minutes.

C.S.S Alabama on the left and the U.S.S. Hatteras off of Galveston

Another view of the engagmentwith the U.S.S. Hatteras in the foreground

A Painting of the confrontation done by artist Patrick O'Brien

Another, this painting is by Thomas W. Freeman

The Alabama had a growing reputation. Hundreds of rescued Union sailors attested to its prowess. The Alabama captured or sank sixty-eight Union ships in the war! The Hatteras was the 35th ship taken, sunk or ransomed by the Alabama, there would be 36 more. The Captain of the Alabama, Raphael Semmes credited the successes of the Alabama to its Executive Officer, John McIntosh Kell. Kell was of Welsh and Scottish heritage. On the Scottish side, he was a direct descendant of James Wallace and Robert Bruce. Chief Engineer aboard the Alabama was Matthew O'Brien. Semmes himself had some Irish blood. His grandmother was Annie Ireland and his father, Richard Thompson Semmes, was related to Irishman Francis Scott Key. Also on board the Alabama was an Irish fiddler, Michael Mahoney.

Captain Semmes in the foreground and Lt. Kell at the ship's wheel

Semmes read in December, from a captured Boston newpaper of the build up of U. S. naval forces and a 30,000 armed land force being organized by General Banks for an invasion of Texas. General Banks was prepared to land 30,000 troops at Galveston. The ships were to meet off Galveston on January 10th. Semmes arrived on the 11th. He had intended to get in among the transports under cover of darkness and sink them left and right. When he saw the gunners shelling the town, he realized Galveston was in Confederate hands. He decided to tempt one of the Union warships to meet it one on one in a battle at sea.

< Captain Ralph Semmes


After the Hatteras incident, the Alabama was a ghost ship patrolling the Gulf of Mexico. Nervous Union ship captains in the Gulf felt the Alabama was always just over the horizon waiting to pounce on their ship. Its name appeared on Gulf reports sent to Farragut's headquarters for more than a year after the Hatteras was sent to the bottom.

The facts are, after sinking the Hatteras, the Alabama went to Jamaica and then on to Brazil, South Africa and Singapore sinking ships of the United States. Her ghost, however, continued to patrol the Gulf of Mexico very effectively throughout the rest of the war (In the Union reports the Confederate ship was referred to as the 290. This was because she was the 290th ship built by Lairds Company in England). The fact that this very successful predator was built by England caused problems between The United States and England.

After the engagement with the Hatteras, Semmes sailed to the Caribbean, the East Indies and the South Altantic. At one point the Alabama put into a port where Semmes was interviewed about the Hatteras. This interview slowly worked its way into American papers at a time propitious to the Confederates.

C.S.S. Alabama in its fight with the U.S.S. Kearsarge as painted by William McGrath

Another painting of the engagement by Henri Durand Brager