Bill Doran
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“Sioux”
Pen Name and Biography of William P. Doran
Texas’ First War Correspondent

Transcribed and annotated by W. T. Block from Galveston Daily News of Dec. 1, 1901

Sketch of Wm. P. Doran, the veteran newspaper correspondent—his experience as a newspaper correspondent - later written on his 35th anniversary as a member of the Galveston News family

Major W. P. Doran died at Hempstead Monday, Nov. 25th (1901). He was born in Rochester, N. Y. on March 3, 1838 and migrated westward in 1853, and was located in Chicago for a short time. He went to Kansas about the close of the “free state” excitement, and then drove 6 yokes of oxen for a government contractor, who was engaged in supplying the United States military forts with supplies. He made a trip from Leavenworth, Kansas to Fort Laramie, now in Wyoming, and battled with the Cheyennes, Sioux, and Pawnee Indians in defense of his teams, which consisted of 26 wagons. He came to Texas in 1857, which has since been his home; he settled first in Harris County.

At the commencement of the (Civil) war, he enlisted as a private in Capt. William Christian company, 2nd Texas Infantry Regiment, commanded by Col. Ashbel Smith. He went with his regiment across the Mississippi River, and was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, while making the famous flanking movement that resulted in the capture of Federal Major Gen. Prentiss and his division of 4,000 men.

Mr. Doran published papers in several Texas towns, and bore the distinction of being the first special state editor in Texas, which was on the staff of the Houston Telegraph. In 1880 he was Marshal of Brenham, Texas for 4 years. For the past 15 years he has lived with his sons in comfortable circumstances. He was married to Miss Sallie M. Linsicum of Long Point, Washington County, on the 10th day of Dec., 1865. Three sons all grown, W. R., C. B., and Frank, survive him. He joined The News family as a regular correspondent in 1861, and continued as such until a few years ago. His (Civil) war “nom de plume” was “Sioux.” Thousands of old soldiers have never known and do not know him by any other name. He became a Confederate scout and war correspondent. He was a well-read man and could converse on almost any topic. He was always a Democrat and always voted a straight ticket except once, when he voted for (Wm.) McKinley (for president).

The following is a letter written by him in 1896 and published in The News. “Hempstead, Texas, Feb. 18:

To The News:

You invited me to write an article for the semi-centennial of Texas’ admission into the American union. I came to Texas in 1857, and therefore my article would not be appropriate for that issue.

You boys in the News office seem to think me a very ancient chap, but when you see me, perhaps you will change your mind, for old soldiers often tell me that I have not changed a bit in 25 years. Anyway it will take a good man to lick me. Try it some time.

Yours,

Doran

“Hempstead, Texas, Feb. 28-This is my 35th anniversary as a member of the Galveston News family and a regular correspondent, 1861-1896. That is indeed a long time, and the interval is interesting to look back at the part and ponder over the many changes observed on all sides. How few of the familiar faces met then are now to be seen. How often The News recorded their deaths, and the words engraved on the marble stones in the cemeteries remind the living that they no longer exist. Thirty-five years! Almost a lifetime, and what wonderful changes and improvements now bless the human race. Passengers from Galveston to Houston and return were then carried on the fine steamers, plying daily between the 2 ports. A fine stateroom for $2.50, with excellent meals consisting of plenty of fish and oysters, was the price of the fare. Good old Captains John Sterrett, C. Blakeman, Bill Sangster, Dave Connor, Pat Christian, Bill Dwyer, and Capt. Herschberger, and others now escaping the memory of the writer, paced the decks of their fine boats; and many travelers preferred the trip by boat rather than going on the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad, the fare being about the same. The trip by railroad took about 4 hours. Now the time has been shortened to one hour and 40 minutes by the schedule. President J. M. Brown and his master mechanic, George B. Nichols, were fine looking business men, and putting their shoulders to the wheel, soon made the railroad route the most popular and crowded the steamboat passenger traffic to the wall. The freight business was quite flourishing, however, and the steamers captured the largest portion of the freight traffic between the 2 cities during those many years. That was over 20 years ago although the event seems like yesterday to old Texans. Passengers leaving Galveston in the evening reached Houston early the next morning on the boats.

In 1860 mutterings of the coming Civil War were heard, which soon changed to realities of a great and awful struggle, where brothers often met each other on the fields of strife, and fathers met sons while wearing a gray uniform, the other in blue, as was seen on the morning of the Battle of Galveston. There Col. A. M. Lea of the Confederacy pillowed the head of his dying son Edward on his arms aboard the captured Harriet Lane. Edward’s grave is now found in the Episcopal Cemetery in Galveston, where it is decorated every year.

In Feb. 1861 volunteers were called for to go to Brazos Santiago and from there to march to Brownsville, 30 miles distant, and capture the Federal forts on the lower Rio Grande River. Galveston responded with 2 companies, the Lone Star Rifles, Capt. W. H. Redwood, and the Galveston Rifles, Capt. A. C. McKeen. The writer belonged to the latter group. C. M. Mason was 1st lieutenant. Oliver Steele and Sydney T. Fontaine were also lieutenants. In the ranks were Tom M. Jack, Mart H. Royston, and many others, who afterward became distinguished in the war. Billy Nichols, 1st sergeant, was company drillmaster, and he made the boys sweat while going through the manual of arms. He was then a fine looking young fellow, weighing about 146 pounds, and was considered the handsomest man in the company. The writer met him a few years ago, and was quite certain he weighed 250 pounds. That showed that men change, and proved the historical fact of evolution.

Here was the writer’s first advent with The News family. The Yankees at the forts on the Rio Grande had doubtless heard that the Galveston soldiers were coming and they evacuated in a hurry. Then Col. John S. Ford called for volunteers to man the forts and wanted to enlist men in the State service for a six months term. The majority of the Galveston braves returned home on the steamer General Rusk, on which they came, but enough volunteered to march on Brownsville. En route a body of United States troops were met with their mule wagons hauling their personal luggage.

In the ranks of the State Troops were George A. Quinlan, now the president of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad; R. M. Swearingen, now State Health officer, both of whom proved to be valuable troopers while scouting in the outer regions of the lower Rio Grande valley.

It would take up too much space to detail the experiences of a war correspondent throughout the four years of the struggle, so therefore the feat should not be attempted. The writer can look back on those years, as many ludicrous events should be narrated. Many men who ran like scared turkeys when Yankee bullets began to fly also got sick when the smell of gunpowder filled the air were generally the first to call on war correspondents to put in a good word for them in the newspapers. The writer was compelled during the Red River campaign (Louisiana, April 1864) to keep a safe distance from certain cavalry regiments for several days for, as they termed it, “not doing them justice.” At the Battle of Galveston just after General Magruder ordered Gen. Bill Scurry to save several brass guns on the Strand and the land forces to retreat, it seemed that the entire army was in a race to see which regiment could reach the Gulf shore first. Men with red faces, shouting, “We’re whipped! We’re whipped! I don’t want the Yanks to take me back to New Orleans!” were seen dashing across the Courthouse Square, then an open plain. Also four fine artillery horses hitched to a brass cannon and riderless seemed to absorb the panic of their masters. The writer, who had sought the friendly protection of the brick post office building, saw a sorry staff officer with 2 companions heading for the Strand just before firing ceased. A small wound on his right cheek about the size of a small nail head from which a little blood was falling, was observed. Since the war a report in a New York paper stated that the hero was severely wounded in the face at the Battle of Galveston.

After the capture of the Harriet Lane by the gunboat Bayou City and Gen. Tom Green’s “horse marines,” the late fugitives of the flying retreat came running to the front as rapidly as they had passed in the other direction a short time previously. Several ran up against this war correspondent and, swinging their hats, throwing them into the air and showing other manifestations of joy, exclaimed:  “We’ve whipped them! We’ve whipped them!” and nearly split their throats. Three officer dressed in fine uniforms who outran all the others during the panic of retreat, had the gall to request: “Don’t fail to mention my name in your report!” This was the ludicrous side of the war.

The realities are shown in Gen. Magruder’s official report of the battle—26 killed, 107 wounded. The official report of the Federals shows that Col. Burrell of the 42nd Massachusetts Regt. had Companies D, E, and G on Kuhn’s Wharf behind the barricades when attacked, in all 260 men. It has been heretofore believed that that only Co. D was there. The other 7 companies of the regiment were aboard the Cambria, off Galveston bar, which Capt. John W. Payne nearly decoyed into the harbor, the commander not knowing that the battle had been fought, and that the place was back in the hands of the Confederates. The writer is in possession of official reports of both sides.

In 1861 the Galveston News office was located in the second door from Market and Tremont streets, in a small 1-story, dilapidated wooden building. Three or four compositors got out the weekly edition of 4 pages, which was printed on an old style Campbell power press, capable of throwing out a few hundred copies hourly. It was driven by an old-fashioned threshing machine, endless chain horsepower, and an old blind horse being the motive power. Mr. Dave Richardson, an Englishman, was the managing editor, and Mr. Willard Richardson was the editor in chief.  The men were not relatives however. After the war had got under full headway and a blockade of the port of Galveston followed, The News was moved to Houston to get out of reach of the bomb shells occasionally thrown into the city by the blockading steamer South Carolina. Mr. Richardson also moved his family there and rented a small house adjoining Col. W. J. Hutchins on Franklin St.

The News was located in the 2-story brick building of Mr. George Baker, on the south side of Market Square. The old press and faithful blind horse were also in position; but the paper was brought out tri-weekly as well as weekly. Mr. Ed C. Wharton of New Orleans was managing editor, but the “old man,” as Mr. Richardson was called, wrote editorials nearly every day. Mr. Wharton’s health declined, and Rev. W. C. Carnes, a well-known Methodist preacher of Galveston, stepped into the vacancy. He too was compelled to retire a few months after the war ended.

In those days there was no local editor anywhere in Texas. The department was established, and a young Mississippian, Capt. Purdom, was placed in charge. The local editor was a fighting man, his motto being: “For either thing, a battle or a spat, was always ready if it came to that.”

He came near having several fights on account of his incisive locals, but this was before the pistol law was in effect in Texas. The News was soon after this moved back to its old home in Galveston, and the large brick building on Market Street just around the corner was occupied, and soon the daily issue came out, which was very liberally patronized by the business men of Galveston and proved a success from the start.

Yours,

W. P. Doran,

War Correspondent

(Doran’s  nom de plume was “Sioux.” Thousands of old soldiers have never known and do not know him by any other name—Galveston Tri-Weekly News

An article published in The News several years ago gives the following data as to the part he played during the Civil War.

William P. Doran was born in Rochester, N. Y. on March 3, 1838, and was raised on a farm and migrated westward in 1853, and was located in Chicago for a short while. He went to Kansas about the close of the “free state” excitement, and there drove 6 yokes of oxen for a government contractor, in supplying the United States military posts with grain, flour, and other supplies. He made a trip requiring 4 months between Leavenworth, Kansas to Fort Laramie, now in Wyoming, and battled with the Cheyenne, Sioux and Pawnee Indians in defense of his wagon train, which consisted of 26 wagons, with six yokes of oxen to each wagon. {Note: At 12 oxen per wagon, which would total 312 oxen, an enticing target for any marauding Indians.} He came to Texas in 1857. Some time after, Mr. Lincoln was nominated for president on the Republican ticket. Northern men were looked upon with much suspicion all over Texas as being abolitionist emissaries, and Doran was not free from that impression.

Mr. Doran settled in Harris County, where he made a crop of corn, and the farmer from whom he rented the land ran him off after the crop was made for the purpose of defrauding him of his earnings. He brought suit for $100 for labor before Ben E. Roper, Justice of Peace at San Jacinto, who had his office about a half-mile from the battlefield. The Texas and New Orleans Railroad was started soon after, and Mr. Doran was engaged as cook for the bosses’ mess at $15 a month.

The election of Lincoln greatly increased the excitement under which the people were laboring, and the farmer whom Doran had sued spread the rumor that “Doran was a damned Yankee and proposed to get a gang of slaves together and run them off to Mexico,” and other misstatements of a like character. Hal G. Runnels was then a contractor on the railroad line between Liberty and Houston, and had become favorably impressed with Doran, although his mother and himself were large slaveholders. One day a number of half-drunken men came to the San Jacinto Bridge, where Doran was employed, with the avowed intention of hanging the “damned Abolitionist.” Runnels put Doran on his fine horse and told him to “git” and a few days after, he said: “If you are innocent of this charge, I will protect you, and if you are guilty, I will hang you.”

As Mr. Doran recently said to The News, “He found out that I had written several letters to a country paper at my old home at Rochester, N. Y. He wrote to the editor as though he were an Abolitionist and wanted to know if Doran could be depended on to aid that good work in Texas. The reply reached Texas on the very last Morgan steamer from New Orleans before the war. Then all mails were carried by Morgan steamers. Capt. John Y. Lawless was the commander. I think it was the Mexico or General Rusk. The reply was as follows:

“Don’t trust Doran for he has written several letters to my paper that slavery was not half as bad as the Northern people think, and that we have a wrong impression of slaveholders. He is not sound on the grand question.”

When the letter was shown to the old fellows, some of whom was Mercer McKinley, John M. Simms, and others, I was a “lion” all at once, and the man who had lied about me was indicted for cattle theft at the next term of the Harris County court.

Volunteers were called for the Rio Grande State Troops under Gen. E. B. Nichols of Galveston to go on the steamer General Rusk to Brazos Santiago to capture the forts along the Rio Grande, Forts Brown and Ringgold. I joined the Galveston Rifles, Capt. A. C. McKeen, 1st Lt. Charles W. Mason, 2nd Lt. Oliver Steele, Orderly Sgt. W. H. Nichols, Color Sgt. M. H. Royston, Tom M. Jack, and many other distinguished Galvestonians were privates in the ranks. No resistance was made at Brazos Santiago, and the expedition returned to Galveston, calling for 6-months State Troops to garrison Forts Brown and Ringgold. I then joined Co. C, Battery of light artillery, Capt. John P. Austin. Col. John S. Ford was commander in chief of all the troops in that region.

We marched from Brazos Santiago to Brownsville, 30 miles, met the retreating United States troops en route to take ship at Brazos Santiago aboard the transport Daniel Webster, lying several miles off the bar. I was already a regular News correspondent for all the time since we sailed on Feb. 18, 1861. Gen. A. Quinlan, vice president of the Centrail Railroad; R. M. Swearingen, state health officer, and many others were in my company. In the spring of 1862, Messr. Cushing of the Houston Telegraph and Richardson of The News, made arrangements for me to accompany the Second Texas Infantry on its march from Wiess Bluff above Beaumont to the army of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, then concentrated around Corinth, MS., about 13 miles from Shiloh or Pittsburgh Landing on the Tennessee River.

“We boarded the steamer Magnolia at Alexandria, La., and in a day or two, landed at Memphis, Tenn. A special train of cars was ready, and after an all night ride, landed us at Corinth MS. The next day we were on the march to Shiloh. As we passed Gen. Johnston’s headquarters in Corinth, he turned to one of his aids, Col. T. M. Jack, and said: “All these Texans have come all the way here to help me, and I will give them a chance tomorrow to show the stuff that Texans are made of.” Col. Jack told me this on the stage en route from Shreveport back to Navasota, TX. Then an order was issued that all persons not belonging to the army must vacate the camps or take the consequences if not obeyed. Here I was a war correspondent, with rations cut off and ordered to ‘git.’ Pleading my case as a newspaperman did no good, and I was forced to enlist in Co. A. of Capt. Christian. I then put on the uniform and became a soldier bold.”

“The battle was fought one day later than planned, which was Saturday. Gen. Breckenridge’s division could not reach the locality because of muddy roads, and the fight opened on Sunday, April 6, 1862. While we were marching to aid in the capture of Gen. Prentiss’ division, a bullet struck the side of my left heel, pitting the bone, and I thought my leg was gone. I rolled over and over and seeing Col. Moore and Capt. Christian in a ravine, I rolled in there. They both laughed heartily at my antics. The division was captured when nearly surrounded by us. “

“The Yankees compelled us to fall back to Corinth after a stubborn fight nearly all day of the 7th. If (Union Gen.) Buell’s 20,000 fresh troops had not met us that morning, the result would have been different. We made a hard fight about 5 miles from Corinth several weeks after called the Battle of Farmington. The Yanks were trying to surround Corinth, and Gen. Price’s army and opened the gate. Corinth was soon ordered to be evacuated, and Price’s army destroyed everything and retreated to Tupelo, MS. Here a general order was issued that all men fit for military duty must report to a Board of Surgeons. I was honorably discharged and returned home via Vicksburg, crossing the Mississippi in a Negro’s skiff and footing it along the ties of the abandoned railroad from opposite Vicksburg to Monroe, La., then footing it to Shreveport, La. I paid $25 stage fare to Navasota, TX. Then came the coast campaign around Galveston, where I served as scout and war correspondent.”

“On arriving at Houston, Mr. E. H. Cushing of the Houston Telegraph employed me to go at once to Galveston and send the telegraphic reports from the extreme front. Mr. Willard Richardson of The News also made arrangements for me to send information to his paper. The Confederate troops were then at Virginia Point {Note. The Union Navy took control of Galveston Bay and Island in Sept., 1862 and remained there until the Battle of Galveston on Jan 1, 1863} and 2 companies of Elmore’s Regiment occupied Fort Eagle Grove, located on Galveston Island at the end of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad bridge. To get proper information, I had to slip into Galveston at night, and would foot it to the city, five miles, and generally managed to get one or more Yankee newspapers, for which I often had to pay a silver dollar for each. When the plans for the Battle of Galveston were made, the military used much of the information contained in the—as news to them.”

“In other words, I was a scout as well as a correspondent. Nearly the whole army knew “Sioux,” and wondered how he got hold of the news.”

“I never advised Gen. Magruder to make the desperate move against the powerful fleet, armed with the best kind of modern artillery, but did the reverse, because I considered it wrong to fight behind breastworks of men, women, and children then occupying the city. Magruder was stubborn, and the battle was determined upon. Then we all took a hand and history has given the result.”

“The land forces were defeated badly, and Gen. Magruder had given an order to the army to retreat to the Gulf shore. The order was being obeyed, and many of the troops had left the front line of battle - Strand - when the Confederate gunboats dashed into the Harriet Lane, and soon changed a defeat into a great victory. Soon after that Messrs. Cushing and Richardson sent me to the first Louisiana campaign of the spring of 1863, where I was captured.”

“In the spring of 1864, I was ordered to Louisiana as war correspondent with Gen. Dick Taylor’s army, confronting the advance of Gen. N. P. Banks’ army, marching up Red River, with Shreveport as the destination. My report of the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill and the daily 40-days skirmishes all the way down Red River, a distance of 200 miles, in the hurried retreat of Banks’ army, were all the Northern newspapers could publish, and were copied from The News and Telegraph. After returning to Texas, I set out on a collecting horseback tour of all the main towns of the state for The Galveston News, Houston Telegraph, and Christian Advocate. I was held up and robbed only once; that was near Waco.”

“Then on returning home, I went to Galveston again as correspondent for the News and Telegraph, and accompanied the officers on the side wheel steamer Island City when they went out to the bar to make the final surrender of the Confederacy, June 2, 1865, but the Federal commander forbade all but Confederate officers to go aboard their ship, and of course I had to stay on the steamer until Generals E. Kirby Smith and Magruder, with their chiefs of staff, returned.”

I have tried unsuccessfully to locate the W. P. Doran Papers, but fear now that they may have been destroyed; or they may be somewhere in possession of a descendent. Considering that the extensive papers of his father-in-law, Dr. Gideon Linsicum, are in the University of Texas archives, it seems odd that Doran’s papers may have been destroyed. Yet for some one with about 250 newspaper articles published over a span of 35 years, it certainly seems probable that Doran kept a scrapbook of his published articles. Perhaps some day some one will try to locate all of them in the Galveston Weekly, Tri-Weekly, and Daily News and Houston Telegraph (the latter only between 1861-1865), but for the moment only a minute list can be furnished.

Some of Doran’s articles under the pseudonym of “Sioux” included “Retrospective About the Battle of Galveston,” Galveston Daily News, July 28, 1886; “Death of Gallant Col. A. M. Lea,” Galveston Daily News, Jan. 21, 1891; “Reminiscences of the War-Battle of Galveston,” Galveston Daily News, Aug. 6, 1876; “Death of Capt. Henry Scherffius,” Galveston Daily News, Nov. 26, 1894; “Gen. A. DePolignac,” Galveston Weekly News, Dec. 14, 1882.

The following 2 obituaries of Major Doran appeared in Galveston Daily News of Nov. 26, 27, 1901.

“Hempstead, Waller County, Nov. 26—Major W. P. Doran died this afternoon at 2:52 o’clock He had not been in good health for some time, but was confined to his bed for about 2 weeks. He was a man above reproach and had the confidence of all who new him, and his death will be universally regretted by all who had the good fortune to know him. His friends were legion. His death has cast a pall of gloom over the city. Interment will take place tomorrow.”

“MAJOR DORAN—Brenham, TX, Nov. 26—Major W. P. Doran had many friends in Brenham who sorrowed on reading the announcement of his death at his home in Hempstead yesterday. Major Doran married a daughter of Dr. Gideon Linsicum, a Texas pioneer and prominent physician, who lived for a great number of years in Long Point. Doran was elected City Marshal of Brenham in 1880, served for 2 terms, and is remembered as a most efficient officer. Major Doran achieved distinction during the Civil War as war correspondent of The Galveston News over the nom de plume of “Sioux.” After the war, while living in this city, he continued to act as correspondent for The News, and after his removal to Hempstead, was a contributor to its columns over his real name. A few weeks before his death, Major Doran stated to the correspondent that his connection with The News as correspondent antedated that of any living man. Several members of Washington Camp 239, United Confederate Veterans, went to Hempstead this evening to attend the funeral.”

Major W. P. Doran’s tombstone in the Hempstead city cemetery has been turned over for some time, and efforts made in 2000-2001 to have it remounted may/may not have proved successful.

Rebel ‘Paul Revere’ Traveled 1,000 Miles to Warn of Invasion

By W. T. Block

Reprinted from Beaumont TX. Enterprise, Feb. 5, 1984, from W. P. ‘Sioux’ Doran’s Memoirs in Galveston Daily News

News has oftentimes taken a circuitous route to reach its destination. Such an occurrence in 1863 brought the ominous warning of an impending invasion of Sabine Pass, Texas, by sea to Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder, the Confederate commander at Houston. Considering that the military intelligence traveled first to Mexico, was then dispatched to Houston for 250 miles on horseback, it was a wonder indeed that the warning arrived before the event.

The story began in the spring of 1863, shortly after the recapture of Galveston by the Confederates. West of New Orleans, Federal Armies were advancing in Louisiana along the banks of the Bayou Teche and Bayou LaFourche, in the direction of Lafayette, and there were widespread fears that an overland invasion of Texas was brewing. Magruder quickly dispatched the Texas cavalry brigades of Gen. Tom Green and Col. James P. Majors to Central Louisiana to help counter the invasion threat. The Texas force also included most of Col. A. W. Spaight’s 11th Texas Battalion, formerly stationed at Beaumont and Sabine Pass.

One of the men who accompanied Majors was W. P. Doran of Hempstead, who quickly acquired a reputation as an outstanding war correspondent in the Lone Star State, known to his readers only as “Sioux.” Doran wrote for the Galveston Weekly and Tri-Weekly News and the Houston Telegraph, and his many Civil War and post-Civil War dispatches can still be read in the microfilm of those newspapers, particularly Galveston Daily News.

During those war years, “Sioux” ‘ dispatches were to emanate from all parts of the Trans-Mississippi (even from the Shiloh battlefield, where Sioux was wounded and also briefly an enlisted man in the 2nd Texas Infantry) Department, composed of those three Confederate States lying west of the Mississippi River. During the fall of 1863, several of his letters originated from Sabine Pass.

By July 1863, Doran had entered Thibodeaux, La. on the Bayou LaFourche, after the Texans had driven the retreating Federals from the village. “Sioux” always rode on his mule as he followed the Confederate soldiers, and being somewhat saddle-weary at the end of the day, he crawled into the hayloft of an abandoned livery stable and went to sleep. During the night, the Federals regrouped, surrounded, and recaptured the town, and the next morning Doran was captured by the 47th Massachusetts Regiment. He was soon carried to New Orleans and jailed with other Confederates, although he was a civilian.

When Union Maj. Gen. William H. Emory learned that “Sioux” was a correspondent in New Orleans, he ordered that he be brought to his headquarters for questioning. Emory, who was almost deaf, was anxious to hear any news of his old friend and former West Point classmate, Gen. John B. Magruder.

While waiting in an antechamber of Emory’s office, Doran could overhear upraised voices through the thin walls. The deaf Emory and Gen. Nathaniel Banks, the Union commandant, were in conference, and Banks fairly screamed as he explained to his executive officer that the U. S. Navy was holding up the Texas invasion. As of that date, they still had not located enough gunboats of sufficient shallow draft to navigate the Sabine Pass bar.

Before leaving Emory’s office that day, Doran realized that Banks was planning to capture both Galveston and Houston from the rear, first by capturing the new fort at Sabine Pass by a direct assault from the sea, and then attacking Houston from the rear, by advancing along the Texas and New Orleans Railroad from Beaumont.

After his meeting with the general, “Sioux” was then transferred to the U. S. Customhouse at New Orleans and billeted with captured Confederate officers. After a few days, inasmuch as he was a civilian, he was promised his early release from captivity, provided that he booked passage to Matamoras, Mexico.

While at the Customhouse, Doran also learned that New Orleans was bristling with excitement. Twenty transports in the river were being loaded with munitions, mules, wagons, and other military gear. On the shore, thousands of Federal troops, all of them veterans of the successful Vicksburg campaign, were awaiting the signal to go aboard.

Through one of his guards, Doran booked passage aboard the English schooner “Gleaner.” After four stormy days at sea, the schooner dropped anchor a half-mile off the Mexican port of Bagdad, at the mouth of Rio Grande River. He and others were lightered ashore in a yawl boat, and “Sioux” almost drowned when the little vessel capsized in the choppy breakers.

After a 30-mile buggy ride to Brownsville, Doran quickly located Gen. Hamilton P. Bee, commandant of the Confederacy’s Rio Grande District, and explained Banks’ Texas invasion plans. There were then no telegraph lines in Texas, except those connecting Galveston, with Houston and Beaumont, and to convey the intelligence back to Gen. Magruder in Houston would require a 250-mile horseback ride to the nearest railroad at Alleyton.

In the event one rider might not get through, Gen. Bee dispatched Doran and a cavalryman, each bearing letters addressed to Gen. Magruder and instructions to Confederate encampments along the way to provide the pair with food and fresh horses. Nine days later, Doran pulled up at Alleyton, Texas, then the westernmost terminus of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado Railroad, just as an eastbound train was pulling out for Houston. He arrived there on the afternoon of Sept. 3rd, five days before the Battle of Sabine Pass.

The next day, Magruder sent telegrams and letters to his engineers at Sabine Pass, ordering them to fortify the seaport “with all due haste” because of an impending invasion threat.  And 2 nights later, the first lights of an invasion armada appeared offshore. On September 8, the invaders tried to storm their way inland, only to have 2 gunboats aground as steaming wrecks, their boilers hit and exploded, while the remainder of the invasion fleet, totaling 5,000 men, hastily retreated seaward, being “suddenly homesick for New Orleans.”

The next day, the commanding general and his staff arrived at Sabine Pass from Houston, and Doran rode on the train with him. And “Sioux” quickly wrote another of those famed battle dispatches that was to win for him so much acclaim throughout the Civil War. What he failed to mention in his battle account was the fact that he had just ended a 1,000-mile journey by land, sea and saddle in order to warn his fellow Texans that “the Yankees are coming.”

“Paul Revere rode twenty-four miles in the saddle,
From Boston to Lexington Square.

Bill Doran rode for a thousand miles,
On the train, in the saddle, and the crisp ocean air.”  (W. T. Block)

Dear lord: Please let Bill Doran have his tombstone remounted soon, although his feats deserve a Texas state historical marker so the world will not forget him, is my earnest prayer.

 
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