THE BATTLE OF CALCASIEU PASS, LOUISIANA
by W. T. Block
Reprinted from Beaumont Enterprise, May 6, 1977, p. 1d.
In May, 1909, an old Confederate veteran, J. A. Brickhouse of Beaumont, Texas, expressed a fear that the story of the Battle of Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana, would eventually be lost to posterity. At that time, he wrote one of the three eye-witness accounts of that battle that are known to survive. A different version of that engagement, which appeared in the Centennial Edition of the Cameron, La., PILOT on March 12, 1970, would certainly lend some credence and justification to Brickhouse's fear. The article read as follows:
"In 1863, during the height of the Civil War, two gunboats fought a battle in front of Leesburg (which is now the town of Cameron). One was a "Yankee" ship and the other was Confederate. The "Yankee" ship won the battle, and the Confederates threw everything overboard."
Actually, the true circumstances were almost the opposite of those that appeared in the newspaper narrative. But if the residents of Cameron, La., had grown somewhat forgetful over the expanse of years, their memory loss could certainly be forgiven in light of the fact that Hurricane Audrey of June, 1957, had entirely washed that seaport city into the Gulf of Mexico and drowned over 500 of its citizens. In May, 1981, more than a century in retrospect, the people of that rebuilt community dedicated the granite "Battle of Calcasieu Pass and War memorial" monument, which is erected in front of the Cameron Parish courthouse, and upon which the names of fourteen Confederate soldiers and eight Union sailors killed in that battle are forever inscribed and enshrined in bronze.
Cameron, La., is a vibrant seaport community (located about two miles from the mouth of Calcasieu River), which is primarily a service center for the large Louisiana fishing, shrimping, and offshore oil and gas industries. Much of the adjoining coastal terrain is marshy, rich in wildlife and underground mineral resources, although only a few feet above sea level. An aerial map of the area quickly reveals a horseshoe bend of the Calcasieu River, no longer a part of the main channel, and a large river island, created by channel-straightening for the deepsea shipping lanes to the inland port of Lake Charles. The horseshoe bend was the location of the Civil War battle, and present -day Monkey Island is the site where white pickets were once torn from a wooden fence and fashioned into crosses to mark the graves of the Union and Confederate fighters who are interred there.
The month of April, 1864, brought elation to the general staff of the Confederacy's Trans-Mississippi Department, even if the prosecution of the war at all points elsewhere was going badly for the South. During the previous year, four Texas-bound invasion armadas, two each by land and sea, had been mounted, and only one attempt, the Federal occupation of the South Texas coast in Nov., 1863, had succeeded. In the summer and fall of that year, the Bayou Teche (La.) campaign of Gen. Nathaniel Banks' army reached a highwater mark near Opelousas, La., before beginning an orderly retreat back to Morgan City. In Sept., 1863, a similar attempt by sea was repulsed at Sabine Pass, Texas, on Louisiana's western boundary. The source of greatest Confederate pride had been the rebuff of Gen. Banks' Red River campaign at the battles of Pleasant Hill and Sabine Crossroads.
But the invasion jitters lingered on. Cut off as the Trans-Mississippi Department was from the remainder of the Confederate States, the Rebel armies fighting in Arkansas and Lousiana were entirely dependent upon the supply lines which transported not only Texas reinforcements, corn , and beef, but also muskets, gunpowder, and lead unloaded in Texas' blockade-running seaports. Thus, any invasion threat was viewed as an attempt to isolate Texas from Louisiana and Arkansas. Although the intent and plans of the Federal gunboats which anchored in the Calcasieu River in April, 1864, were considerably less sinister than the Confederate authorities believed, the Rebel command took no chances, believing their presence signalled another prelude to invasion.
For almost three years, neither the Confederates nor the Union's West Gulf Blockading Squadron had expressed much interest in the Calcasieu River, which is only 38 miles from the Texas border. After the outbreak of war, Gen. M. Lovell of New Orleans notified the Confederate Secretary of War, Judah Benjamin, that "one company with two 42-pounders" had erected a mud fort at Calcasieu "Bay" to prevent Union "foraging parties from reaching the cattle . . ." along the Pass. For much of the war, the Calcasieu fort was abandoned except during the fall and winter of 1863-1864. Since about 25 miles of marshes and lowlands extended inland and on both sides of the Pass, it would appear that neither foe regarded the Calcasieu River as being worthy of invasion or defense. As a result, for a long time there were no Confederate soldiers garrisoning the mud fort, and only a sporadic blockader of the West Gulf Squadron ever bothered to check there for Rebel shipping. Blockade-runners entered and exited the Calcasieu River with almost the clock-like precision of passenger trains, and because of several Union sympathizers living along the Calcasieu Pass, foraging parties from passing blockade ships often rode inland to "gather beeves" or seek information about Confederate activities. In Oct., 1862, in a daring example of Union bravery and courage, a sloop filled with 14 sailors and a boat howitzer traveled inland 80 miles, burned three blockade-runners, captured the steamboat "Dan," and after six days, escaped downriver without a single casualty or a shot being fired at them.
During the month of March, 1864, Co. C of Daly's Cavalry Battalion, based at Sabine Pass, Texas, had been patrolling near the mouths of the Calcasieu and Mermentau Rivers for the purpose of engaging and capturing as many of the Mermentau "Jayhawkers" as the troopers could locate and subdue. On March 7, Lieutenant Colonel W. F. Griffin, commanding Sabine Post, had been ordered by letter to increase his "reconnaissances . . . . into that country and in some force in consequence of the Jayhawkers, who are committing all sorts of depredations . . ." Later, in response to a countermanding order, Col. Griffin had to dispatch troops to North Louisiana in consequence of the Red River campaign.
On April 20, 1864, Griffin reported that he had "been compelled to evacuate the post at Calcasieu Pass. I deem it important that a company should be kept at that place to prevent the enemy from sending launches up the river . . . and burning any of our vessels that may be about running the blockade." On April 21, a letter advised the Confederacy's Trans-Mississippi Department at Shreveport, La., that "a large enemy transport with 1,000 troops aboard passed Galveston yesterday evening from the west, going east . . ." in the direction of Calcasieu. Hence, when the U. S. S. "Wave" dropped anchor, opposite the home of Duncan Smith, the arch-Unionist, in the Calcasieu Pass on April 24, Rebel authorities quickly envisioned another invasion attempt on the drawing board.
About April 1, Smith (the writer's great grandfather), his sons, and five or six Unionist neighbors (who were identified as "refugees" in Union correspondence) rode a blockade vessel to New Orleans in an effort to convince the Federal navy that it was safe to anchor gunboats in the Calcasieu River. Dunc Smith also agreed that he and his men would maintain pickets at several different locations to guard the ships; would act as "go between" with the Mermentau Jayhawkers during the process of buying, rounding up, and loading 450 heads of stolen cattle and horses; and would recruit enlistees for the navy among the Union sympathizers of Calcasieu Parish.
On April 15, Lt. Benjamin Loring, a feisty and courageous commander, sailed the "Wave" out of the Mississippi River's Southwest Pass in pursuit of Smith's plan. For a few days the vessel docked in Atchafalaya Bay while storm damage to the ship was being repaired. On April 24, the "Wave" arrived off Calcasieu Pass and fired a number of rounds at the abandoned fort. "Receiving no response," Loring sent a launch ashore to burn barracks and then steered the ship to its anchorage two miles upstream, in front of Duncan Smith's home, to await recoaling and the loading of the stolen livestock.
The "Wave," a fairly new steamboat formerly known as the "Argosy" or "Tinclad Gunboat No. 45," was a high-pressure steamer, only recently released from Mississippi River duty around Port Hudson. Her sides were of 8-inch oak walls reinforced by one-half inch boiler plate, and her armament consisted of six guns, namely, a 20-pound Parrott rifle; a 32-pounder smoothbore, that was soon to have its barrel split four feet in length; and four 24-pounder Dahlgren howitzers. On April 28, the low-pressure steam gunboat "Granite City" arrived and anchored about 300 yards downstream. Its master, Lt. C. W. Lamson, had been chided for his swift retreat from combat eight months earlier at Sabine Pass, and for his propensity for "seeing ghosts" -- that is, ghosts of the Confederate States steamer "Alabama." Many of his crewmen were survivors of the ill-fated U. S. S. "Hatteras," sunk by the famed raider "Alabama" in Dec., 1862, a few miles south of Galveston Island. The armament of the "Granite City" consisted of one 20-pounder Parrott rifle; a 12-pounder Parrott; and six 24-pound Dahlgren guns. The latter vessel also debarked one lieutenant and twenty-six soldiers of the 36th Illinois Infantry, who set up their camps on the east side of the river and began picket duties and rounding up cattle.
Upon arrival, Lt. Loring, in conjunction with Smith, began the necessary procedures to safeguard the steamers. He dispatched one patrol to the west to burn bridges over Mud and Oyster Bayous in order to cut communications along the beach road to Texas. At first Duncan Smith's party of Unionists totalled only eight or ten 'refugees,' but he succeeded in enlisting the aid of about ten neighbors to help stand guard as pickets; collect horses, saddles, and arms; and round up cattle for which Lt. Loring was paying in gold. Smith found enough Northern sympathizers who were willing to help out locally, whereas on one of his missions he failed miserably. He could locate no one sufficiently motivated who would enlist in the Federal navy. Guard pickets were posted at four locations, along the roads to the east and west, at the mouth of the river, and a few miles to the north, where the Pass emptied into Calcasieu Lake. As an added precaution, many local residents deemed loyal to the Confederacy were arrested and locked up on the "Granite City" for safekeeping. Loring also furnished seven tons of coal to the tug "Ella Morse," bound for Brashear (Morgan) City, La., with naval dispatches. With only one ton of coal in reserve until a recoaling vessel arrived, Loring sent some of his crew ashore to collect firewood for boiler fuel.
Almost as soon as the "Wave" anchored in the river, a loyal resident rode horseback to Fort Griffin at Sabine to notify Col. Griffin of the gunboat's arrival. Another horseman carried the same news to Lake Charles and to the Confederate quartermaster depot at Niblett's Bluff, La. Griffin wired the Houston headquarters of Maj. General J. B. Magruder (then on duty in Louisiana), and the terse reply was telegraphed by Gen. P. O. Hebert on April 30 to Cols. Griffin and A. W. Spaight, as follows: "Attack the small force at Calcasieu at once, and disperse, defeat, and capture the expedition!"
In compliance, Col. Spaight dispatched four companies of the 11th Texas Battalion, then on duty at Niblett's Bluff, Capt. O. M. Marsh's Co. A; Capt. G. W. O'Brien's Co. B; Capt. W. C. Gibbs' Co. C; and Capt. B. E. Gentry's Co. D, aboard the steamboat "Sunflower" to Sabine Pass, where Col. Griffin was assembling a combat force soon to begin the long trek overland. Spaight then marched the remainder of his battalion to Lake Charles, prepared to secure all cotton and shipping there, as well as defend that point if the need arose.
Meanwhile, Col. Griffin's Sabine Post, comprising Forts Griffin and Manhassett, had been stripped of many troops, most of them having been sent to North Louisiana. Only 58 men and sixteen horses of Captain E. Creuzbauer's battery of light artillery, composed of two six pounders and two 12-pounders, were available for combat duty at Calcasieu Pass, one-half of its roster being on detached service. The cannoneers, mostly German immigrant farmers from Fayette County, Texas, had spent much of the war on the Mexican border, and had experienced no combat action prior to their transfer to Fort Manhassett. About twenty cavalrymen of Capt. Howard's Co. B of Daily's Battalion were also available for the expedition. In addition to Spaight's troops, Col. Griffin had three companies of his own 21st Texas Battalion, Companies A, C, and E under Capts. Evans, Deegan, and Givens, altogether about 325 men, assigned to the command of Major Felix C. McReynolds of Fort Manhassett.
On the morning of May 4, 1864, Col. Griffin began assembling his attack force at Fort Griffin, being cautious not to betray his plans to the lookouts aboard the three Federal Blockaders at the mouth of the harbor. The Louisiana shore opposite Sabine Pass being considered as impassable marsh terrain, the infantrymen were loaded throughout the day aboard the steamboat "Dime," carried into Sabine Lake first, and thence up Johnson's Bayou to the head of navigation.
Griffin ordered the artillery, caissons, teams, and wagon loads of supplies, pontoons, and bridge timbers loaded aboard the "Dime" and ferried to Louisiana after dusk to avoid revealing his movements to offshore lookouts. On the morning of May 5, the Confederates put the finishing touches to guns, ammunition, wagons, and other gear at Johnson's Bayou, and about noon, fell into columns and began the thirty-mile march along Blue Buck Ridge and the beach road to Calcasieu Pass.
Col. Griffin expected to reach the river by midnight and allow his weary travelers some time to rest before the battle would begin at daylight. Instead, progress was unbearably slow, and upon reaching the burned-out Mud Bayou bridge, their effort to replace it with a pontoon bridge consumed two hours longer than expected. As a result, when the troops reached the Calcasieu about 5:00 o'clock A. M., there was barely time for the cannoneers to position their pieces at 1,000 yards range and for the infantry to seek cover along the river banks. As a result, the Rebel force fought with only three hours rest during the eighteen-hour march.
As the first arc of dawn punctured the horizon that morning, the guns of Creuzbauer's Battery opened fire first to allow the advance of the infantry to the edge of the Pass. There was almost no cover there for the sharpshooters except a cow pen fence, some scrub mesquite bushes, and the marsh salt grass, which grows to about one foot in height. Surprise was complete, with most of the Bluejackets still asleep in their bunks and hammocks. Nevertheless, Lt. Charles Welhausen's twelve-pounders and Lt. J. D. Mieksch's six-pounders had time to fire only eight or ten shells before the first response from the gunboats arrived, both "deadly and accurate." The crew of Rebel gun No. 1, a 12-pounder under Corporal Walter von Rosenberg (whose eye-witness account of the battle also survives), took the first casualties with Private William Kneip killed instantly and Private William Guhrs mortally wounded. Although dying, cannoneer Guhrs stuck to his post for the remainder of the battle even though he was confined to a kneeling position.
From the beginning, the fire of three guns had been concentrated on the "Granite City" because of that gunboat's superiority in firepower. One of the next Union shells scored a direct hit on Corporal Philip Degen's gun No. 3, at that moment the only gun firing on the "Wave," mortally wounding Private Henry Foesterman in the head, Private John Lynch through both thighs, as well as Corporal Ferdinand Fahrenthold, the cannoneer. The shell burst completely destroyed the weapon, knocking the barrel from the carriage and the wheels from the axle shaft, and also wounded Degen, Sergeant Peter Franz, and Corporal J. Therriat, a Frenchman who had deserted Emperor Maxmillian's army in Mexico.
For a time at the beginning, the outcome of the battle was very much in doubt. Col. Griffin had assumed charge of the artillery attack, while Major McReynolds double-timed the infantrymen to the banks of the river. As Griffin had correctly guessed, the tinclads had no steam up, but puffs of smoke indicated that the engineers were stoking the boiler fires. Volleys of minie balls from the sharpshooters began striking the boiler plate on the sides of the vessels and flattening out. But the infantry musket fire was nevertheless quite effective against the navy gun crews, especially those "swabbing out" the cannon barrels. Every effort by the sailors to raise anchors triggered another torrent of minie balls as well, as did the presence of a pilot in the wheel house. After steam was up, both ships attempted to drag anchors, but without success; hence, some navy gunners were wholly dependent upon ship movements caused by the river currents for aiming their guns.
Union prisoners later praised the coolness and courage of a "lone Confederate musketeer in the open field" who insisted on loading his musket, ramming his charge home, aiming and firing from a standing position only, totally oblivious to the torrent of minie balls from the navy marksmen, who said of his bravery --- "it irritated every man who shot at him!" The unidentified Rebel warrior was probably one of the six Confederate infantrymen killed in the attack.
While the infantry bore the brunt of the fight, Lieutenant Welhausen began moving guns No. 1, 2, and 4 up about 600 yards closer to their targets. The new proximity to the gunboats greatly favored the Confederate cannoneers thereafter. Both wheel houses on the tinclads were soon shot away. And moreover, in addition to problems of aiming the navy guns that were wholly dependent on current movements, there were new problems of elevation because the barrels of some of the gunboats' batteries could not be depressed low enough to be effective at such short range. After only thirty minutes of combat, during which his men had fired only thirty shells and had received fifteen shell hits in return fire, Lt. Lamson, having lost all urge to continue his defense, ran up a white flag on the "Granite City." He soon lowered a boat for Col. Griffin and some of his officers to come aboard, for the Rebel commander had hopes of turning the cannons of the "Granite City" against the other gunboat. Believing the battle to be near its end, the Confederate infantry cheered and yelled, not realizing that the stout-hearted Lieutenant Loring of the "Wave" had no intention of surrendering.
Very quickly, the remaining artillery of Creuzbauer's Battery were moved again and aimed at the other tinclad. Loring realized his hopeless and untenable situation, but the "Wave" being his first command, he was not about to surrender prematurely, lest he be "remembered only as disgraced." Despite his gallant defense, which only succeeded in delaying the battle for another hour, he was destined to bear the stigma of coward anyway, because some superior officer of the Navy Department in Washington noted that "there were no men killed" on the "Wave."
Even as all the weapons of the Confederate attackers were turned on the hapless tinclad, the guns aboard the "Wave" were rendered virtually useless. The broadside Dahlgren cannons were ineffective except when the current shifted the boat about, and one of these lost its pivoting bolt. The only projectiles for the 20-pound bow gun were "percussion shells." A Rebel 12-pound shell, fired from gun No. 4 by cannoneer Joseph Brickhouse, struck inside the muzzle of the "Wave's" other bow gun, the 32-pound smoothbore, exploding it, splitting the barrel four feet, and injuring the crew. With steam finally up, Loring hoped until the end to be able to raise anchor and escape when another 12-pound solid shot from gun No. 1, fired by Corporal von Rosenberg, struck the steam drum, rendering it, the boilers, and the starboard engine useless. With all hope gone, Lt. Loring raised a white flag, but he delayed lowering a boat. Altogether, sixty-five shells had struck the "Wave" during the ninety minute battle, fifty of them fired from Degen's No. 4 gun, and fifteen from von Rosenberg's battery, whereas only fifteen shells had exploded on the "Granite City."
One of the highlights of the battle came from the pen of Joseph Brickhouse, who at one stage of the engagement, when the outcome was tilted against the Confederates, described Major McReynolds and Lieutenant Welhausen as "two of the bravest officers who ever drew sword, (who) ralled their men in such terms as no one who heard them will ever forget."
Across the river there were twenty-seven Union soldiers who took no part in the conflict, but who surrendered as soon as the firing ceased. Shortly after the battle began, Col. Griffin had appropriated a nearby farm house for use as a hospital for the Confederate wounded. Whereas only one major operation was performed on Confederate casualties, there were nine 'capital' operations performed on the Union wounded aboard the "Granite City" by Rebel surgeons Gordon, Barton, and Dr. George H. Bailey as well as Union surgeons Boyden and E. C. Vermuelen. The memoirs of Captain Daniel Goos, an early Calcasieu sawmiller, reveal that Dr. Vermuelen, almost two months after the battle had ended, was still treating the recovering Union casualties at Lake Charles and dining in the Goos home.
On the night of the engagement, First Sergeant H. N. Connor of Co. A, 11th Texas Battalion, wrote in his diary: "Surgeons (aboard the "Granite City") engaged in amputating this evening, which is the worst sight of the whole affair." One body lay dead on the deck of the "Granite City" when the victorious Rebels came aboard. Capital operations performed on the wounded sailors included Quartermaster John Jacobs, Seamen Joseph Johnson, John Scott, William H. Hayden, and Ensign S. R. Tyrrell, all of whom later died, as well as eight others with lesser wounds. As late as June 14, five weeks after the battle, Confederate surgeons obtained chloroform from an offshore blockader under a flag of truce to amputate the gangrenous leg of Ensign A. H. Berry, who also died.
Upon going aboard the "Granite City," Col. Griffin marveled that the vessel was so badly damaged from exploding shells, with large wooden splinters and debris everywhere, as well as many severely wounded but only one killed. A few days later, five Union bodies were "washed ashore, to which weights had been attached and thrown aboard." In his second report, Griffin observed "how many more dead were thrown overboard (by Lt. Lamson and why) of course will never be known."
When Lt. Loring raised a white flag on the "Wave," Major McRaynolds called on the gunboat to lower a whaleboat so he could come aboard. For several minutes after the guns ceased, all was quiet aboard the "Wave," although Col. Griffin could see that the Union sailors were jettisoning "pistols, guns, swords, etc." as well as an iron safe (which contained $9,000 in gold), and even attempted to cast overboard two heavy Dahlgren howitzers without success. Von Rosenberg fired another shell across the bow with no response. After another shell exploded aboard, the "white flag came up like lightening" once more, and the Bluejackets began lowering a boat for McReynolds.
Upon reaching the deck of the defeated steamer, the sight was perhaps even worse than had been expected following the explosion of sixty-five shells. Sergeant Connor wrote in his diary that ". . . . the Wave is a perfect wreck, her cabin torn to flinders, and minie balls have riddled her, and then the shells exploding aboard put the finishing touch to her. The deck was strewn with glass, crockery, clocks, stoves and pipes, wooden splinters, provisions, bedding . . . ." Ironically, it appeared that the "Wave," although it had sustained four-fifths of the shell hits and had fought twice as long, had suffered the least casualties, with no dead and only ten wounded.
Confederate casualties were somewhat higher, with fourteen soldiers killed or dying and nine wounded who survived. The dead included Kneip, Fahrenthold, Lynch, Guehrs, and Foesterman of the artillery; Aaron Russell, J. D. Lancaster, R. M. Jones, A. Sprinkle and W. A. Jackson of Griffin's 21st Battalion; J. J. Risinger of Spaight's Battalion; and P. Whittenberg, M. Yvarro, and W. Ingle of Daly's Cavalry.
At least two or three of Creuzbauer or Welhausen's Battery distinguished themselves in particular by remaining at their cannons even though they had incurred mortal or serious wounds. John Lynch and Ferdinand Fahrenthold were two of those, and William Guehrs, although he could only fight from a kneeling position, kept on until the battle ended. Guehrs' wounds were serious, although not considered mortal, and he was soon granted a recuperation furlough to his home in Waldeck, Texas, accompanied by his friend Conrad Frosch. Guehrs' condition gradually worsened and he died September 3, 1864. His valor at his artillery post was not forgotten, and today his Confederate Congressional Medal of Honor is on display at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Other than two tinclads, Union losses included 166 prisoners, fourteen contraband or freed slaves, 14 cannons, a large quantity of provisions and arms, and 450 heads of cattle and horses. That night the Confederates feasted on "captured stores of oysters, sardines, and hams." For unknown reasons, Col. Griffin rushed to get his troops, prisoners, and booty back to Sabine Pass as witness the speed with which news of the Rebel victory appeared in the Houston and Galveston newspapers of May 8 and 9.
On the evening of the battle, he started half of the walking prisoners back under the guard of Griffin's Battalion. On the 7th, the remainder (except the wounded) and the wagon loads of captured provisions and munitions began the long trek along the beach road in the care of Creuzbauer's Battery and some of Spaight's troops. Sergeant Connor and his company remained on the gunboats at Calcasieu Pass for two more weeks, and his diary is highly critical of Griffin's performance, particularly of the latter's failure to leave any trained artillerymen on the tinclads. Connor added that Griffin had "put seven of our boys in the guard house for confiscating a captured ham."
As it turned out, a lack of trained cannoneers could have proved disastrous to the Confederates. By May 13, there were four blockading gunboats on the Calcasieu bar, and Admiral David Farragut's correspondence indicates that he was planning to launch a relief expedition to recapture the two vessels. On May 8 the steam tug Ella Morse returned from Brashear City with dispatches and coal, and got within one-half mile of the gunboats before discerning that something was amiss. As the Morse retreated seaward, the Granite City fired several shells that fell far short of the target. From the banks of the river, Connor and some of his men fired several minie balls at the Union steamer, but were unable to prevent its escape.
On May 10, the blockader New London anchored off the bar and sent Ensign Henry Jackson and six seamen up the river in a whale boat. With dispatches for delivery, Jackson soon saw the Rebel Stars and Bars at the masthead of the Granite City, which he considered to be some kind of joke. Upon reaching musket range, he fired a shot at the Confederate flag, and in an amazing quirk of fate, Jackson was shot through the head by a single minie ball fired from the "Granite City." Others in the whale boat surrendered at once.
Connor and Company A of Spaight's Battalion remained on the gunboats for a total of sixteen days, during which time they kedged the "Wave" over the Calcasieu Lake bar, and sent the tinclad and its wounded up the river to Lake Charles. Finally they were relieved by members of Colonel Leon Smith's "Texas Marine Department" (the Confederate Navy in Texas, of whom Connor was equally critical), at which time Company A returned to Texas. In January, 1865, both gunboats, by then stripped of armament and outfitted as blockade-runners, escaped to Mexico. And the following June, after the war had ended, the "Granite City," by then renamed the "Three Marys," was seen at anchor in Tampico harbor. After the battle of Calcasieu, the feisty Lt. Loring escaped from prison camp twice, eventually reaching the Union lines in Lousiana in October. However, his letters of February and March, 1865, from the Washington Navy Yard indicate that he was still "disgraced" because of his performance at Calcasieu Pass, and his naval career was effectively ruined.
The Calcasieu engagement won praise for Col. Griffin from Gen. Magruder's Houston headquarters, but there were no lengthy plaudits or flowery epithets. Instead, the general's report to the Trans-Mississippi Department was about as precise and matter-of-fact as had been his orders to attack, reading curtly: "Griffin attacked the enemy at Calcasieu yesterday morning; captured gunboats "Wave" and "Granite City."
The Battle of Calcasieu Pass is interesting if only as one of those Civil War battles about which very little has ever been written. In a war that had to be won by large armies on the battlefields of Virginia, perhaps very little of the conflict in the Trans-Misissippi Department can be defined as having been "strategically important." On a lesser and localized scale, the Confederate victory brought an end to the Mermentau "Jayhawker" depredations, forcing them to remain hidden in the marshes for the remainder of the war. It came as a 'grand finale' to the Rebel successes of the Red River campaign in North Louisiana. Calcasieu Pass also proved to be the last action for any of the battle participants; the last encounter fought solely by Texas Confederate soldiers; the last "significant defeat" of the Union navy for the control of the Texas-Louisiana coast; and the last of four minor victories achieved by the Sabine Pass garrison. And although the war was to last for ten months thereafter, most of the rivers and seaports of Western Louisiana and Eastern Texas, although blockaded, continued to fly the Confederate emblem until the last echoes of the long conflict were silenced.
Primary and secondary sources: H. N. Connor, "Diary of First Sergeant H. N. Connor, 1861-1865," unpublished, copy owned by the writer; C. K. Ragan, "Diary of Captain George W. O'Brien," Houston, No Date; J. A. Brickhouse, "Battle of Calcasieu Pass," Beaumont, Tx. ENTERPRISE, May 9, 1909; W. von Rosenberg, "Calcasieu Pass," CONFEDERATE VETERAN, XXVI, 516ff; Paul C. Boethel, THE BIG GUNS OF FAYETTE (Austin: 1965); "History of Spaight's 21st Texas Regiment," A. W. Spaight Papers, File 2G276, Barker History Center, Austin, Tx.; A. Barr, "The Battle of Calcasieu Pass," SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY, LXVI (July, 1962); W. T. Block, "Calcasieu Pass Victory," EAST TEXAS HISTORICAL JOURNAL, IX (Oct., 1971); WAR OF THE REBELLION-OFFICIAL RECORDS, ARMIES, Series 1, Vol. XXXIV, Pt. 1, 910-914; also NAVIES, Series I, Vol. XXI, 246-260; J. T. Scharf, HISTORY OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES NAVY, 527-528; Galveston WEEKLY NEWS, May 9, 10; June 22, 1864; TRI-WEEKLY NEWS, May 8, June 20, 1864; Houston DAILY TELEGRAPH, May 9, 11, 1864; see also Gregg S. Clemmer, Valor in Gray, Hearthside Pub. Co.: Staunton, Va., 1996, pp. 412-418, wherein one soldier won the Confederate Congressional Medal of Honor at the Battle of Calcasieu Pass.