Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Confederate Thermopylae


September 8th marks the 150th Anniversary of another Civil War event.  It won't get as much coverage as Gettysburg.  In fact, outside of the local area, it won't get any coverage at all.  There will be a reenactment there September 6-8.  However, few will probably notice.  The event doesn't even get covered in a lot of history books about the war as it is, so it should be no surprise that it won't even register and the national radar.

What happened that day in the mosquito infested swamps of Sabine Pass, Texas was as improbable as it was memorable.  44 Irishmen under the command of their fellow countryman, Dick Dowling, turned back a 5,000 man invasion force by sinking two Federal gunboats and killing or capturing 200 sailors without suffering a single casualty in return.  Talk about the luck of the Irish!  Their commander, a bar owner in Houston prior to the war, had the men place stakes in the channel to mark the distances so that when the Federal gunboats arrived, they opened fire with deadly accuracy.

As a side note, the veterans of the Battle of Sabine Pass each received a medal, hung on a green ribbon (of course!) which had the date of the battle engraved on one side and the other side had the letters "D.G." for Davis Guards and either a Maltese Cross or a CSA Flag.  You can see a picture of one here.  It is thought to be the only medal authorized by the Confederate Congress during the duration of the war.

I grew up just a couple of miles from this battlefield.  It is a State Historical Site today, though hurricanes have wreaked havoc with it over the years.  If you would like further reading on the matter, I would suggest you check out Sabine Pass: The Confederacy's Thermopylae by Ed Cotham which you can find here.  It is an excellent introduction to this little known battle.

On a side note, I attended my first reenactment as a spectator here in 1985.  Later, I attended my first event as a participant here.  As many of you know, I have severe back problems now.  However, I will be attending the reenactment this year as my last hurrah.  There will be no more reenactments in my future and I think it fitting that I go out the same way I came Sabine Pass.  I'll be portraying a Regimental Surgeon.  So if you are in the area on September 7, stop by and check it out.  You can even meet Mrs. Civil War Addict and I.  Click here for more information.  Hope to see you there!

Dick Dowling of County Galway. Source.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict.