2009-09-03 / Community News

Sabine Pass Battleground Reopens With Dick Dowling Event

The Friends of Sabine Pass Battleground will sponsor the Dick Dowling Days Civil War Weekend on Sept. 12- 13, 2009, to celebrate the grand reopening of the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site, a Texas Historical Commission (THC) property, and to commemorate the 146th anniversary of this historic battle. Visitors to the site at 6100 Dowling Road, Port Arthur, Texas will see history come to life, explore the army camps and battlefield, and hear the incredible stories of the soldiers and citizens of the time. There will be two battle reenactments each day.

On a hot afternoon 146 years ago, one of the most incredible battles of the American Civil War took place in Jefferson County. Abraham Lincoln decided it was time for the Union to knock the state of Texas out of the war. The plan was to send a force of 5,000 Federal soldiers on a surprise attack of the port of Sabine Pass. From there, they would launch assaults on Confederate forces in Beaumont and then Houston. Another 5,000 troops would follow to serve as the second wave of the invasion. They arrived at the mouth of the pass during the night and attacked the next day, Sept. 8, 1863.

The Confederate defenses at Sabine Pass were meager that day. Forty-seven volunteers, all young Irish immigrants, were posted in a seemingly unimpressive fort on the shore about a mile up the pass. Called Fort Griffin, it was constructed of dirt and reinforced with salvaged railroad material. Its armament was six old smoothbore artillery pieces. The day of the attack, the company's commander and many of the men were away on other duties, so command fell on the shoulders of a young lieutenant, 26-year-old Richard W. Dowling. This small group of men accomplished a most daring feat.

Their superiors advised them to blow up the fort and fall back to Beaumont, but they chose to stay and fight. They were accurate gunners and held their fire until the enemy had entered shallow water then sprung their trap. After a 40 minute artillery duel against the vanguard of the fleet, they repelled the entire force. Fifty Union sailors and soldiers were killed. Dowling's men didn't suffer a single serious casualty.

For more information call 409.617.8459.

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