Sunday, February 8, 2009

Group Works to Save Sabine Pass Battlefield

Preserving the past at Sabine Pass
Posted 2/8/2009

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — A group is forming to support the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site, which is situated near the Louisiana border in Texas. The battleground is about 1.5 miles south of the town of Sabine Pass, Texas.

In the battle on Sept. 8, 1863, a fleet of Union gunboats and transports carrying 5,000 troops was turned back by Lt. Dick Dowling and 46 men of Company F, 1st Texas Heavy Artillery.
The Confederate force was comprised mostly of Irish dock workers and laborers from Houston and Galveston.

The attacking gunboats fired from the Louisiana channel of the pass and from the Sabine Pass Lighthouse on the Louisiana side of the river. After about 45 minutes of gunfire, the Union invasion fleet retired. Two gunboats surrendered and 50 Union troops were killed and 350 were captured. The Confederates suffered no casualties. Dowling and his men were awarded the only medal for valor awarded to Confederate troops during the war.

Today, the 58-acre battleground is a state historic site that includes a statue of Dowling and an interpretive pavilion illustrating the story of the battle. Control of the site was transferred from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Texas Historical Commission.

"With THC's encouragement, we have now set up Friends of Sabine Pass Battleground to help with the mission of preserving and interpreting the historical events in the Sabine Pass area," said Texas author and historian Ed Cotham.

The group has applied for nonprofit status with the IRS and is in the process of soliciting charter members. Its annual dues are $25. "We hope to put out a newsletter and provide public input on the restoration of the battleground and its monuments and markers, many of which were damaged by recent hurricanes," Cotham said. Cotham is the author of "Sabine Pass: The Confederacy's Thermopylae" (University of Texas Press).