Thursday, October 4, 2012

Demand for the Surrender of Galveston! 150 Years Ago Today!

"The officer in command of the [Union] squadron, Captain Renshaw, stated that he would hoist the United States flag over the city of Galveston or over its ashes." - Official Report of Confederate Brig. Gen. Paul Hebert

In a previous post (here) I discussed how Union naval commander William B. Renshaw was anxious to get back into action in the fall of 1862.  In mid-September 1862 he received orders from Farragut to sail/steam to the Texas coast and hopefully secure the surrender of a Confederate port, especially Galveston.

This is a very important anniversary in the Civil War history of Galveston.  On October 4, 1862, 150 years ago today, a Union fleet approached Galveston and demanded its surrender.

The surrender was not immediately forthcoming, but the day started a series of events that would lead to the surrender of Galveston on October 9, 1862, a nearly 3-month occupation by Union forces, and the recapture of the island in a Confederate victory in the Battle of Galveston on January 1, 1863.

You can learn more about the surrender of the island in my new book: Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom (The History Press, 2012)...some highlights are below.  Enjoy!

On of the best sources about the Union capture of Galveston is the journal of Pvt. Henry O. Gusley, a marine aboard the USS Westfield.  His journal was found by Confederate forces in 1863 and excerpts were published in the Galveston newspapers that year.  You can learn more about the journal in a previous post (here).

In his diary, on October 9, 1862 (published in the Galveston Weekly News on October 28, 1863), he wrote:

U. S. Marine Pvt. Henry Gusley's journal reprinted in the Galveston Weekly News
The last eight days have been fraught with events of a stirring character, in which the Marines of the Westfield have taken a conspicuous part.  On the 1st inst. we stated that we were under way for a more southern latitude, which w emight have mentioned as being the city of Galveston, Texas...On the night of the 1st inst. we came to anchor in the Gulf somewhere in th eneighborhood of Sabine Pass, where we lay until the next morning, when we sailed again for this harbor [Galveston], arriving the same evening.  We lay ouside, in company with the blockading fleet, until the 4th, for the purpose of reconnoitering and obtaining a pilot to take us through the intricate channel which leads to the city.

On the morning of that day we sent a summons to the forts to surrender, which they refused to do; and in the afternoon we started in to drive them out.  From all that we could learn beforehand, we were led to expect quite a heavy fight; for such then we were prepared.  Our squadron formed in line...The fort [Fort Point] at the entrance of the harbor opened upon the Westfield at long range with a ten-inch Columbiad, when we signaled to the rest of the vessels to open fire, which was responded to with eleven-inch shell and ifle shot from the center, and rifle shot from the left of the line; and with such effect that the Secesh made a regular Skedaddle without taking time to reload their gun, which, by the way, proved to be the only one they had.

In the meantime we proceeded up the harbor to engage other batteries which we understood to be there; but none were there except what were mounted with Quaker gun, and so we turned our long rifle on the retreating rebels, considerably accelerating their before remarkable speed.  When we came near the city, a battery of field pieces opened on us, but their shot fell short, and we quietly came to anchor in th eharbor, notwithstanding the efforts to prevent us from doing so.  A flag of truce was sent off, demanding the surrender of the city and the raising of the Stars and Stripes within a certain time, accompanied with a threat to burn the place if not complied with.

Dr. Daniel nestell, a surgeon aboard the USS Clifton in the Union fleet, nade sketches of the appraoch to the city and lampooned the single gun that the island used to delay the approach.  Fortunately, the Nimitz Library of the United States Naval Academy has digitized the Nestell Collection and many of the sketches as well as his personal papers are available online via the Daniel D. Nestell Papers - Nimitz Library Digital Collections.  You can read more about the collection in a previous post (here).

Dr. Daniel Nestell's sketch of the Union fleet's approach to Galveston - Couresy Nimitz Library, USNA

"Ye Defense of Ye City of Galveston, Texas, One Gun" - Dr. Nestell's lampoon of the lone gun on Fort Point that challenged the Union fleet - Nimitz Library - USNA

Next post: The Confederate garrison refuses to surrender and the civilians evacuate!

You can learn more about this great story in my book: Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom

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