11TH-TEXAS-BATTALION-L ArchivesArchiver > 11TH-TEXAS-BATTALION > 2008-12 > 1230683774
Subject: [11TH-TEXAS-BATTALION] Spaights Battalion,Companies A and F diary entries
Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2008 18:36:14 -0600
Please enjoy the diary excerpt below.
Several of my ancestors were members of the 11th Texas Cavalry, later known as the 11th Texas Volunteer Infantry. Most notably was Major Josephus Somerville Irvine. He and many of his CSA soldiers and McMahon inlaws are buried in Newton County, Texas.
There is a Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp named in his honor in Newton, Texas.
You can read more about the Major at:
God Bless the South,
SCV MC #774
Maj J.S. Irvine Camp 2031
"War means fighting and fighting means killing."
LTG N.B. Forrest, CSA
The following is from the diary of Sgt H. N. Connor
"And with the united efforts of the Swamp Angels, we succeeded." Those were the words that First Sergeant H. N. Connor wrote in his diary about the men under him. Spaights Battalion, Companies A and F were dismounted cavalry and sharpshooters. Because most of their battles were fought in the swampy areas of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast they were called the Swamp Angels. They were a brave bunch that fought mosquitoes, yellow fever, dysentery, constantly wet and freezing weather and measles as well as Yankees and Jayhawkers. More of them died from the diseases and the weather than the Northern Invaders. Before the War was over the Yankees had, had enough of the Swamp Angels and left the Texas and Louisiana coastline. They only returned to Galveston after the war was over; when they knew that it was safe.
In April of 1861 the Sabine Pass Guards was formed. The men enlisted for a ninety day period but by July their enlistments were up. Most of the men reenlisted but some went back home. Half of the reenlistments formed into an artillery company which were still called the Sabine Pass Guards. The other reenlistments formed into cavalry company A of Likens Battalion. They would later become part of Spaights Battalion and on December 1, 1861 Captain O. M. Marsh took charge. These men became part of a state militia for one year.
In September Captain Likens went to General Paul O. Heberts Headquarters in Galveston where he was promoted to the rank of Major. There he was authorized to raise Likens Sixth Battalion of the Texas State Militia. His old Company A became part of the Sixth Battalion.
Captain Likens Sixth Battalion were ordered back to Sabine Pass. About five miles west of Sabine Pass Companies A and F, not yet known as the Swamp Angels stopped and built fourteen barracks and stables. They also guarded the beaches, rode as messengers and patrol to Beaumont and High Island. During this time they received 120 new carbines from the Confederate command in Galveston.
In June 1862 Captain Spaight was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the new Spaights eleventh Battalion. Linkens Companies A and F were transferred to Spaights Battalion.
On July 1, the British steamer Victoria came from Havana and had arrived at the mouth of the Sabine River. They were bringing badly needed munitions and supplies for the Confederate forces at Sabine Pass. Unfortunately; the ship also brought the yellow jack which was also known as yellow fever. Within a month over 300 soldiers and civilians at Sabine Pass fell victim to this killer disease. By September 1 all but fourteen of the Swamp Angels were down with yellow fever. About forty soldiers of Spaights Battalion and one hundred civilians had already died.
By October 20, people were still dying of yellow fever in Sabine Pass, Orange, and Beaumont. First Sergeant Conner of the Swamp Angels noted in his diary that all of his soldiers that were not sick were nursing the sick and burying the dead civilians. Captain Keith of Company B even noted in his memoirs that; Our principal business was to bury the dead. By the end of October the Swamp Angels had lost fourteen men to yellow fever.
On September 15 the civilians started protesting the quarantine because of the lack of food and supplies. Residents of Houston heard of this need and collected $695.00 to purchase medicine and supplies for the community.
Because of this Colonel Spaight furloughed all able bodied men in his battalion for two weeks. After two weeks they were to regroup at the Cowpens near what is known today as Nederland, Texas. For some reason some of the Swamp Angels regrouped at Sabine Pass instead. Later Colonel Spaight reassembled the Swamp Angels and Company B near what is known today as Port Arthur. Colonel Spaight later ordered the Swamp Angels back to Sabine Pass to keep the range cattle driven inland. He did not want Jayhawkers stealing them for supplying to the Yankees.
The Jayhawkers were common thieves, cattle rustlers, murders and traitors to the South. They were Southern draft-dodgers, deserters and Yankee sympathizers that stole what ever they could for Northern solders in the area to use. Many of these traitors even joined the Union navy and armies.
On October 20, about thirty of the Swamp Angels were concealed in the high grass near Wingates Sawmill when the Yankee gunboat Dan was steaming up the Sabine River towards another Yankee boat called Velocity. The Swamp Angels stood and fired their carbines at the Dan which returned fire with grape and canister shot. Not one Swamp Angel was hit. However; they had no choice but to run and hide in the tall grass again.
The next day some men from the Dan came ashore with a six pound boat howitzer. They burned $150,000.00 of downed trees for cutting into boards, houses and stacked lumber. Then they burned the Swamp Angels barracks and stables. This did not set well with the men of the Swamp Angels.
The Swamp Angels immediately set their sights on the Dan for revenge. The men collected $500.00 among themselves and bought a six pound cannon which they named Aunt Jane. They also bought solid shot from Houston. After all of this personal money and time was spent on their cannon, which they had named Aunt Jane was still no match for the Dans thirty pound Parrott gun which had five times the fire power.
While the Swamp Angels were busy at Sabine Pass the Union army was capturing Galveston Island. General J. B. Magruder had just taken command of the Texas Military District in Houston. He instantly planned for the recapture of Galveston. He was going to outfit and arm two cotton clad steamboats named the Uncle Ben and Josiah Bell. They were in an orange shipyard.
On December 5, a traitor to the South and informant for the North told Union Commander Quincy A. Hooper of the Sabine Federal forces, that the Confederates were planning to destroy their blockade with two cotton clad gunboats. The next day Commander Hooper moved a leaking gunboat named the Rachel Seaman across the sandbar to anchor off shore. This left the Union gunboat Dan to guard the inner pass all by itself. What Commander Hooper did not know was that the Dan was being stalked by the unforgiving Swamp Angels.
After two unsuccessful attempts to sink the Dan the Swamp Angels would try again. They were not giving up. On January 8, First Sergeant Conner and nine of the Swamp Angels rowed a small boat up to the Dan in a thick early morning fog. From the small boat the Swamp Angels lit and threw about fifty pine knot torches onto the deck of the Dan. Then they shoved off and watched the Yankee gunboat burned to the waterline and sink.
Some historical books show that the Dan was still in service two years after the War was over. This could be another boat named the Dan. Many times a boat or ship was and still is given the name of another boat or ship that sunk earlier.
On January 10, Captain Keith of Company B was ordered to Orange. His company was to man the two twelve-pound cannon of the cotton clad Uncle Ben. While Captain Keiths two cannon were being loaded on board the Uncle Ben, Captain Oblums Company F, First Texas Heavy Artillery, were assigned to a single sixty-four-pound riffled cannon on board the Josiah Bell. That means that this cannon fired a sixty-four pound ball. The Swamp Angels drew straws with men of Pyrons Regiment to see who would go on board the two gunboats to serve as sharpshooters. The Swamp Angels won.
In the early morning hours of January 21, the Uncle Ben and Josiah Bell steamed out of Sabine Pass ready to sink the Yankee blockading ships, Morning Light and Velocity. The Confederate gunboats were going up against a very formidable force of nine thirty-two-pound guns on the Morning Light and three twelve-pound guns on the Velocity. Yet for some reason, when the Yankees saw the Confederate ships sailing towards them they hoisted their anchors and tried to escape. The early morning breeze was not enough to fill their sails. The chase still lasted about two hours as the cowarding Yankees sailed twenty-seven miles out to sea. The problem was that the Confederates continued to follow. When the Confederate gunboats got within about two and a half miles from the Yankees, the Josiah Bell fired four of her guns. All four shells exploded on the Morning Light killing and wounding several of the crew and destroying one of her guns. The Swamp Angels opened fire on the crew of both blockader ships. Every time a Yankee came topside to ready a cannon the Swamp Angels would open fire. The enemy had a choice. They could stay below where it was safe or come topside where the Swamp Angels rifles awaited them. Before long, both Yankee gunboats surrendered.
The Swamp Angels boarded both enemy gunboats and locked the crews below. Other Confederate soldiers that were more experienced with sailing boats brought the two boats into port. However; the Morning Light had a deep draft and had to be anchored outside the sandbar. The enemy crewmen was brought on shore and held for transportation to prison. Captain Keith begged Major Watkins to allow him to put his Artillery Company B on board the Morning Light to keep the boat from falling back into enemy hands. Major Watkins had been impressed with what the Swamp Angels had done and ordered that they remained on board to watch the gunboat. However; the Morning Light had to be burned the next day when the Yankee gunboats Cayuga and New London tried to retake it. The few men of the Swamp Angels that were on board tried to fight but their carbine rifles were not enough to fight off the two advancing Yankee gunboats.
On May 1, Colonel Spaight received orders to go to central Louisiana to reinforce General Richard Taylors army. They were at the time harassing the retreating Yankee army of about 15,000 men under General Nathaniel Banks. During the next six months the Swamp Angels had over thirty battles and small skirmishes with the enemy. Considered to be the most important battles of all was the Battle of Fordoche Bayou fought on September 29, and the Battle of Bayou Bourbeau fought on November 3.
On May 3, Colonel Spaight reached central Louisiana. His Infantry companies C, D, and E were assigned to another brigade commanded by Colonel J. W. Speight. The two Colonels last names sounded the same but they were not related. Colonel Spaight and Colonel Speight were two different men. The cavalry companies A and F, Swamp Angels, were assigned to Colonel Majors Cavalry Brigade.
In October there was a battle in which the Swamp Angels were reluctantly held in reserve and they saw no action. Then came the battle of Bayou Bourbeau, seven miles south of Opelousas, Louisiana. The Union received 154 killed and wounded and 562 captured. A wagon train of supplies was also captured. The Swamp Angels had a short skirmish with the Union Cavalry. Then the enemy mounted their horses and ran. They had, had enough of the Swamp Angels who chased them all the way back to Vermillionville, Louisiana.
In November General Tom Greens Brigade was ordered to Brownsville, Texas to deal with another Yankee invasion. Spaights Battalion also returned to Texas where some of Colonel Spaights troops, including the Swamp Angels were permitted to return to their homes for a short visit. They were very quickly reassembled at Beaumont Post.
First Sergeant Conner noted in his diary that October through December of 1863 was the coldest he ever saw. Many times his men were hungry and freezing. One morning the men woke up to find that one of them had frozen to death during the night and was frozen to the ground. He also wrote in August of 1863, there was much sickness among us, nearly all of the men were down at once. Only four of the men are fit for duty. He also wrote that while in Vermillion, Louisiana the first time, several of the men died of measles. In October 1863 he wrote that they had, had nothing to eat for two days.
In January of 1864 First Sergeant Conner wrote in his diary; Reached Liberty, (Texas) today, frozen out. Yesterday it was so cold we could not travel, horses saddles, blankets, cloths all frozen stiff. One man froze to death. Today the ice on the ponds held the weight of our horses without cracking, causing them to slid and fall, injuring them seriously. He also noted at another time; It only stopped raining twice, in order to freeze and start sleeting.
The Swamp Angels had participated in over twenty Louisiana battles and skirmishes. They had become so famous that even the Yankees did not like having to deal with them. Yet these Northern Invaders were hard headed and needed some more learning. The Swamp Angels were more than happy to continue teaching them.
In the spring of 1864 Colonel Spaights Swamp Angels were stationed at Nibletts Bluff, Louisiana. They, with other infantry companies, were to attack any Yankees coming up the Calcasieu River and support General Richard Taylors forces in Northern Louisiana.
On April 12, the Yankees decided to try taking the Calcasieu River again. The Union gunboat Wave was docked in Atchafalaya Bay repairing storm damage. When the work was finished the Wave left for Calcasieu Pass. On April 24, the Wave arrived and fired shots at the abandoned Confederate fort. Lieutenant Benjamin Loring of the Wave anchored at the mouth of the river and awaited reinforcements. Then he ordered a launch ashore where his men burned the barracks of the empty fort. Three days later the Union gunboat Granite City arrived and anchored 300 yards downstream from the Wave. Lieutenant C. W. Lamson had onboard a Union army dispatch of twenty-seven men whos job was to round up livestock brought in by Jayhawkers.
Men from the Granite City were sent ashore where they arrested many people thought to be loyal to the Confederacy. The prisoners were brought on board the Granite City to keep the confederates from attacking the boat. Colonel W. H. Griffin telegraphed Confederate headquarters in Houston and told them about the enemy gunboats. Headquarters ordered him to; attack the small force at Calcasieu and disperse, defeat, and capture the expedition. Colonel Spaight ordered the Swamp Angels along with Companies C, D, and E to Colonel Griffins Command at Sabine Pass to help in the attack.
On May 4, Colonel Griffin assembled seven companies of Infantry, one battery of Artillery and thirty of the best cavalrymen and sharpshooters he knew of, the Swamp Angels. About three-hundred men from Sabine Pass and Johnsons Bayou, Louisiana then began the thirty mile march to Calcasieu Pass. On the morning of May 6, the battle of Calcasieu Pass began.
The Confederates had almost no cover to hide behind as they attacked the two enemy gunboats. One thing in their favor was that the gunboats had their anchors out and no steam pressure built up. For about one and a half hours the men on the gunboats fought Confederate cannon and the vicious sharp shooting accuracy of the Swamp Angels. Almost every time a Swamp Angel fired another Yankee would fall. When the gunboats finally did get up enough steam to move they tried to drag their anchors. Unfortunately for them; the anchors did their job and held onto the bottom. Finally, after only firing thirty rounds from their cannon, the men of the Union gunboat Granite City had no choice and raised a white flag to surrender. In the one and a half hours of battle not one Swamp Angel was killed. It is not known who the man was but, one of the Swamp Angels refused to hide behind anything. He stood in plane sight of the Granite Citys crew as he continued to load and fired. This irritated the Yankee crewmen that tried their best to hit him without success.
The Confederate soldiers cheered thinking that they had won, not realizing that Lieutenant Loring of the Wave had no intention of surrendering. When Creuzbauers Battery saw that the Wave had no white flag flying he moved his battery and took aim at the boat. Lieutenant Loring realized that his situation was hopeless but did not want to surrender his first command. He feared being disgraced. Thanks to the Swamp Angels accurate shots the Waves boiler was full of holes and leaking steam that filled the air. The decks of the Wave had been ripped to pieces by Confederate artillery and ten men were wounded. No matter what Loring tried the battle only lasted another hour. Lieutenant Loring surrendered and was still branded a coward.
It was believed that the Granite City had no casualties until a few day after its surrender. The river bank became littered with dead Yankees whos bodies had been weighted down. The men of the Granite City did not consider that it would take more weight to hold down a body when it becomes bloated.
During the entire two and a half hours that it took for the Wave and Granite City to surrender, twenty-seven Yankee soldiers were quietly hiding in the grass across the river. Not one of them fired a shot or even stood to be seen by anyone. They surrendered after the fighting was over. Lieutenant Loring was not the only coward that day but, all of the cowards were wearing blue.
The spoils of the victory included sixteen guns, ten of which were twenty-four-pound Dahlgrens; 166 prisoners, 450 cattle and horses stolen by Jayhawkers, and large quantities of stores and munitions. Colonel Griffin quickly removed all Confederates from Louisiana except for the Swamp Angels and prisoners which would stay onboard the steamers. He also left plenty of guns and stores for their use. Among the stores left were oysters, sardines and hams. Sergeant Conner and his Swamp Angels remained onboard the two captured gunboats for another 16 days. During that time they took the gunboats upriver to Lake Charles. They also spent much of that time feasting on the oysters, sardines, and ham while the Yankee prisoners ate dry hardtack.
On May 8, the Union steam tug, Ella Morse, returned from Brashear City with coal for the Wave and Granite City. The tugs captain had no idea that the boats were no longer in Yankee hands. As the tug moved within half a mile of the gunboats the crew noticed that something was wrong. The tug turned and headed back. The Confederate artillerymen on the Granite City opened fire but their shells fell short. The Swamp Angels were on shore at this time and also fired at the tug but were unable to stop it. The badly needed coal got away.
By May 10, three Union Gunboats waited off the Calcasieu Bar. Admiral David Farragut was debating whether to fight his way inland to recapture the gunboats. Then he sent Ensign Henry Jackson of the New London and six of his seamen up the river in a whale boat. I guess no one told Jackson what was going on. When the young Ensign saw the Confederate stars and bars flying from the Granite Citys masthead he thought that his fellow countrymen were playing a prank. To add to the joke he had one of his men fire a round that hit the flag. The Swamp Angels were in hiding and one man immediately fired striking Ensign Jackson in the head. The others on the whale boat instantly surrendered to the now infamous Swamp Angels.
The Yankees finally decided that they had, had enough of these tough Southern men and left. The Battle of Calcasieu River would be the last battle that Spaights Battalion and the Swamp Angels would see. The Yankees had enough and did not try to take the Louisiana and Texas coastline again. Only after Lees surrender did Union troops move into Galveston to except the surrender of Confederate troops.
By 1865 Spaights Battalion had reached Regimental size. The Swamp Angels were stationed in Houston for a while and then moved on to Galveston. Later they were moved to Beaumont where they were discharged on May 24, 1865.
Upon the leaving of Spaights Regiment, including the Swamp Angels, from Houston to Galveston a Houston newspaper paid the greatest compliment to them.
It is just that we should say on departure of Colonel A. W. Spaight that it (the Twenty-first Regiment) is the best disciplined, quietest, and best disposed body of men we have ever seen among us. This regiment has been on post duty here for several months, and during that time, we have not heard of a single depredation committed by any of its man; we have seen nor toadyism, no drunkennessSuch a regiment is an honor to its command and a credit to the service
On May 25, 1865 First Sergeant Conner of the Swamp Angels wrote in his diary a last time before heading home. He wrote about all of the Swamp Angels that were returning home angry and upset after four long years of mosquitoes, mud, freezing rain and burying friends. Some died in action but more died of diseases.