Sabine Pass: The Confederacy's Thermopylae

University of Texas Press
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In an 1882 speech, former Confederate president Jefferson Davis made an exuberant claim: "That battle at Sabine Pass was more remarkable than the battle at Thermopylae." Indeed, Sabine Pass was the site of one of the most decisive Civil War battles fought in Texas. But unlike the Spartans, who succumbed to overwhelming Persian forces at Thermopylae more than two thousand years before, the Confederate underdogs triumphed in a battle that over time has become steeped in hyperbole. Providing a meticulously researched, scholarly account of this remarkable victory, Sabine Pass at last separates the legends from the evidence.

In arresting prose, Edward T. Cotham, Jr., recounts the momentous hours of September 8, 1863, during which a handful of Texans—almost all of Irish descent—under the leadership of Houston saloonkeeper Richard W. Dowling, prevented a Union military force of more than 5,000 men, 22 transport vessels, and 4 gunboats from occupying Sabine Pass, the starting place for a large invasion that would soon have given the Union control of Texas.

Sabine Pass sheds new light on previously overlooked details, such as the design and construction of the fort (Fort Griffin) that Dowling and his men defended, and includes the battle report prepared by Dowling himself. The result is a portrait of a mythic event that is even more provocative when stripped of embellishment.

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About the author

Edward T. Cotham, Jr., is an independent scholar based in Houston, Texas. He has served as president of the Houston Civil War Roundtable and is the author of Battle on the Bay: The Civil War Struggle for Galveston.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Texas Press
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Published on
Jan 1, 2010
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780292782464
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
History / United States / State & Local / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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On September 28, 1863, the Galveston Tri-Weekly News caught its readers' attention with an item headlined "A Yankee Note-Book." It was the first installment of a diary confiscated from U.S. Marine Henry O. Gusley, who had been captured at the Battle of Sabine Pass. Gusley's diary proved so popular with readers that they clamored for more, causing the newspaper to run each excerpt twice until the whole diary was published. For many in Gusley's Confederate readership, his diary provided a rare glimpse into the opinions and feelings of an ordinary Yankee—an enemy whom, they quickly discovered, it would be easy to regard as a friend.

This book contains the complete text of Henry Gusley's Civil War diary, expertly annotated and introduced by Edward Cotham. One of the few journals that have survived from U.S. Marines who served along the Gulf Coast, it records some of the most important naval campaigns of the Civil War, including the spectacular Union success at New Orleans and the embarrassing defeats at Galveston and Sabine Pass. It also offers an unmatched portrait of daily life aboard ship. Accompanying the diary entries are previously unpublished drawings by Daniel Nestell, a doctor who served in the same flotilla and eventually on the same ship as Gusley, which depict many of the locales and events that Gusley describes.

Together, Gusley's diary and Nestell's drawings are like picture postcards from the Civil War—vivid, literary, often moving dispatches from one of "Uncle Sam's nephews in the Gulf."

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On September 28, 1863, the Galveston Tri-Weekly News caught its readers' attention with an item headlined "A Yankee Note-Book." It was the first installment of a diary confiscated from U.S. Marine Henry O. Gusley, who had been captured at the Battle of Sabine Pass. Gusley's diary proved so popular with readers that they clamored for more, causing the newspaper to run each excerpt twice until the whole diary was published. For many in Gusley's Confederate readership, his diary provided a rare glimpse into the opinions and feelings of an ordinary Yankee—an enemy whom, they quickly discovered, it would be easy to regard as a friend.

This book contains the complete text of Henry Gusley's Civil War diary, expertly annotated and introduced by Edward Cotham. One of the few journals that have survived from U.S. Marines who served along the Gulf Coast, it records some of the most important naval campaigns of the Civil War, including the spectacular Union success at New Orleans and the embarrassing defeats at Galveston and Sabine Pass. It also offers an unmatched portrait of daily life aboard ship. Accompanying the diary entries are previously unpublished drawings by Daniel Nestell, a doctor who served in the same flotilla and eventually on the same ship as Gusley, which depict many of the locales and events that Gusley describes.

Together, Gusley's diary and Nestell's drawings are like picture postcards from the Civil War—vivid, literary, often moving dispatches from one of "Uncle Sam's nephews in the Gulf."

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