The Disaster at Galveston.
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THE AFFAIR AT GALVESTON
FULL ACCOUNT OF THE DISASTER
NARRATIVE OF MAJOR W. L. BURT.
Position of Affairs Prior to the Attack.
HOW THE REBELS APPROAHED.
The Attack on the Harriet Lane.
A NOBLE AND GALLANT DEFENSE.
A Bloody Struggle on her Decks.
THE BLOWING UP OF THE WESTFIELD.
Arrival of the U. S. Transport Mississippi.
The United States steam transport Mississippi,
Capt. Baxter, arrived at this port on Saturday even-
ing from New-Orleans Jan. 7, and Key West Jan.
13, at 9 a. m., making the passage from the latter
port to Sandy Hook in four days and six hours. She
left at Key West the propeller Prometheus, coaling;
the United States steamer Sagamore, and propeller
Osgood, coaling. The following is a list of her pas-
Capt. Fairfax and clerk. U. S. N.; Lieut. A. J. Munsey,
U. S. A.; Charles F. Dunbar, M. Dyer, jr., Mrs. A. M. Dickey
and three children, Miss R. M. Odell, Miss Ella Fairish, Mr.
R. Gutterman, Mr. Martin Van Buren, Capt. J. B. Hall, and
three in the steerage.
We are indebted to Purser Sampeon of the Missis-
sippi for delivery of letters from our correspondent.
(The account of the disaster at Galveston, subjoined, was
forwarded by our correspondent the day before the Illinois
sailed, so that the narrative received by the Illinois, and pub-
lished by us on Saturday, was merely supplementary to this.
The arrival of the Illinois in advance of the Mississippi com-
pelled us to publish the later letters first.�Ed. Trib.)
Yesterday, at sunset, a startling rumor reached
this city. It was said that the Rebels at Galveston,
Texas, had made an unexpected attack in overpow-
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erring numbers upon the handful of United States
soldiers who, supported by a few war-vessels, have
held the place in nominal subjection; that the for-
mer had been killed or taken prisoners, the Harriet
Lane captured, and�worst of all�the Westfield,
the flag-ship of the flotilla, blown to pieces, invol-
ving the destruction of Commodore Renshaw, its
commander, and a number of officers and men, just
as he was abandoning his vessel. Inquiry traced
the rumor to a telegraphic dispatch received by
Gen. Banks from down the river. For an hour or
two its purport was questioned, contested, disbe-
lieved�presently admitted, but indefinitely. This
morning brings confirmation, in all its appalling par-
I derive the following narrative (which I shall
endeavor to render as clear and coherent as is possi-
ble) from Major W. L. Burt of Gen. Hamilton�s
staff, who has this morning returned from the scene
of the recent tragedy. He was dispatched thither
as the General�s representative in his future ca-
pacity of Military Governor of Texas, his duties
comprising the assisting of Union men and the
raising of recruits for the wresting of the State
from the bloody misrule of treason now rampant
there. With him went also Capt. S. W. Cozzens of
Texas, to be assigned to a command. Both gentle-
men left the port in the Mary A. Boardman on the
night of Monday, Dec. 29, just six days ago. Be-
fore I relate Major Burt�s experience, it is advisable
to mention a few preliminary details necessary to
the understanding of his story.
At Galveston the position of affairs was as fol-
lows: The town, attacked and taken by Commodore
Renshaw on Oct. 10, 1862, the Rebels flying upon
the appearance of the gunboats, had remained in a
comparatively deserted condition under their control.
It was held merely as a landing place for future
operations, and occupied principally by Union
refugees, fugitives from the terrorism of
the interior. We had barely the city
and island upon which it stands, a mere
sand-bank, thirty miles long, not over two
in width, and connecting with the interior by a
bridge of two miles in extent, built upon cedar
piles. Over this bridge the Galveston and Houston
Railroad crosses West Bay and enters the former
city. Unfortunately no attempt had been made to
destroy this structure, in consideration of its past
and possibly future usefulness, a mack of consider-
ation which the Rebels have improved to bloody ad-
vantage. They had exclusive possession of it, com-
ing and going at pleasure, controlling it by means of
three batteries at Virginia Point�the north, or
mainland end�and by another, on the island end, at
a spot called Eagle Grove. A sort of tacit compro-
mise seems to have existed, by which the enemy
agreed neither to use the bridge for belligerent pur-
poses, nor to molest the Harriet Lane, on duty
guarding it, while she refrained from shell practice
off the batteries until an active necessity arose for
doing so, contending herself with mutely menacing
them and commanding both the bridge and the four
miles space intervening between it and the city. In
what sanguinary shape the contingency appeared
will presently be narrated.
There were in Galveston, up to within a week of
the attack, absolutely no troops, the place being