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                  The Disaster at Galveston.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
crossed with upward of 3,000 infantry, commanded
by Magruder in person, bringing artillery on the
cars.  At this time it was as dark as Erebus; a
blackness illuminated only by the flash of cannon, the
bursting of shell and the quick, intermittent sparkle 
of musketry.  The sounds, at one horrible and in-
describable, we coming this ghastly Yew-Year s 
morning, need not be dwelt upon.
  As soon as the firing began, two of the Rebel gun-
boats had borne down upon the Harriet Lane and
engaged her.  One was a huge, long, high-pressure
Mississippi steamer, of the usual two-story build,
with her tall chimneys cut down, piled four bales
high with cotton, her paddle-boxes hidden by them,
faced with planking and cross-pieces, and manned 
the upper and lower decks with sharpshooters.
The other, a stern-wheel boat, slow and small, par-
took of the character of a rain, being armed with
one pivot gun, and faced, even to the top of her soli
tary chimney, with railroad iron, so that the black
smoke exuded as from the conical roof.  Both of
these anomalous monsters assailed the Harriet Lane,
evidently intending to board her, she in her turn
throwing shell at them, some of which ricocheted for
half a mile upon the surface of the water, her object 
being to strike them below the guards and sink
them.  This, however, she did not effect, and steadily
they approached, the ram careening over to one 
side, as if ill balanced, and the sharpshooters on the
steamer keeping up an incessant fusillade from her
decks and the tops of the cotton bales, where they
clustered like bees.
  To the assistance of the Harriet Lane came the
Owasco and the little Sachem, a combatant worthy
of mention.  A light-draft steamer, she had put into
Galveston in an almost unseaworthy condition, and
had been ordered to lie by the wharf to protect Col.
Burrill s men; with her one large rifle gun and two
small ones she joined battle with all the courage of
a first-class man-of-war.
  So, presently, did the Clifton, temporarily relin-
quishing the hope of rescuing the Westfield, and
making to the scene of action, but her progress was
not unchallenged.  As she turned to pass over
the bar, suddenly the enemy opened fire upon
her with two heavy pieces from Fort Point,
an old battery, hitherto abandoned, but which
the Rebels had succeeded in remounting dur-
ing the night.     This compliment the Clifton
answered, first with her how-gun, then the
rest of her armament, moving rapidly, and throwing
shell continuously.  Soon she had cleared the Point,
and, losing one man by the mini  bullet of a sharp-
shooter, held on her course toward the Harriet Lane
and the thickest of the fight, which then became
general both on land and water.
  The doomed vessel, her steam not up, unable to
escape, was the center of a perfectly infernal fire
dance.  Seen from the Mary A. Boardman, the
spectacle assumed an aspect at once grand and ter-
rific.  Overhead and around night was slowly re-
tiring before day; the dim light prevalent being rent
by the frequent flashes of cannon, the soaring aloft of
shell, and the omnipresent short-lived blaze of mus
ketry, while the hellish discord beggars all descrip-
tion.  Prominent amid it, one heard the sonorous
boom of the 11-inch gun of the Owasco, the bellow-
ing of the batteries, and the volleys, shrieks, and
detonations pervading the town.  But our struggle

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
is nearing its end.  The Rebel steamer and ram have
closed at length, on either side of the Harriet Lane,
boarded her, and a bloody struggle is raging on her
deck.  Her invaders, maddened it is said with
whisky, fight like infuriate devils, precipitating
themselves heading on the guards, swarming fore
and aft, and pouring an incessant hail of small arms
from above and below upon the devoted crew.
The contend with an enemy apparently unwilling
either to give or take quarter.  Sternly they are
met, sternly resisted.  Gallant Capt. Wainwright is
killed, and of his 130 men, all but ten or twenty
share his fate, and the Harriet Lane is captured by
the enemy!
  The loss has occurred, but is not, as yet, evident, 
indeed perceptible.  Though her guns are silenced,
the Owasco, the Clifton, the brave little Sachem
still prolong the contest.  Presently the former,
seen in the gray light of the morning at about six
o clock stops firing, the others emulate her example.
Everywhere the fire ceases or slackens, and on
the opposite side of the island two Rebel gunboats
are descried, tranquilly looking on, and, in the re-
mote distance, yet two others, only to be dis-
tinguished by the long line of black smoke proceed-
ing from their chimneys.
                          THE WHITE FLAG.
  Turn we to the flag-ship Westfield, stranded at
three miles distance.  The Mary A. Boardman has
abandoned the task of endeavoring to deliver her,
rendered the more hopeless by the rapidly-falling
tide.  A hawser has been discouragingly snapped
asunder.  Nobody on board of either vessel knows
the result of the contest centering about the Harriet
Lane, but the silence succeeding it seems ominous.
Suddenly, at a little after 6, the Owasco, the
Clifton and the Sachem display their colors.
  Up to that moment, no flag, except one, fluttering
idly at the bow of the Westfield, and another, a
Rebel one, the  Stars and Bars,  on the huge Mis-
sissippi steamer have been visible.  The Mary A. 
Boardman, with her anchor up, follows the example.
It is a moment of doubt, of intense excitement.  But
the Harriet Lane does not respond.  In five more, a
boat puts off from her toward the Owasco, manned
by a handful of Rebels, conveying a paroled officer
(it is asserted the only surviving one) bearing his
white handkerchief tied to his sword as a flag of
truce.  He goes to request a suspension of hostilities,
and directly afterwards, white flags are flying on
the Owasco and the Clifton but not upon the little
  The best part of an hour passes in inaction.  Then 
Commodore Renshaw sends a message and his pilot
to the Mary A. Boardman, bidding her run up to the
town to ascertain what has occurred, instructing
Capt. Weir, if fired upon, to raise the white flag.
Accordingly, taking the precaution to load her ten-
pounder, she steams off from the Westfield, past Fort
point, but presently returns, finding her task antici-
pated.  Capt. Law of the Clifton puts off in a gig
from that vessel to Commodore Renshaw, with a
message received from Gen. Magruder on shore.  It
gives the Union fleet until ten o clock to leave Gal-
veston on peril of destruction.
  Almost directly after the return of Capt. Law to his
steamer, the second cutter of the Westfield reaches
the Mary A. Boardman with orders for her to come
as near as possible and lie-to, as the Commodore has
determined to transfer his men and then to blow up
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty-One: page one hundred and fifty-seven
Description:Newspaper clipping regarding the naval disaster faced by the Union fleet at Galveston, Texas.
Subject:Burrill, Colonel; Civil War; Clifton (Ship); Gunn, Thomas Butler; Harriet Lane (Ship); Law, Captain; Magruder, John B.; Mary A. Boardman (Ship); Military; Owasco (Ship); Renshaw, Commodore; Sachem (Ship); Wainwright, Captain; Weir, Captain; Westfield (Ship)
Coverage (City/State):Galveston, [Texas]
Scan Date:2010-11-18


Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty-One
Description:Includes Gunn's descriptions of his experiences as a war correspondent for ""The New York Tribune"" at New Orleans, Louisiana, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; boarding house living; a visit to the Rawlings family; a fight with Mr. Blankman at his boarding house; his journey on the North Star with the Banks expedition; the re-occupation of Baton Rouge by Union forces; a visit to a sugar plantation in Louisiana; and Fanny Fern's daughter Grace Thomson's death.
Subject:African Americans; Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Civil War; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Military; Publishers and publishing; Transportation; Travel; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, New York; New Orleans, Louisiana; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2010 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.