Very Late War Heavy Guns for Texas Coast

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DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
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Charlotte, NC
While going through the Special Orders for the District of Texas (mostly San Antonio east to Sabine Pass), I noticed some heavy gun movements that seem unusual.

First was the mention of moving the guns just received through the blockade to Galveston to be mounted immediately. I've lost the reference and don't want to look for it again, but the guns had arrived south of Galveston in about February, 1865.

The second was January 7, 1865, ordering the Chief of Ordnance to Alexandria on business. On his way to Alexandria, he was to do all in his power to expedite the transportation to that point of the heavy guns &c now enroute under the immediate charge of Capt. Conklin.

@georgew or anyone else know anything about either of these shipments or the guns?
 

georgew

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southern california
While going through the Special Orders for the District of Texas (mostly San Antonio east to Sabine Pass), I noticed some heavy gun movements that seem unusual.

First was the mention of moving the guns just received through the blockade to Galveston to be mounted immediately. I've lost the reference and don't want to look for it again, but the guns had arrived south of Galveston in about February, 1865.

The second was January 7, 1865, ordering the Chief of Ordnance to Alexandria on business. On his way to Alexandria, he was to do all in his power to expedite the transportation to that point of the heavy guns &c now enroute under the immediate charge of Capt. Conklin.

@georgew or anyone else know anything about either of these shipments or the guns?
Hi Dave. I'm intrigued by the report of guns arriving south of Galveston. So for your first question, does your source say that these guns were unloaded south of Galveston? You start wondering if they came in through Matagorda Bay. But the rail connections had been torn up to hamper Union movements during their occupation of Matagorda Island. Do we know just how heavy the guns were? Based upon the date of the references I wonder if this was a diversion of guns originally intended for the Atlantic coast, but sent on to the Gulf due to Union moves against Savannah, Charleston and Wilmington. If so they might have been transshipped to Havana As for the reference to Alexandria, you wonder why they hadn't been shipped to Sabine. As for arriving south of Galveston, if they were heavy guns (British?) then you wonder if they came in through Matagorda Bay and sent up-river to the rail line extension in the interior. Do we have numbers and caliber of guns involved? I'm a bit surprised that the command in Texas didn't try to poach them for port batteries. Does anyone know of a unit, possibly artillery, with a Captain Conklin?
 

DaveBrt

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Hi Dave. I'm intrigued by the report of guns arriving south of Galveston. So for your first question, does your source say that these guns were unloaded south of Galveston? You start wondering if they came in through Matagorda Bay. But the rail connections had been torn up to hamper Union movements during their occupation of Matagorda Island. Do we know just how heavy the guns were? Based upon the date of the references I wonder if this was a diversion of guns originally intended for the Atlantic coast, but sent on to the Gulf due to Union moves against Savannah, Charleston and Wilmington. If so they might have been transshipped to Havana As for the reference to Alexandria, you wonder why they hadn't been shipped to Sabine. As for arriving south of Galveston, if they were heavy guns (British?) then you wonder if they came in through Matagorda Bay and sent up-river to the rail line extension in the interior. Do we have numbers and caliber of guns involved? I'm a bit surprised that the command in Texas didn't try to poach them for port batteries. Does anyone know of a unit, possibly artillery, with a Captain Conklin?
First, I gave all the information contained in the Special Orders, except the particular location south of Galveston. The SO did not say where they had come in or on what ship. The SO only informs us where they were when the order was sent.

Second, I agree that the blockade guns are probably diverts from the East Coast cargoes.

Third, I found our second set of guns, and their story does not exactly match the Special Order I referenced.
Houston, Feby 10th 1865
Major, I have the honor to report that in obedience to Special Order No 102 from Artillery Hd Qrs, I left Houston on the 1st January 1865 with the siege train under my charge & arrived at Burrs Ferry {between Wiergare, Tx and Leesville, La. 70 miles west of Alexandria} on the Sabine River on the 12th of same month. Having landed the guns & seen the ammunition property stored I returned to Beaumont where I received orders to return to Burrs Ferry, load the ordnance & ordnance stores & take them to Sabine Town at which place I arrived on the 25th Jany & delivered the guns & stores in my charge to Lt Col Thos B. F??ch.
Owing to ill health I found that I would not be able to go through to Grand Eaon with the wagon train (according to verbal orders from Dist Hd Qrs) where upon I returned to Houston.
I am under many obligations to Capt F V Carry of the Marine Dept. Comd Str Roe Buck whose consummate skill in handling his boat alone enabled me to carry out my orders.
George E. Conklin (Fold 3 shows him with artillery in Texas for whole war, rank of 1st Lt in 1863)

What do you make of sending heavy guns to Alexandria in 1865? I think it was EKS strengthening his outer wall of fortifications for the certain attack in 1865. So, knowing it would be easier to get guns to Galveston through the blockade, he sends some guns up the slow route to fortify Alexandria right now.
 
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georgew

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First, I gave all the information contained in the Special Orders, except the particular location south of Galveston. The SO did not say where they had come in or on what ship. The SO only informs us where they were when the order was sent.

Second, I agree that the blockade guns are probably diverts from the East Coast cargoes.

Third, I found our second set of guns, and their story does not exactly match the Special Order I referenced.
Houston, Feby 10th 1865
Major, I have the honor to report that in obedience to Special Order No 102 from Artillery Hd Qrs, I left Houston on the 1st January 1865 with the siege train under my charge & arrived at Burrs Ferry {between Wiergare, Tx and Leesville, La. 70 miles west of Alexandria} on the Sabine River on the 12th of same month. Having landed the guns & seen the ammunition property stored I returned to Beaumont where I received orders to return to Burrs Ferry, load the ordnance & ordnance stores & take them to Sabine Town at which place I arrived on the 25th Jany & delivered the guns & stores in my charge to Lt Col Thos B. F??ch.
Owing to ill health I found that I would not be able to go through to Grand Eaon with the wagon train (according to verbal orders from Dist Hd Qrs) where upon I returned to Houston.
I am under many obligations to Capt F V Carry of the Marine Dept. Comd Str Roe Buck whose consummate skill in handling his boat alone enabled me to carry out my orders.
George E. Conklin (Fold 3 shows him with artillery in Texas for whole war, rank of 1st Lt in 1863)

What do you make of sending heavy guns to Alexandria in 1865? I think it was EKS strengthening his outer wall of fortifications for the certain attack in 1865. So, knowing it would be easier to get guns to Galveston through the blockade, he sends some guns up the slow route to fortify Alexandria right now.
We seem to be talking about January, 1865. Presumably mass desertions in the Trans-Mississippi hadn't become common yet. Putting heavy guns at Alexandria may have seemed viable as long field formations were available to prevent Union forces from flanking them. It had been the strategy to evacuate artillery upriver if supporting units were not available. Beginning in April things really start to fall apart. I would be surprised if these guns remained at Alexandria. A number of the heavy guns at Galveston were shipped to Houston toward the end.
 

DaveBrt

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In addition to the siege train mentioned above, I have found the order creating the/an earlier siege train.

National Archives, RG 109, Chapter 2, Volume 105, Special Orders of District of Texas, New Mexico & Arizona, July - September 1864

SO 218 Houston August 5, 1864
7. In pursuance of orders from Dept Head Qrs, all siege guns mounted on siege carriages will be collected at Houston without delay with their caissons and appropriate ammunition and all equipments. In addition to the above guns, the following guns ordered from Dept Head Qrs to be mounted on siege carriages will be sent from Houston, viz:
The 30 pdr Parrott from mud Island
" 20 " " " "
" 30 " Dahlgren " Fort Sulakowski
" 30 " Parrott " Str Jno F. Carr {called a gunboat in other places}
" 30 " " "
Sawyers gun now at Houston

The ammunition & implements and all equipments of these last mentioned six guns will be sent with these guns, but not their carriages. On their arrival at Houston, they will be turned over to Capt. H. T. Scott of the Ordnance Dept. Their ammunition & their carriages, implements & equipments will be examined and put in the best condition.
The two 32 pdr Field Howitzers from Sabine Pass will be sent to Houston, carriages and everything complete.

SO 223 August 10, 1864
18. In pursuance of orders from the Hd Qrs Trans Miss Dept, a Siege Train composed of the following guns will be immediately placed in readiness to take the field:
4 24 pdr Siege guns
6 8 " " Howitzers
2 30 " Parrotts [move without carriages
1 20 " " "
1 30 " Dahlgren Rifle "
1 24 " Sawyer Gun "
2 32 " Field Howitzers with carriages & cassions

Such of the Rifled guns as can be mounted on 18 pdr or other siege carriages now in the Dist. will be so mounted at once. Col. Kellersburg will be instructed to commence making the carriages for the other guns immediately and any work that he may now have on hand which will in any way interfere with the work on these carriages will be immediately set aside.

Maj Wilkie Chief of Ordnance will make a thorough inspection of the pieces as they arrive at this place and have them put in order without delay. He will see that they are provided with the implements & proper supply of ammunition required for a siege train.

The train will not be delayed for the Rifled guns if they are not ready when it is prepared to leave. They will be mounted as soon as possible and sent after it.

Maj. Burk will procure with as little delay as possible Three hundred yoke of oxen and twenty strong wagons for the movement of these guns & their ammunition.

Maj. H. Pendleton Chf Trnas Q. M. will make requisitions for these articles.

SO 227 Houston August 14, 1864
6. The Ordnance Train (supposed to be about 15 wagons and teams will be turned over to Maj. Burke to facilitate the transmission of the Siege train to Alexandria. As soon as the guns (excluding the Rifle pieces) can be repaired and furnished with proper ammunition & supplies, it will take up the line of march for Alexandria. Maj. Magruder (Ord Officer on Gen. Magruder's staff) will make the necessary arrangements and should the train not be ready to go on Wednesday will report to General Hebert what progress has been made. Maj. Magruder will make the proper requisitions on the staff departments.


This creation of the train and the movement to Alexandria was at exactly the same time that Maj. Gen. Magruder was ordered to Shreveport to take command of the District of Arkansas (which he kept until March, 1865). There are no orderrs for movement of infantry or cavalry at the same time. There is no additional information on the movement of this train; it is unclear whether the train the Capt Conklin was moving in January, 1865 was the same train (unlikely, in my opinion).
 
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