First Battle of Galveston
- For the 1837 battle see Battle of Galveston Harbor (1837)Battle of Galveston Harbor (1837)The Battle of Galveston Harbor, or the Battle of Galveston Bay was a naval engagement between the Republic of Texas and Mexico in Galveston Harbor on August 26, 1837. After the end of the Texas Revolution in 1836, Mexico and the newly-declared Republic of Texas sporadically fought at sea...
The Battle of Galveston Harbor or the First Battle of Galveston was primarily a naval engagement fought on October 4, 1862 near the city of Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a coastal city located on Galveston Island in the U.S. state of Texas. , the city had a total population of 47,743 within an area of...
between forces from the Union Navy
The Union Navy is the label applied to the United States Navy during the American Civil War, to contrast it from its direct opponent, the Confederate States Navy...
and the Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...
BattleThe United States Navy began a blockade of Galveston Harbor in July 1861, but the town remained in Confederate hands for the next fourteen months. At 6:00 am on October 4, 1862, Commander
Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...
William B. Renshaw
William B. Renshaw
William Bainbridge Renshaw was an officer in the United States Navy during the American Civil War.-Biography:...
, commanding the blockading ships in the Galveston Bay area, sent USRC Harriet Lane into the harbor flying a flag of truce. The intention was to inform the military authorities in Galveston that if the town did not surrender, the U.S. Navy ships would attack; a one hour reply would be demanded.
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...
Joseph J. Cook, Confederate military commander in the area, would not come out to the Union ship or send an officer to receive the communication, so Harriet Lane weighed anchor and returned to the fleet. Four Union steamers
A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...
, with a mortar boat in tow, then entered the harbor and moved to the same area where Harriet Lane had anchored. Observing this activity, Confederates at Fort Point fired one or more shots and the U.S. Navy ships answered. Eventually, the Union ships disabled the one Confederate gun at Fort Point and fired at other targets.
Two Rebel guns from Fort Bankhead were also fired at the flotilla but did no damage and were ignored by the Navy. The boat that Colonel Cook had dispatched now approached the Union vessels and two Confederate officers boarded USS Westfield. Renshaw demanded an unconditional surrender of Galveston or he would begin bombarding the town again. Cook refused Renshaw's terms, and conveyed to Renshaw that upon him rested the responsibility of destroying the town and killing women, children, and immigrants.
Renshaw threatened to resume the shelling and made preparations for towing the mortar boat into position. One of the Confederate officers then asked if he could be granted time to talk with Colonel Cook again. This officer, a major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...
, negotiated with Renshaw for a four day truce to evacuate the women, children, and aliens from the city. Cook approved the truce but added a stipulation that if Renshaw would not move troops closer to Galveston, Cook would not permit his men to come below the city.
AftermathThe agreement was finalized but never written down, which later caused problems. The Confederates did evacuate, taking all of their weapons, ammunition, supplies, and whatever they could carry with them. Renshaw did not think that the agreement allowed for all this but, in the end, did nothing, due to the lack of a written document.
The fall of Galveston meant that one more important Confederate port was closed to commerce. But the port of Galveston was not shut down for long, as Confederate forces reoccupied the area. The Second Battle of Galveston in January 1863 resulted in a Confederate victory, and the port remained in Southern hands for much of the rest of the war.