The Corpus Christi Caller-Times from Corpus Christi, Texas on February 5, 1961 · Page 22
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The Corpus Christi Caller-Times from Corpus Christi, Texas · Page 22

Corpus Christi, Texas
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 5, 1961
Page 22
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SECTION B SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 1961 FEATURES: 3, 4 ;e Made iserable for ea's Islanders By ERN'EST MORGAN THE SCHOONER J. J. McNeil stood in for Pass Cavallo and Indianola early on the morning of Jan. 2o, 1862. Loaded with coffee and tobacco from Veracruz, Mexico, the McNeil confidently expected to run the light blockade of the Texas coast maintained by the TJ. S. Navy. Instead the McNeil ran onto the U. S. bark Arthur, a three-masted sailing ship, just arrived at her blockading station. It was the misfortune of the McNeil, as it was to be the misfortune of the South Texas coast generally, that the Arthur was commanded by Acting Volunteer Lt. J. W. Kittredge, a skilled, daring and energetic officer. ® For the next eight. months, Kittredge was to keep Aransas and Corpus Christ! Bays in an uproar--capturing, sinking and burning boats, bombarding Corpus Christi, driving the populace off St. Joseph's and Mustang Islands and keeping the local Confederate command in a constant state of anxiety. · The Confederates were to describe Kittredge in various reports as impudent, chivalrous, bombastic, gallant, daring, piratical and threatening. He was also a braggart. His reports to his superiors seldom agreed with the reports turned in by Confederate officers about the same actions. A Confederate officer who met him twice under flags of truce said he was about 35 years old, "a small, light man, with a sallow complexion." A federal naval officer said that for several years before the war Kittredge was in command of a steamer that traded between Galveston and the Rio Grande and-was "perfectly familiar with this part of the coasf." He was 1he ideal man for the job the United Slates wanted him to do, and he made quick work of the McNeil. Schooner Ran for the Beach THE SCHOONER, when she sighted the Arthur, made as if to run onto the beach to prevent cap- tur Kittredge lowered two launches to cut her off from land and fired a cannon shot from the Arthur. The shot ricocheted and whipped through the McNeil's foresail. The schooner immediately stopped and hoisted what Kittredge, a good Unionist, termed, "the so- called Confederate flag." Aboard, besides Ihe crew, the coffee and the tobacco, were Judge Martin Talbert, a part owner of the McNeil and a resident of the Matagorda area, a Mr. Hopper, another part owner, ancf Hoppers wife, an invalid. The crew of the Arthur was delighted by the cap- lure. Navy men then received a good share of the money brought in by sale of ships and cargoes captured on blockade. Kittredge had Judge Talbert and the Hoppers transferred to the Arthur as prisoners. He also took part of the McNeil's crew to prevent their recapturing the schooner and sent the blockade runner under a prize crew to Ship Island off Biloxi, Miss,, where such prizes accumulated before going north to be sold. His Plans Were Ambitious IN HIS REPORT of the McNeil capture to Rear Adm. David Farragut, KiUredge showed he had plans far more ambitious than a mere blockade of the coast. He asked Farragut to return the McNeil to him, after its cargo was discharged, so he could arm the schooner and use it to break up the commerce on the bays inside St. Joseph and Mustang Islands. The Arthur drew 14 feet of water, too much to go through the shallow passes into Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays. The bar at Aransas Pass, between St. Joseph and Mustang Islands, admitted ships drawing no more than seven feet. Corpus Christi Pass between Mustang and Padre Islands was even shallower. The customaiy depth there was three to five feet and sometimes less. The Confederate commanders were well aware of the problem Kittredge would pose if he got loose in Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays in a boat big enough to carry cannon. Small sloops and schooners went up and down the bays inside Texas' barrier islands carrying gait north from the lakes below Corpus Christi, along with lead, tobacco and coffee from Mexico. On the return trip south the same boats carried cotton and sugar destined for Mexico. The commander of Fort .Esperanza at Pass Cavallo reported: "A constant run of small craft. is visible (in the bays) from outside and it could be easily cut off." Harassed the Bay Shipping WITHOUT WAITING for Farragut's reply. Kittredge set out to get his own small craft to harass the Confederate shipping on the bays. Early in February he drove Capt. Benjamin F. Neal's artillery battery off Mustang Island. Neal had been awaiting the mounting of his cannon to guard Aransas Pass. Neal and his men left the island when the Arthur with its rifled camion hove up at the pass and when federal sailors in launches landed on Mustang Island. Neal and his lieutenant, William Mallby, were both from Corpus Christi. Neal was a lawyer and a former mayor of Corpus Christi. Maltby was a newspaper publisher. Most of their men were Nueces County citizens. The civilians at Aransas, a village on the bay side of St. Joseph just north of the pass, bitterly criticized Neal and Maltby for withdrawing and leaving them defenseless. Kittredge promptly moved in on Aransas Pass. He took men in launches to get beef and other food at the village and also at Mercer's settlement FT! Thi* map ii cdapfed from on official on« published by the New York Herald in 1862. No. 1 on the map is the icuthern bonk of Ar- antaj Post from where Lt. Kittredge in the Art h u r drove o f f Copt. Neal ond his Confederate ortilferymen. No. 2 is the village of Aransoj which the Arthur shelled ond where Kittredgt ond Moj. Shco parleyed. No. 3 is Aronsos Boy where lounehei from the Arthur captured e sloop freighted with medicine for Corpus Chrit- ti. No. 4 is Shellbonk Island where Capt. Neal let up o comp offer leaving Mustang Island. Th* star ot the inner mouth of Aransoj Pass marks the position of the lighthouse. k - G U L F T on the south bank of the pass. Apparently he landed at other points along the islands, including Cedar Bayou, the pass between- St. Joseph and Matagorda Islands. The Confederates moved to meet him. Maj. Daniel Shea, who commanded an artillery battalion at Fort Esperanza on the north end of Matagorda, led 32 mounted men down the beach to Cedar Bayou, hoping to capture landing parties of federal sailors, Citizens Were in Alarm AT CEDAR BAYOU he learned that the Arthur was at Aransas Pass and that the citizens there were in alarm over Capt. Neal's departure and the landings. Shea, who was as cool and energetic as KiUredge, took his men on down St. Joseph to Aransas, entering the village Feb. U on the western side of the island away from the Arthur in the Gulf. He hid his men and horses in the town. Aransas citizens told Shea a party of Yankees was at the lighthouse, the one that stiil stands. The pass then was directly opposite the lighthouse. The. pass has since shifted south about a mile and a hall. It is now fixed in position by jetties. The Aransas Chilians also told Shea that Neal had returned to Mustang Island vrith 200 men and would attack the sailors as they rowed back to their ship in the G u l f . Shea decided to coordinate his attack with Neal's, but when the foui- U.S. launches manned by 28 men pulled back to the Arthur that day they were fired on by only six men, all civilians, from the sand dunes on Mustang Island. So Shea kept his men quiet. The next day the Arthur sailed closer to Mustang Island and began to shell the lew houses on the south bank of the pass. Shea commandeered a boat at Aransas and headed for Mustang himself to find out what was going on. Before he reached the island he saw the house of Thomas B. dubb on fire and saw federal sailors setting Robert Mercer's house ablaze. Shea relumed to Aransas and sent a note to Neai. demanding 50 volunteers from Neal's company for action against the Yankees. At 2 a.m. the next morning 22 men from NeaFs crrnpany, under a Lt, Conklin. arrived at Aransas. Shea divided his force into two parties, stationing one on the wharf and one in the houses of the village. Shea and his men tried to stay out of sight. The next afternoon three boais filled with men from the Arthur rowed through the pass and headed for Aransas. The Confederates waited hopefully to gobble them up when they landed, but before the boats could come within range, the Arthur began to shell the town. Shea's men obviously had been seen. Shells from the accurate rifled cannon burst over the houses. Shea's horses became hard to control, and sinca he could not reply to the fire he withdrew his men and horses to the sand hiJJa. Kittredge and Sliea Mel Under Truce ONE OF THE FEDERAL BOATS showed a flag of truce and Shea and Kittredge met on the sand. It was the first of many such meetings Kittredge was to have with Confederate officers. In many ways it was a romantic war. Both sides led fn slop and talk things over courteously before the shooting began. Chivalry was highly regarded "in an officer, and Kittredge saw to it that no Southerner was more chivalrous than he. Typically, Kiitredge began fhe parley by telling Shea he had come to blockade the harbor, "not to make war on women and children." Shea asked, somewhat impolitely, why then had he burned Mercer's and Clubb's houses. Kittredge said he set them afire in retaliation for the shots fired at his men from the sand hills on Mustang. In what Shea called a "bombastic style," Kittredge told him he controlled the coast with the guns of the Arthur, that he would want food for his men at times and would pay for'it. Kittredge said he planned to stop the shipping traffic in the bays and was anxious to capture light-draft boats to do it with. ' Shea, who seemed to look on tiie heavy gun s of the Arthur as an unfair advantage, offered to fight him man for man right there on the shore. Kittredge declined, and after a short conversation returned to his ship, The next day Capt. Neal arrived at Aransas with 60 more men, but Shea advised him to leave the island. Shea himself returned with his own men to Fort Esperanza. The presence of Kittredge and the Arthur frightened the residents of St. Joseph and Mustang off the islands. They evacuated to the mainland, leaving their homes and livestock behind. Capt. Neal set up a camp on Shclibank Island in Aransas Bay commanding Corpus Christi Bayou. Any boat goin? to Corpus Christi had to use Corpus Christi Bayou. The present causeway from the City of Aransas Pass on" the mainland to Harbor Island crosses over the route of the old bayou. A Gallant Officer Was Lt. KiUredge ON' FEB. 20. KITTREDGE showed himself a gallant enemy. Four daughters and a son of Judge Talbert, a prisoner aboard the Arthur almost a month, came down Matagorda and St. Joseph by stage and asked to visit their father on the bark. Kittredge received them politely and ibcv passed the nisiit on the Arthur. Capt. Peareson, a Confederate officer who had escorted the party from Saluria, the town at Pass Cava'.io, also stayed the night on the ship. Cant. Peareson spent Jus time studying the armament of the warship, a practice no one considered unethical. Peareson reported the Arthur carried six Dahlgren 64-pounders and a rifled 32-pounder. Impressed by the guns THIS IS THE FIRST of a number of articles on South Texas in the Civil War. * Others will include raids by federal sailors in Aransas Bay and on Lamar, the defense arid-*I bombardment of Corpus Christi, the capture ' of U.S. Navy Lt. KiUredge by Confederate I forces, and the capture by Union troops of \ forts on- 'Mustang and Matagorda Islands. 1 The articles are written with the advice of I South Texas historian, Dan Kilgore, using I local sources and materials'at Del Mar Col- ] lege.Library and La Retama Public Library, The principal sources are "War of the Re- ] bellion: A Compilation of the Official Rec- I ; ords of the Union and Confederate | ; Armies" and "Official Records of the Union I ; · and Confederate Navies in the War of the-I I Rebellion." - - \ £^^:as!?s^ and Kiltredge's courtesy, he called the Yankee lieutenant 'bold, resourceful and accomplished." Two days later, Kittredge was back at war. He led two launches from the Arthur into Aransas Bay and captured a sioop loaded with medicine bound for Corpus Christi. Three of Capt. Neal's men out oystcring gave the alarm Neal manned his own small boats and sent them after Kittredge, ThH two parties exchanged rifle shots at a considerable - distance: The boats' bobbing about in the bay didn't help their aim, and nobody was hit on either side. · . " :. Neal pursued Kittredge until the Yankees reached the protection of the Arthur's guns. : . · In reporting on the action, Neal asked lor reinforcements and powder for his. two six-pound guns. He said: "The enemy is becoming quite -bold .and daring, and will destroy the commerce of these bays unless .checked in their buccaneering. I shall do all I can to annoy them and to keep them back until we are better prepared/They have the advantage of us, possessing better boats and being more accustomed to them than w e are." - N'oal got the power and the reinforcements.. two cavalry companies-under Maj. \V. O. Yager, who took command of the camp, called Camp Aransas. Farragut Said 'No' to the McNeil IN LATE FEBRUARY, Kittredge received a reply from Adm. Farragut to hi s request to keep the McNeil. Farrasut said; "No." . · . . . . - . Kittredge Was ordered to .blockade Aransas and Corpus .Christi Passes.and to meet a supply steamer 'off Aransas Pass o n t h e ISth o f each month. . · · · · . . - . · ' - - · Farragut told Kittredge to send Judge Talbert norm as a prisoner of war, but to land Mrs. Hopper, the" invalid at a Confederate port. Since Mr. Hopper was needed to care jfor his wife he could .be landed, too, under parole which made him a sort of prisoner of war at large. Kittredge accordingly sailed up to Saluria and, after waif- ing for a severe norther to die down, delivered the Hopper* to Maj. Shea at For^ Esperanza on March 4. _ Shea and Kittredge had their second meeting there under- a flag of truce. Shea reported that Kiitredge-was-quite angry at Lt. Maltby; one of Noal's officers, for a statement that Kit- tredgo somehow had heard about. Shea quoted Kittredge as saying: " H I can get my hands, on Lt. Maltby, I will treat him harshly; he has stated that he chased my two boats' crews three miles; this is not so: here is his muster roll." . Shea recognized four names on the muster roll as those of men in Neal's battery. Kittredge apparently had captured the roil when he drove Neal and his men off Mustang Island early in Ihe month. The chase that disturbed Kittredge so may have occurred during the Mustang action or may have been the pursuit after the capture of the medicine boat. ' Kittreclga told Shea that Maltby's statement reflected on the action of his crew. . . -"He used hard language against that \insoldierlike coa- duct." Shea said. . . . Shea referred again to Kitlredge's bragging and "pert questions." They agreed that a. white flag would be respected a a flag of truce and that its absence would mean a fight. Mrs. Hopper Told AH . WHEN KITTREDGE had gone, Shea Questioned Mrs. Hopper about the Arthur and whatever she had overheard while aboard the bark. Mr. Hopper, having given his parole, could not honorably give any information, but "the gallant captain," as Shea called Kittredge had not demanded a parole from the lady. She could tell anything she knew and she told a lot. Most of it w : as no more than rumors of troop movements, but Shea did glean that the Arthur had 74 men aboard and drew 1-J feet of water. In the month and a half since he arrived on the coast of Texas. Kittredge had accomplished a great deal for the Northern cause. He had captured ships, halted blockade running, forced Confederate troops oft Mustang Island, gained possession o£ Aransas Pass and caused civilians to evacuate the coastal islands. · ' He was to do much more. Shea, in his report on his first meeting with Kittredge, said: "The captain is a bold and daring man and is putting himself in the way of being captured" by a small party ot men. If he isr.'t stopped immediately before he can captura small boats and lower bays he will command the entire western coast." Maj. Shea was a good prophet. MAP OF THE SOUTH TEXAS COAST P U B L I S H E D WITH THE O F F I C I A L RECORDS OF THE U N I O N AND CONFEDERATE A R M I E S IN THE 19TH CENTURY

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