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The following report was written by

Colonel Charles Lovenskiold to General Hamilton Bee

July 17, 1862

All letterings in bold are done so by Judy C. Ware as it pertains to family history

 

JULY 7-17, 1862     Operations in Aransas Bay, Tex.

CORPUS CHRISTI, TEX., July 17, 1862.

GENERAL: Your letter of the 11th instant, by express, came duly to hand, but only this day. From its tenor I see that my communication in relation to the appearance of the enemy off Aransas Bay and his entrance in the bay had not then been received. I will therefore report to you in full since the 7th instant, the date of his first appearance.

On the 7th a bark, with a 100-ton schooner and one large frigate (second-class cutter), came off the bay. The schooner and cutter, with six launches, entered the bay and proceeded to take a position near the Shell Bank, and so as to rake and control the ship channel leading from Aransas [Bay] to Corpus Christi Bay. Upon receiving this news I sent the dispatch-boat Breaker, under Captain Rose, with Captain Ware and 10 men, to make a reconnaissance, and, returning, they reported the enemy's force to be as before represented - all well armed and probably some 225 men. Next Captain Harrison, in command of gunboat General Bee, of Major Shea's command (here present on recruiting service for a crew of sailors), went down and reconnoitered the enemy very closely, say within 200 yards. His report was to the effect that the schooner was heavily armed with cannon, about 125 tons burden, evidently a fine sailer, sharp and deep, and drawing at least 6 feet of water. The cutter was thirty-oared and armed with one 24-pounder howitzer, the launches four-oared whale-boats. The force was deemed too formidable, on account of its superiority in artillery, to warrant any attack or action on the offensive. Three prizes had already been taken by the enemy, say sloop Bella Italia, of 10 or 12 tons, with corn and bacon; schooner Reindeer, of about 15 tons, with 52 bales of cotton, and a lugger, with corn, name unknown. The schooner Monte Christo had been visited, and the cotton at Lamar (some 47 bales) taken off to Saint Joseph and stored near Johnson's house.

I received a communication from Captain Neal upon the subject, which I enclose, marked Numbers 1*. From its tenor I concluded that he was undecided as to what he should do, and desired advice from me.

I wrote him at once that there could be no danger for his command, as from my information the numerical strength of the enemy must be insignificant; that I deemed it of great importance that he should retreat or fall back no farther, but, on the contrary, maintain his position, and that, if practicable, without too great a risk of life or public property, he should endeavor to tease the enemy, so as to draw his fire and ascertain range and caliber of guns of the armed schooner.

I enclose subsequent communications from Captain Neal, marked Nos. 2 and 3, which will throw further light on proceedings up to this date.

The rapid movements of the enemy, the numerous exaggerated reports, and the absence of the commanding officer, together with want of experience in the officers present and unwillingness to assume responsibility for fear of consequences, all tended to create a perfect panic at the very beginning; and to put this down and take all necessary steps for the proper defense of the town and the protection or rescuing of a large amount of cotton and tobacco, with the cargo just landed from the schooner Penelope, it became necessary that someone should command and take the lead. As the officers all seemed to look to me for guidance, advice, and orders, and showed themselves willing and anxious, with their men, to obey me, under the circumstances, I did not shrink from the great responsibility, and at once made all necessary suggestions.

All the necessary ammunition was at once prepared, and finding the troops without caps for their arms, almost barefoot, very small quantity of serviceable powder on hand, and in want of clothing, I took from the cargo of the schooner 20,000 percussion caps, 400 pounds of fine powder, the necessary shoes, 1 dozen flannel overshirts, and 2 pieces ditto; also - as the company of Captain Ware needed them - I took for them 15 double-barrel shot-guns and 3 five-shooters. Thereupon I obtained the requisite transportation, and forwarded the remainder of said cargo to Victoria, and sent all the cotton and tobacco on hand to its places of destination. There have been sent off from the 7th until date 421 bales of cotton, 500 bales of tobacco, also about 7,600 pounds of powder. If the enemy should be able to pay us a visit here he will not find anything worth plundering or carrying away. The records of the county and district clerk I have caused to be made ready for packing in chests made for the purpose, ready to be moved at a moment's warning.

From the passengers referred to by Captain Neal as sent from on board the enemy's bark, and whom I critically examined, assisted by Captain Ware, Lieutenant-Commanding George, and Mr. Robert Mott, late of New Orleans, and known as an able lawyer, we learned that the enemy's forces did not number 125 men, all told, and that the men on the gunboat, cutter, and launches were supplied from the bark, leaving this latter with only about 20 men or less. Captain Kittredge is in command inside on board gunboat, which carries two 32-pounder Dahlgrens and one large caliber gun amidships. She was a pleasure yacht in New Orleans, built by Robinson, owned by Story, and lastly taken and fitted up by and for General Lovell, and brought out as one of the enemy's trophies of war, about 125 tons burden, and about 6 feet draught of water. The cutter carries 30 oars, one 24-pounder howitzer, and is manned from the schooner.  The greatest number of men ever seen on these vessels, including the prizes, does not exceed 87. The cotton taken by the enemy is piled, as before stated, on Saint Joseph's Island, opposite Captain Johnson's house. The conclusion as to the  prisoners was unanimous that Andres Roeg and wife were citizens of Matamoros, caught in New Orleans by the enemy on his taking possession, and that, as a matter of kindness, Captain Kittredge had carried them as passengers. But in relation to Mr. Cavanos, a doubt as to his true status and feelings was created, and hence I released the former two and detained the latter, to be sent to Colonel Luckett, whom he claims to be well and intimately acquainted with, for final disposition.

Owing to the information received as above - that from Captain Neal, the results of several reconnaissances, and reports brought in from various quarters as to the design of the enemy and his expecting re-enforcements within a few weeks - I called the officers together for consultation and to decide as to what ought to be done to oppose and prevent the further encroachments of the enemy. It was unanimously decided -

1st  To send the gunboat General Bee, Captain Thomas Harrison, with a picked crew, and the dispatch-boat Breaker, Captain J. Harding, with a detachment from Captain Ireland's company, to guard the ship channel.

2nd  To obstruct the ship channel by sinking in the narrowest point such number of "come-at-able" vessels as were requisite, the vessels to be loaded with stone.

3rd  To take possession of the schooner Elma and fit her for a gunboat at once, arm and man her, and place her at Corpus Christi Pass, to prevent the enemy's cutters or launches to force [from forcing] an entrance to our from said point.

4th  To send 40 picked men, as well armed and mounted as possible, under a proper guide, and commanded by Lieutenant W. Mann, around by the reef, avoiding the coast until above Lamar, and thence crossing to Saint Joseph's Island, to burn and destroy the cotton taken by the enemy and piled at Johnson's house in the night.

5th  To fit out an expedition by water, to make a feint upon the enemy at the Shell Bank, to divert his attention from Saint Joseph's Island, while Lieutenant Mann's forces attempt to destroy the cotton.

6th  To appoint Captain John Dix to superintend and direct the arming, equipping, and fitting out of the vessels to be employed.

Under the second head the schooners Relief and Confederate, after appraisement, were taken, loaded with concrete, and sunk in the night unobserved by the enemy, and the sloop Iowa is now in like manner being loaded for the same purpose. These will effectually prevent the enemy's gunboat from coming into Corpus Christi Bay through the ship channel. All the other heads have been acted on, and are either executed or in progress of execution. I enclose you a slip from Captain Ware,* and will report final results as soon as possible. Captain Ware, with his party, attacked the enemy near the Shell Bank and drove him back, firing with rifles at 200 yards, and causing the enemy to seek shelter in the hold of his boat. The prize Bella Italia now fitted up by him as a small gunboat. There is no doubt that the Corpus [Christi] Pass is now blockaded by the prize-schooner Reindeer, and that the entrance thence must be guarded. I will see that the proper steps are taken for preventing a surprise. The cotton at the Flour Bluffs and the salt trade along the Laguna de la Madre are the objects sought by the enemy.

I trust that my action in the foregoing may meet with your approbation. Should it be otherwise I should feel much chagrined. I send you English paper and New Orleans Delta of the 1st  in which see an infamous special order from Butler in relation to Mrs. Philips. I have not had time to answer your letter in relation to McKinney. He lies basely if the messenger reports him correctly. I thank you for having taken notice of it, and will furnish proper refutation as soon as the present excitement is over.

I must not forget to say that all here is harmony and perfect union among all officers, men, and myself, and all vie with one another in zealously obeying orders,

In haste, very truly, yours,

CHAS. LIVENSKIOLD.

General H. P. BEE,

Commanding Mil. Dist. of the Lower Rio Grande, San Antonio, Tex.

P. S. - I trust you will at once send Major Shea to assume command of the operations or return Captain Ireland.

Taken from the War of the Rebellion records


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