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The Second Battle of Sabine Pass took place on September 8, 1863, and was the result of a Union expedition into Confederate-controlled Texasmarker during the American Civil War. It has often been credited as the most one-sided Confederate victory during the conflict.

Background

During the summer of 1863, the president of Mexicomarker, Benito Juárez, was overthrown and replaced by the emperor Maximilian, whose allegiance was with Francemarker. France had been openly sympathetic to the Confederate States of America earlier in the war, but had never matched its sympathy with diplomatic action. Now that a French government existed just south of the Rio Grandemarker, the Confederates hoped to establish a fruitful route of entry for much-needed matériel.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was well aware of Confederate intentions and sent an expedition into Texas to establish a military presence and to discourage Maximilian from opening trade with the Confederacy. The Federal force was under the command of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, a political general with little discernible command ability. Banks's original intent was to lead a combined Army-Navy expedition from the Mississippi River into the Red Rivermarker. However, low water in the Red River prevented the Union gunboats from entering it. As a consequence, the expedition entered the Sabine Rivermarker from the Gulf of Mexicomarker. Banks ordered his subordinate, Major General William B. Franklin, to defeat a small Confederate detachment at Fort Griffin near the mouth of the river and capture Sabine Citymarker. The detachment consisted of 46 infantrymen of the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery and six guns manned by the Jeff Davis Guards — all under the command of Lieutenant Richard "Dick" Dowling. Considering the prominent size of the Union expeditionary force, disposing of this fort was not expected to prove any great challenge.

Battle

On the day of the battle, U.S. Navy Captain Frederick Crocker entered the Sabine River with four gunboats, accompanied by 18 troop transports containing 5,000 Federal infantrymen. Dowling's Texans had previously placed stakes in the river to act as markers for cannon fire. As the Union convoy entered among the stakes, the Confederates opened fire with deadly accuracy and wrought havoc on the vessels. The Union Army was forced to withdraw down the river after having lost two gunboats and 200 sailors captured. The Confederates are believed not to have suffered any casualties.

The Battle of Sabine Pass was of little tactical or strategic significance. A Confederate supply line from Mexico to Texas was never established, and in any case it could not have effectively supplied the states east of the Mississippi once the Union controlled the whole of that river after its victory at Vicksburgmarker in July. The Confederacy was therefore forced to continue its reliance on blockade running to import valuable materiel and resources.

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