Union Navy forces raided St. Mary’s of Aransas in July of 1862 but were put to rout by a picket fence and one Confederate soldier.
During the Civil War, the Union Navy was able to blockade all the ports of the Confederacy, including Texas’, from Galveston to Brownsville. This blockade was established in 1861 and remained in place through the end of the Civil War.
While intended to interdict war materials, including salt, the blockade also cut off food stuffs and all other civilian supplies. Since most of the men were away fighting with the Confederate Army, the women, children and old men at home suffered greatly due to lack of necessities such as flour and all manufactured goods.
The blockade was augmented by Union Navy occupation of coastal cities such as Corpus Christi, Aransas Pass and Indianola.
In addition to the blockade and occupations, there were periodic bombardments and raids on coastal towns. In a raid, armed Union Marines would usually encounter only a defenseless population.
The landing parties could capture docked blockade-runner ships, burn warehouses and destroy wharves, as well as foraging for food for themselves.
Lamar was raided several times and the salt works and wharves destroyed. In July 1862, the Union Navy sailed into Copano Bay after raiding Lamar. First, they anchored off Copano for several hours before moving down the b ay to come ashore at St. Mary’s.
Mrs. Clara Dugat, a long time resident of St. Mary’s, was about nine years old at the time and had vivid recollections of the event. Without warning, there were two Union warships offshore, but no shelling of St. Mary’s as was done at Lamar.
A company of Union Marines landed without resistance at the long wharf. There were a few wounded Confederate soldiers convalescing in St. Mary’s and they went into hiding in the brush.
Too late, a rider from Aransas Pass arrived with the alarm “The Yankees are coming.” The rider was taken prisoner and carried away on the Union ships.
Every house in St. Mary’s was searched thoroughly, but “in an orderly manner and they did not harm the inhabitants.”
The Union captain who searched the Dugat home “was a courteous, pleasant gentlemen.…They took some chickens and some provisions but did not steal much else…. Two large warehouses at the wharf were demolished by the Federals. This was the only destruction which they wrought.”
A Union party headed for Major Wood’s home at Black Point, a mile or so from St. Mary’s. The fence around the Wood home was made of mesquite palisades, logs set upright in the ground, enclosing some cattle.
From a distance the movement of the cattle behind the gaps in the palisades made it look to the nervous Union Marines like a mass of troops forming up to advance. They beat a hasty retreat back to St. Mary’s and reported to the Captain that a large body of Confederates was advancing from Black Point.
The captain sent a man to the top of the school house to observe this advance. A Confederate soldier in the thicket nearby thought the Union Marine on the roof was just too good a target, although out of range.
The Confederate took a rifle shot at the Marine on the roof. This lookout heard the shot and ran back to the captain to report that the attack had begun.
Whether out of fright, caution or on the completion of their business, the Union forces took to their boats and did not raid St. Mary’s again.
Herndon Williams is affiliated with the Bayside Historical Society and the Refugio County Historical Commission. He is the author of “Texas Gulf Coast Stories”, “Eight Centuries on the Texas Frontier” and “Luju and the Curious Wolf Cub”.