The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996 Page: 202
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
was appointed to fill the vacancy of Galveston County tax assessor-collec-
tor. He was reelected several times and was serving in that capacity
when, in April 1861, civil war engulfed the nation. For the next several
years, Henry Martyn remained in Galveston where he closely observed
the momentous events unfolding around him.'
Within a week of the initiation of hostilities occasioned by the Confed-
erate attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, harbor, Pres-
ident Abraham Lincoln declared a naval blockade of the Southern coast.
Declaration of a blockade is one thing; however, its enforcement is
something quite different. At that time, "[t]he U.S. Navy had a total
coastline of 3,549 miles to blockade and less than 250 serviceable ships
[with which to blockade it] ."2 As a result, the effects of this military poli-
cy were not felt in Texas immediately, it being the Confederacy's most
far-flung component. In the meantime, with full knowledge of what was
surely to come but lacking the brick fortresses and coastal artillery usual-
ly found guarding key U.S. ports, the responsible parties on the Texas
scene did the best they could to prepare with what little they had avail-
As early as February 1861, the Texas Secession Convention authorized
an expedition against Federal installations on the lower Rio Grande, one
goal being to seize the ordnance known to be there. Under Col. John S.
Ford, thirty-two smoothbore artillery pieces were captured, mainly at
Fort Brown. "Twelve of the newly acquired guns were immediately for-
warded to Galveston, where Sidney Sherman, a San Jacinto veteran, had
been placed in charge of the city's fortifications."s This was added to
from time-to-time as new captures became available and as the Confed-
erate government became better organized and able to provide some
Meanwhile, in northern Virginia, the war erupted into full-scale vio-
lence along the banks of Bull Run Creek on July 21, 1861. In that same
fateful month, the first Federal blockade vessel, the South Carolina, un-
der Cmdr. James Alden, U.S.N., appeared off the Galveston bar. Alden
was energetic and gradually extended the blockade along the Texas
coast by arming and crewing some of his early captures. The menacing
Federal naval presence prompted many Galvestonians to evacuate the
Henry Martyn Trueheart, "Memoirs of Henry Martyn Trueheart, jotted down from time to
time as they occurred to him for the amusement and information of his children. Begun Oct.
1898. The last written April, 1912," Trueheart Collection, History Center, Rosenberg Library,
2 KennethJ. Magee, "Most Disgraceful Affair," America's Civil War, V (Jan, 1993), 52
S Alwyn Barr, "Texas Coastal Defense, 1861-1865," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XLV (July,
1961), 4 (cited hereafter as SHQ).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996, periodical, 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/m1/250/: accessed June 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.