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Beaumont in the Wars

BEAUMONT'S war record is one to which its citizens may point with pride. Beginning with the American Revolution, although this section at that time was still a wilderness over which the Indians roamed, the citizenry of the town has touched every war in the history of the country.

Three Beaumont pioneers were the connecting links with the war for American independence. Captain Robert Kidd, who came to Beaumont in 1849, remembered seeing the army of Cornwallis on its march to defeat in Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781. Colic LeBleu, grandfather of Mrs. Charles J. Chaison and a native of France, came to America with General Lafayette in 1777 to assist the American colonists in the War of Independence. After the close of the war he moved to Louisiana, thence to Beaumont, where he died, and is buried in the old Jirou graveyard.

Jonas Chaison, great grandfather of C. J. Chaison and Mrs. Whitelaw Houk, who died in Beaumont at the age of 110 years, was also a Revolutionary soldier, having come to America with Lafayette, Mr. Chaison fought both in the battles of the American Revolution and in the War of 1812. He received land grants in Louisiana from the government for his services. Mr. Chaison moved to Beaumont with his son, McGuire Chaison, and lived here until his death. He is buried in the old Jirou cemetery.

The little settlement was also well represented in the war with Mexico for Texas independence. A company of the settlers of the town of Beaumont was organized and drilled at Santa Anna, about where the Magnolia refinery now stands. Practically all the men in the settlement at that time joined the company, and several local men were in the battle of San Jacinto. Among them were William McFaddin, and J. B. Langham, senior, and George W. Smyth, senior, was on his way to join the army when the battle of San Jacinto ended the war.

G. W. Hargraves, who was captain of a little Beaumont company of militia in August, 1835, had sixty-two men under him, twenty of whom took part in the battle of the Alamo. He also was at the head of twenty-one volunteers who started to join Houston to stop the advance of Santa Anna, but the battle of San Jacinto was fought before they reached that place, and they were ordered to rout some hostile Indians north of the town. Men Mr. Hargraves could remember years after who were in his company, were;

William Clark, ____ Clark, John Coale, ____ Coale, Bill Ashworth, Aaron Ashworth, Tapler Ashworth, Luke Ashworth, Charles Cronier, Elisha Stephenson, Lige Stephenson, Tom Berwick, Batiste Pevito, Dave Harmon, George Medgar, William Beckham, David Garner, Isaac Garner, Jim McCall, John Allen, ____ Allen, Joe Linsicomb, Jake Hays, Jim Jett, ____ Jett, Clark Beach, ____ Powers, Archie Richie, Wash Tevis, Jack Tevis, ____ Williams, Tom Yoakum, Jim Foreman and Ben Johnson, and Jim Courts.

How a few men saved the Texas coast from a formidable threatened invasion is a story that Beaumont folk never tire of hearing, not only because it was one of the most gallant achievements of the Civil War, but also because it is their own story.

Sabine Pass, the scene of this battle, is situated in the southern extremity of Jefferson county on the borders of the Sabine Lake, near the head of the old channel of Sabine Pass leading from the gulf into Sabine Lake. At a point a few miles south of the town the battle took place on September 8, 1863, between a federal fleet of 22 vessels and a small mud fort hastily erected on the bank, manned by 41 men under direct command of a young Irishman, Dick Dowling, and defended by half a dozen old cannon which had been salvaged from other battles, repaired and crudely mounted in the fort.

From Joe Chasteen, only known survivor of the operations at Sabine Pass, comes a graphic account of the battle. While Beaumont was military headquarters for this section, and many of the members of the small troop were recruited from the town, Mr. Chasteen was then a resident of Sabine Pass, at that time the head of deep water navigation, and the second town of importance in the county. Capture of that point would have made the federals masters of all the southeastern section of the state of Texas. Mr. Chasteen, now a resident of Beaumont, gives an authentic, detailed account of the battle and its results as follows:

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Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Chasteen
(click here for a larger image)

"I was not lucky enough to be one of the immortal forty-one within the fort when the battle was fought' I was with 150 other troops, aboard a small boat, the Uncle Ben, some distance up the lake when the firing began. We had just landed at Sabine, where Captain Odlum, commander of the Sabine forces, had gone before the Yankees put in their appearance.

"Hearing the firing, Captain Odlum ordered me to get as many men as possible and hurry back to the assistance of those in the fort. Dick Dowling, a second lieutenant, was in command of the remnant of our forces left there. We made all speed possible, but before we arrived the firing ceased and we thought it was all up with Dick and his little band.

"Approaching cautiously, we were amazed to see the fort still intact, two of the Yankee vessels floundering helplessly in the lake, another badly disfigured limping away down the channel, and in the distance the whole proud armada of Yankee ships scuttling for the open sea in full retreat.

"We made for the nearer and larger of the federal ships, the Clifton, and there found 'the kid', Dick Dowling, and half a dozen of his men aboard taking possession of the vessel and disarming the crew. We right heartily responded to his call for help in that work and within a short while we had landed 500 men from the Clifton and Sachem, the two disabled vessels, and started them on their way to Beaumont as prisoners of war.

"From the men who actually took part in the battle we learned that the enemy fleet had sailed into the pass early in the morning. The flagship, the Clifton, with the Yankee commander aboard, steamed haughtily on until it came broadside to and practically under the very shadow of the little mud fort behind whose walls Dowling and his forty men were awaiting the right moment to touch off the old cannon and open battle.

"The Sachem followed close behind and anchored a short distance from the Salem, while the Arizona, another of the armed convoy, stood farthest out from the fort. Down in the channel the Texas and Louisiana swung across the pass, blocking escape. The other vessels of the fleet waited in the offing for the Clifton and her mates to reduce the fort, after which it was planned to land the forces from the transports and proceed to the Beaumont section.

"With but a few rounds of powder for his five little guns, Dowling waited the right moment and reserved his fire until the enemy, confident the fort would surrender before so great a show of superior force without a fight, stood by right under the muzzles of his guns. His first fire completely disabled the Clifton, before a shot could be fired from her guns, and as quickly as the old muzzle-loaders could be re-loaded the Sachem was given a broadside. The marksmanship was perfect, and not a load of powder was wasted. Two rounds from the fort ended the battle and the Yankee commander promptly ran up the white flag on the Clifton, the Sachem's captain following suit a few minutes later. The guns were then turned on the Arizona, which, after a few shots had been fired, hastily lifted anchor and steamed away. She was badly damaged, and though we never learned definitely what became of her, it was believed that she sank in the gulf, for many carcasses of horses were later found along the shore below Sabine, and the Arizona carried the horses for the cavalry contingent of the Yankee forces. The enemy lost about 20 men killed, a number wounded, and about 500 men were made prisoners. Dowling's forces escaped without a man receiving a scratch."

The battle of Sabine Pass was the only actual fighting that took place near Beaumont during the Civil War, but the little town sent many men to the Confederate armies, and had her own company under the command of Captain George W. O'Brien, Though opposing secession, Captain O'Brien deemed it his duty when his state seceded to espouse the cause of the Confederacy, and in 1861 he became a member of Company F of the Fifth Texas Regiment. With this company he saw service in several of the battles of Tennessee and Virginia, but following an epidemic of measles which invaded the Confederate camps, he was discharged after being seriously ill with this malady, for disability and recuperation. He started on foot back to his home in Texas, but despite the hardships of such an undertaking, Captain O'Brien's health improved, and before reaching Texas he reported to one of the Confederate commanders and was then commissioned to return to Beaumont and recruit an additional company, of which he was elected and commissioned captain, and which became, first a part of Likens battalion, and afterward Spaight's Texas regiment. The company, under his brave and skillful leadership, participated in several important military events. They were first order ed to establish an earthen fort and fortifications at what is now Port Neches, with a view to controlling the Neches river against Federal gunboats, which had been dispatched to this section for the purpose of commandeering beef cattle and supplies for the Federal army. Later on their march toward the east, he and his company took part in the battle of Fordoche, Louisiana, and a battle occurring at Mansfield, and the company was in the service of the trans-Mississippi department to the end of the war, as the war was concluded before the company was transferred east of the Mississippi.

A complete roster of Captain O'Brien's company cannot now be located. There are two men still residents of Beaumont who were members of that company, Jacob Gallier and H. W. Potter. From Mr. Gallier it is learned that Andy McFaddin , a member of Captain O'Brien's company, was killed in a Louisiana battle in a sugar field near Fordoche and that Robert Burrell, another Beaumonter, had a leg shot off and that others were killed in sharp fighting in Louisiana. It is known that Hal McClure, Lem Patillo, Harry W. Potter, Benton Spell, Timothy Rowley and others were members of this company.

The O'Brien family has a small pencilled diary which was kept by Captain O'Brien during his service in the Confederacy, but its pages are now faded and illegible.

In the O'Brien homestead on Riverside Drive there hangs upon the walls two sabers, one the commanding saber of Captain George W. O'Brien of the Confederacy, and the other the sword of his son, Lieutenant Chenault O'Brien of Company D, Third Texas Regiment of U. S. Volunteers of the Spanish-American war.

In September, 1897, the Beaumont Light Guards were organized, and after the declaration of war between the United States and Spain in April, 1898, the Light Guards, known as Company B, opened a recruiting station in Beaumont and began drilling prior to May 1, 1898, when the men were mustered into Federal service at Camp Mabry, Austin.

The Beaumont company was in the regiment of Colonel R. P. Smythe and in the battalion of regular army officer Major Drew, who was later killed in action in the Philippines. The company was mobilized at Austin and sent to Fort Clark on the Mexican border. Then with three other Texas companies, the Beaumonters were detached from their regiment and sent to Key West, Florida, where they were called upon to do heavy guard duty and special work in Key West. At one time orders came for the company to embark for service in Cuba, and the company was placed on board ship, but the order was countermanded. From Key West they were sent aboard the transport San Marcos to New York, thence to Montauk Point, Long Island, to a yellow fever detention camp.

From Long Island they were ordered to Fort Clark, where, after the war was over, they were mustered out. The officers and members of old Company D had the advantage of being attached to the regular army for the greater part of their service, and grew accustomed to strict regular army discipline. They endured many storms, deprivations and hardships, intermingled with pleasurable experiences which make the memory of their service a pleasant recollection.

At the time Company B was mustered into the Spanish-American war service it consisted of the following:

Officers -- Captain Walter L. Smith, First Lt. Chenault O'Brien, Second Lt. Edward J. Blain, later Second Lt. Carroll Seale.

Sergeants -- Warren Windham, Herbert McLeod, Fred Lamb, Robert S. Waite, Webster Blocker, George Russell, Leo Spottswood, Newt Rogers, Eldon Chester, Dan Edwards, R. J. Haywood, Tom C. King.

Corporals -- J. S. Metcalf, U. S. Vincent, Antonio Frank, Robert Holton, Charles Ball, John Traylor, Marvin Scurlock, Homer Chambers, C. M. Ghent, W. C. Cobb, Ethol Shields, Perry Haytt, W. H. Gray.

Musicians -- George Hyle, Charles W. McCune and Mike Welker.

Artificer -- William C. Krous.

Wagoner -- Frank Williams.

Privates -- Mois Andrus, Howard Anthony, R. F. Ashley, D. E. Blackburn, Claud D. Blanchette, Thomas Bridgewater, Asa Bordages, J. J. Broussard, W. J. Bellows, David M. Caffall, C. L. Chessire, E. M. Chester, C. W. Coleman, Homer Ch ambers, Mike Crane, Will Crawford, John Cobb, Ross Drury, Jack Dies, Dan Edwards, Otto Fromme, James E. Faggard, James Goodhue, Lafayette Grant, Will H. Gray, Earl Gray, S. L. Garrett, James Grasham, Asa Hearne, Bob T. Haywood, R. L. Hand, J. W. Haynes, C harles Hazelwood, W. L. Hendrix, Perry Hyatt, Thomas Iglehart, J. D. Johnson, William L. Jennings, Tom C. King, W. J. Lamont, John R. Lane, Robert S. Leonard, Simon Light, Ed. Lockhart, Ben Matthews, J. Mouser, J. M. Maxwell, George Meyer, Ernest Maddox, H. S. McCreary, Desmond D. McKay, N. S. Murray, Sam Nathan, Jack Noguess, T. T. O'Donahoe, Carroll J. Patillo, Reese Pratt, S. Phoenix, R. E. Perry, J. D. Pressley, R. R. Patterson, R. W. Ragland, Burrell Rudd, Henry Ramsey, Carl Rhodes, Walter B. Rose, A . H. Reed, George W. Russell, E. Newt Rogers, L. D. Spottswood, John Schneider, J. M. Scott, James Simmons, Patrick Stafford, Jack Schoolcraft, Marvin Scurlock, John Sinclair, W. J. Taylor, Thomas Vaughn, Gilbert Walker, Mike Welker, Henry Weber, George B . Williams, James Williams, Joseph Wilkinson, Jack Woods, J. M. Walsh.

Many other Beaumont boys left Beaumont with the company, but some were turned down upon physical examination before the Federal officers and some were transferred to other branches of the service, among these O. J. Hille, Martin Dies and R. E. Ligon. R. E. Ligon afterward became a bugler to Theodore Roosevelt in the Rough Riders.

Two of the Spanish-American war veterans also saw service in the World War, James Goodhue and Asa Bordages.

Following the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers the young manhood of the city quickly responded to the call and rallied to defend the flag of their country in the World War.

Thoughts of the military record lead first to those who sleep today in Flanders fields. In this list are, Sam Lewis, who fell on October 21, 1918; Private Schillie Boultinghouse, killed by a German bullet; Farrell D. Minor, Jr., one of the Rainbow division, Beaumont's young lieutenant, who also made the supreme sacrifice; Herbert Reed, wounded in action and who died on a transport en route home; James Goodhue, who was killed early in the war; Mike Horkan, who was buried at sea after succumbing to that dread disease, influenza; Carroll Smart, only 19, hit by a machine gun bullet in the battle of the Marne, who is buried on a little knoll overlooking the river Marne, and Ernest O. Clark, killed in action.

And the wounded, the men who suffered the terrible agony of the grim hospitals, those who bore the sting of wounds and those whose bodies were maimed and who since the war have spent endless months in army hospitals, or have succumbed to the ravages of the diseases contracted during their hardships and exposures of the war -- these too belong to Beaumont's roll of honor.

Beaumont had two local companies in the World War, Company M, Third Texas Infantry of the Texas National Guard, was serving on the Mexican border when war was declared. W. E. Began was captain. At the outbreak of the World War and on the first call for volunteers, Captain Autry M. Greer organized Company G of the Fifth Infantry, Texas National Guard. Both companies were mobilized at Camp Bowie, Fort Worth, the first part of September, 1917, and consolidated into B company, 143rd Infantry, 36th division with Captain Began in command. Early in July, 1918, Company B left for Europe, going via Canada and landing at Liverpool. Captain Greer was transferred to the 142nd Infantry and promoted to major.

The story of Company B's participation in the war is one part of a glorious chapter in the complete history of the activities of the American army to be chronicled for future generations.

Shielded from the enemy by the blackness of night, the former members of the governor's guard and the Beaumont Light Guard, now united in a single company, softly treaded the road from Con de-sur-Marne to the front line at Somme-Py on the nights of October 9 and 10. Advancing as a support to the 71st Brigade of the 36th Division, the 141st and 142nd Infantry, they went into action in the front line trenches on October 11, relieving this brigade.

There in the front line trenches, with the Germans just across the river Aisne, the Beaumont men not only held their ground, but considerably strengthened their positions. They were relieved on the Champagne front by a French division on October 29, after experiencing nearly a month of constant shell and machine gun fire. Scores of the Beaumont men were wounded, while they were fighting on the Aisne and three of the boys where killed. Their comrades recovered their bodies and they were buried with military honors in the presence of their companions since early childhood.

After being relieved on the Champagne front by poilus, Company B. marched to the rear for a brief rest and to be re-equipped after nearly thirty days of roughing it in close quarters with Fritz. The signing of the armistice, effective on the notable November 11, 1918, brought a halt to activities.

Scores of other Beaumonters answered the call for selective service men in the various branches of the army. Many entered the navy and with the thousands of others in blue, helped put the fighters across and bring them back, while others entered the air service, the marines and the various departments.

No chronicle of the part Beaumont played in the world war would be complete that failed to include her share in helping build the emergency fleet which arrested universal attention at a time when events of far-reaching importance received but scant notice. This was but one phase of war activities of those who stayed at home.

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