We're rapidly approaching the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Sabine Pass. The occasion is being celebrated as "Dick Dowling Days." Information is available here.
Though a relatively small engagement, Sabine Pass represented perhaps the finest single day's work of any Irish unit, North or South, in the American Civil War. At Sabine Pass, on the Texas coast near the Louisiana border, Galway native Lt. Richard W. "Dick" Dowling, a Houston saloon keeper, commanded the Jeff Davis Guards, a company of the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery Regiment made up wholly of other Irish immigrants to antebellum Texas. With an amazing display of artillery expertise, Dowling's tiny band of Texas Irishmen -- fewer than 50 in all -- drove off a virtual Union armada carrying about 5,000 Federal infantymen, bent on invading southeastern Texas and marching overland to Houston. The President of the Confederacy hailed Dowling's triumph as the "Thermopylae of the Confederacy." The Davis Guards received the only medals for valor ever awarded by the Confederate Congress. (These medals were made of large Mexican silver pesos hung from Irish green ribbons, and the few that have survived are virtually priceless.)
Dowling's company saved Houston the fate of Atlanta, and a large granite nomument in a public park in central Houston honors the memory of Dowling and his Davis Guards.