On the Warpath
5 Civil War Battle-Paddles
Sept. 8, 1863
SABINE PASS, TEXAS
THE BATTLE: With the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863, the Union gained control of the Mississippi River and effectively cut the South in two. The Sabine River, which forms the border between Texas and Louisiana, became the vital conduit for food, money and supplies to the western Confederate states. Late in the summer of 1863, a fleet of 17 Union gunboats and troop transports set out to seize Sabine Pass—the lone access point between the river and the Gulf of Mexico—and starve the western Rebels. Standing in their way was Fort Griffin, a modest fort manned by 47 gunners who had trained their cannons on marked spots in the narrow waterway. They quickly destroyed one Union gunboat and disabled another, blocking the channel and causing the Yankee fleet to turn tail downriver.
THE PADDLE: Near its mouth, where the battle took place, the river wanders through a massive reservoir (Sabine Lake), past a powerhouse, beside the town of Sabine Pass and along the Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge. Day-trip options abound, including secluded beaches and historic structures. Farther upstream, the Sabine ambles through largely vacant wilderness. From the Texas Highway 63 bridge (Louisiana 8) to Highway 12 is a 100-mile wilderness journey featuring enormous white-sand beaches, catfish, hardwood-lined banks and clear water. Another 40 miles takes you to Sabine Lake.