Union General Nathaniel Banks intended to invade Texas at Sabine Pass on the Texas-Louisiana border; from there Federal troops could control East Texas. On Tuesday, September 8 four Union gunships and transports carrying 5000 troops moved into Sabine Pass; opposing the Union fleet was a poorly constructed, Confederate earthwork manned by a handful of Confederate troops under Lieutenant Dick Dowling.
The Union gunboats opened fire, and the Confederates responded, striking and grounding two gunboats and forcing the surrender of 200 prisoners.
The Union fleet summarily withdrew and returned to New Orleans. Jefferson Davis declared Dowlings’ victory to be “more remarkable than…Thermopylae” and ordered a special gold medallion to be crafted to celebrate what in reality was a minor victory which legend over time enhanced into a great military achievement.