Matagorda Bay Incident

"Matagorda Incident"

December 31, 1862

History of Matagorda County, Texas

By John Columbus Marr

August 1928 and Tombstone in Matagorda Cemetery

Contributed by: Melba Averett

On December 31, 1863, a tragic incident of the Civil War caused twenty-two young soldiers and volunteers to drown in Matagorda Bay. Early that morning a courier brought to Captain E.S. Rugeley, commander of the post at Matagorda, news that the Federals stationed at Pass Cavallo, forty miles away, had planned to attack the town of Matagorda that night. Captian Rugeley called for volunteers from the company to go meet the Federals, and fifty-seven men were chosen. The Federals had landed on the peninsula and had begun to construcyt a sand fort. Three boats, the "John F. Carr" (a gunboat), the "Lizzie Lake" (a stern wheeler), and the "Lucy Gwin" were used to carry the men into Matagorda Bay where they anchored about 1200 yards from land in less than five feet of water and waited until nightfall. All the time the enemy could be seen working on the fort. About nine o'clock Captain Rugely launched two lifeboats and a skiff. Twenty-seven men were in one lifeboat and eight in the skiff. The second lifeboat carried Captain Rugeley, Captian Green Hall, Will Cox and five other men. A terrific norther came up and before they could return to the gunboat they became separated. The skiff made it back to the gunboat but the two lifeboats continued toward the peninsula where they met their fate. Some of the men froze to death, others drowned, 22 in all. One definite account of the eight of the nine men that got ashore together, the ninth named Forestier, and he urged the others to move on otherwise they would freeze to death. They resisted his solicitations and said they would sleep there till morning. They did, but in death, all being together. The bodies of the drowned men were brought to the Colorado House in Matagorda and prepared for burial. They were buried in one large grave in the Matagorda Cemetery.

A marker in the historic Matagorda Cemetery erected by Captian E.S. Rugeley is a testimony to this poignant incident of the Civil War in Matagorda County. Their names are listed followed by the inscription:

In Memory of

The Men of Rugeley's Co


Dec 31, 1863

Matagorda Bay

The names of the drowned men, their birthplace and their age:

Jesse Matthews Virginia 23

A.D. Hines, Bugler Mobile Alabama 28

D.A. McKinley Cabiness, North Carolina 19

George M. Bowie Alabama 18

W. G. Copeland Alabama 19

J.M. Conner Tennessee 22

J.N. Howell Alabama 18

U.M. Kenerly Illinois 33

A.J. May Arkansas 32

James B. Seaborn Virginia 18

B.H. Walton Missouri 21

Thomas McKinley Tennessee 18

Thomas Wadsworth Matagorda, Texas 18

T.C. Secrest Matagorda, Texas 25

J. G. Seacrest Texas 20

Henry Gibson Matagorda, Texas 19

A.C. Johnson Louisiana 18

James Rugeley Matagorda, Texas 17

Duggon 35

E. Lake 18

Julius Shaw 18

This page transcribed by Janet Barrett Hobizal in June 2007,

From a photo copy found at the Wharton County Historical Museum

Oak Leaves July 1982 Matagorda County Civil War Records

Back To

Wharton County Index Page

Search billions of records on