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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

THE WRECK OF
THE ACADIA

Introduced by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery

This blockade runner sleeps
with the fishes just off the coast at Surfside


Many years ago, I spent much of my leisure time surf fishing along the coast in Brazoria County, Texas.

I remember one spot in particular, at Surfside Beach, where the fishing was always pretty good. Most fishermen in the area referred to the place simply as the "boilers." Actually, the boilers were smoke stacks from an old wrecked ship. Best I remember, only one stack was showing out of the water - the hull beneath the surface serving as a natural reef and feeding ground for fish.

Watching the sunrise along the Texas coast is a beautiful sight, and when the fish are biting, well, it just doesn't get any better.

Looking back, I doubt if the crew of that ill-fated ship was very eager to see the sun rise on the morning of February 6, 1865. Because on her first voyage, during the Civil War, the ship ran aground near Galveston. Abandoned by her crew, the boat was discovered at sunrise by a Union warship and destroyed. My great fishing spot is the gravesite of the Confederate blockade-runner, Acadia.

According to The Handbook of Texas, the Acadia was a River Clyde-type steamship built at Sorel, Quebec, in May and July of 1864. She was built to be a blockade runner and was larger and faster than other ships of her class. Although most boats especially designed to run the Union blockade averaged 400 to 600 tons, the Acadia was a 738-ton vessel.

She was 211 feet long and had a 31-foot beam. The Acadia's hold was 12 feet deep. The boat was a side-wheeled steamer with a 900-horsepower engine - she was built to negotiate the shallow water close to shore. Blockade runners stayed near the coastline to avoid detection by the Union gunboats - the deep hulls of the U.S. vessels prevented them from straying too close in.

On that February morning in 1865, the Acadia was stuck on a sandbar in about 15 feet of water. Her heavy load had evidently caused her problems and she ran aground. Shore parties salvaged most of the cargo before she was destroyed by gunfire from the Union navy ship, USS Virginia. The Acadia was less than ten miles from the mouth of the Brazos River, her intended destination, when she sank.

A designated state archeological landmark
and A hand-dug canal near San Luis Pass


In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wendell E. Pierce and Frank Hole, an archeologist at Rice University, examined the wreck site. Artifacts found during that expedition are currently located at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The wreck of the Acadia is a designated state archeological landmark.

Blockade runners were extremely valuable to the Confederacy. They managed to deliver tons of supplies to the armies of the South. Their valiant efforts did much to loosen the stranglehold held on Southern shipping by the Union blockade. But, I think we should also remember those folks, on shore, who went to great extremes to help the boats.

Before I moved from Brazoria County in 1984, remains from a hand-dug canal were still visible near San Luis Pass. The canal was made to bring the blockade runners inland and out of harm's way from the Union warships. Living in that area for over 30 years, I can only imagine how hard it must have been to undertake such a task. What with the mosquitoes, alligators, snakes, and God knows what else. To construct a canal, by hand, under those circumstances is unbelievable. The canal is not far from the wreck of the Acadia.

It's been a number of years since I fished the surf near the "boilers." I wonder if the old ornate stack is still visible above the water - or has time and the elements finally took their toll. Regardless, I'll bet the fishing is still good.


Lone Star DiaryNovember, 2000 Column
Published with permission.

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