Bayou City

By: Robert Wooster

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 20, 2016

The Bayou City was a small steamer used on mail, passenger, and freight service between Galveston and Houston before the Civil War. Although several of her passengers were killed during a boiler explosion in 1859, the Bayou City continued to ply the inland waters, and on September 26, 1861, the ship was leased for state service from the Houston Navigation Company by W. W. Hunter, the Confederate commander of the Texas Marine Department. Supplied with men and material from the former revenue schooner Henry Dodge and strengthened with bales of cotton and cottonseed against enemy attack, the Bayou City was operated by the state until purchased by the Confederate War Department in October 1862. After service as a police boat the Bayou City, along with the Neptune, led the Confederate assault on the small Union fleet in the battle of Galveston. Under the command of Capt. Henry S. Lubbock, the Bayou City carried one thirty-two-pound gun and some sixty volunteer riflemen commanded by Capt. Leon Smith against the more heavily armed Harriet Lane. The Bayou City's single cannon burst after only a few rounds, and the Neptune was sunk in short order. Nonetheless, the Bayou City rammed the Union vessel, which her erstwhile marines boarded and captured. Little is known about the Bayou City's fate after the recapture of Galveston. In June 1863 she was reported ready to steam at Harrisburg but had no armament. By March 1864 she had been moved to Galveston, where she mounted two heavy guns and a single brass cannon.

Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861–1865 (Washington: Naval History Division, Department of the Navy, 1961–66; rpt. 1971). Charles C. Cumberland, "The Confederate Loss and Recapture of Galveston, 1862–1863," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 51 (October 1947). Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Vol. 19).

Time Periods:
  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robert Wooster, “Bayou City,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

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May 20, 2016

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