Fort Griffin

By: Robert Wooster

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1995

The Jefferson County Fort Griffin was a Confederate fort located in the southeastern part of the county on what is now Farm Road 3322, fifteen miles south of Port Arthur. Hoping to block Union threats to the upper Texas Gulf Coast, Gen. John B. Magruder dispatched Maj. Julius Kellersberg to build a fort at Sabine Pass in March 1863. With thirty engineers and 500 slaves Kellersberg constructed a triangular fort on an eminence overlooking the Sabine River. The installation housed six gun emplacements and bombproofs built into a sawtooth front, and timber and railroad iron reinforced the earthwork position. The fort was named for the commander of the Twenty-first Texas Battalion, Col. William H. Griffin.

In September 1863 four Union gunboats, leading a strong amphibious invasion force, attacked Fort Griffin. At the battle of Sabine Pass Lt. Richard Dowling and a forty-six-man garrison, with two of their six guns put out of action, disabled two of the attacking vessels and scattered the remainder of the Union ships. In anticipation of another possible federal assault, Fort Griffin was strengthened with several captured Parrott rifles and temporarily reinforced. By January 1, 1864, however, the garrison, one of the last coastal positions remaining in Southern hands, had been reduced to 268 men. Confederate troops spiked the five remaining cannons and abandoned Fort Griffin by May 24, 1865.

Erosion and the channelization of Sabine Pass have removed evidence of Fort Griffin's exact location. However, a statue and a plaque at Sabine Pass Battleground State Historical Park mark what is thought to have been the site of the fort.

W. T. Block, A History of Jefferson County, Texas, from Wilderness to Reconstruction (M.A. thesis, Lamar University, 1974; Nederland, Texas: Nederland Publishing, 1976). Sabine Pass Battleground State Historical Park (brochure, Austin: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 1986).
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

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

Robert Wooster, “Fort Griffin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995

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