What Civil War invasions occurred in Copano Bay?
By Maureen Winelman
Friends of the History Center for Aransas County
El Copano, now a ghost town with crumbling shellcrete ruins, is located five miles north of present day Bayside. El Copano was established as a port city in the 1700s. Because it was an inlet, Confederate boats could slip in and out to the bay without being observed by Union forces. This ended in 1862 when Union gunboats dropped anchor at El Copano. Fearing raids and bombardment, citizens fled and hid in the brush outside of town. Little damage was done and the townspeople returned a few days later when they were sure the Union forces were gone.
St. Mary’s was a small town located near the present day Bayside. It was home to many owners of vessels that braved Union blockading squadrons. According to an eyewitness account in February 1862, two Union ships appeared in the harbor. Before citizens became aware of the vessels, the town was inundated with the ships’ soldiers and marines. Wounded Confederate soldiers fled into the brush to avoid capture. Every house and business was searched and raided in an orderly manner. A Confederate horseman arrived during the raid screaming, “The Yankees are coming!” He was arrested and taken away. Before returning to their ships, the Union soldiers destroyed two large warehouses near the wharf.
In 1862, a Union fleet entered Copano Bay near Lamar. fired on the fleet and the ships returned fire, shooting several cannon shots at the town. About 75 Union forces came on shore. A warehouse was raided and all of the lumber that could be carried was removed on a scow brought on shore by the Unionists. Another warehouse, wharf, and salt works were raided and destroyed. The Union soldiers were then turned loose to raid almost all the homes and businesses in Lamar. One building left unscathed was the Stella Maris cChapel. When the Union forces returned to the harbor, they came upon and captured a Confederate blockade runner loaded with cotton. As the Union forces exited the harbor, they fired a last few cannon shells at the town.
The exhibit, “The Civil War in Coastal Texas,” is now being shown at the History Center for Aransas County, and runs through January. You can see an actual cannon ball that was found at Lamar in the exhibit. The Center, located at 801 E. Cedar St. is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.