During the Civil War, the Sabine Pass Channel was a strategic gateway to the interior of eastern Texas and western Louisiana, control of which was vital. Fearing a possible Union invasion, the citizens of Sabine City (later Sabine Pass) formed a "committee of safety" in April 1861. The primary responsibility of the committee was to build a fort along the channel and to arm it with guns capable of defending their city against Union naval assault.
Local residents, including many slaves, constructed a dirt and timber earthwork overlooking the channel. The fort was garrisoned by the Sabine Pass Guard, a local militia, and later by the 6th Texas Infantry Battalion and members of Spaight's 11th Battalion, Texas Volunteers. On Sept. 24, 1862, the Union steamer USS Kensington, along with schooners USS Rachel Seaman and USS Henry Janes attacked. Fort Sabine suffered extensive damage. At the time of the attack, Confederate forces manning Fort Sabine numbered approximately 60. Coupled with the effects of yellow fever among troops and citizens, C.S.A. Major Josephus S. Irvine ordered the Fort's guns spiked and the site evacuated. Union forces mastered the earthworks at Fort Sabine, occupying the immediate area for months before abandoning the site in early 1863.
In March 1863, Confederate forces inspected and determined
that Fort Sabine was no longer an effective defensive position. Lessons learned from Fort Sabine impacted the construction of a new site, Fort Griffin, positioned along the channel about one mile north. Two reactivated 32-pound guns from Fort Sabine were installed at Fort Griffin prior to the historic second battle of Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863.