As part of the Union blockade of the Texas coast, Commander W. B. Renshaw led his small fleet into Galveston harbor to demand the surrender of this most important Texas port on October 4, 1862. Largely unguarded, as it was considered indefensible, the city surrendered after an exchange of gunfire.
Major General J. B. Magruder was placed in charge of the Confederate forces in Texas after the loss of Galveston. He quickly organized a plan for the island's recapture. Improvising a navy, he refitted two steamers as gunboats by lining their hulls with cotton and manning them with cavalry. Foot soldiers were sent into Galveston in the darkness of early morning on January 1, 1863. Though the ground forces failed to seize the wharf, they engaged some of the Union ships as the makeshift Confederate fleet surprised the Union navy from behind.
The rebel ship "Neptune" was sunk in shallow water. The Federal "Harriet Lane" was boarded by the steamer "Bayou City." Renshaw's flagship, the "Westfield," was destroyed in an explosion that killed the commander and several crewmen. Remaining Union ships fled Galveston Bay despite demands for surrender. Galveston remained under Confederate control for the duration of the war.