The Civil War battle at Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863 was a victory for Lieutenant Richard W. Dowling and his troops, which numbered fewer than 50. Dowling and his Davis Guards kept Union gunboats from advancing up the pass. The U.S.S. Clifton and the U.S.S. Arizona ran aground early in the battle. The Clifton and the U.S.S. Sachem, both disabled by cannon fire, surrendered. The Arizona and the U.S.S. Granite City were able to return to federal headquarters at New Orleans.
After the battle, more than 300 Federal troops became prisoners of war. Others were killed or missing; many of those had been aboard the Sachem when its boiler exploded as a result of the direct hit on the ship.
John Marshall Carson, a Confederate commissary sergeant, was on board the C.S.S. Uncle Ben, an old freight boat used by the Confederate army. The Uncle Ben towed the two captured gunboats to shore, where Carson and the other crew members aided in removing the dead. The Confederates dug a long ditch near the Dorman Hotel on the northern edge of the townsite of Sabine Pass and near what would become the Port Arthur Canal. There, they buried a reported 28 Union troops. Many others were considered missing, their bodies never recovered.
Excavations in the 20th century confirmed
the burial location, much of which has eroded away. Today, the U.S. soldiers and sailors killed and missing at the pass are remembered along with the Confederate troops who engaged them in battle.