Pulpwood Queens book clubs meet in Jefferson for 19th year

By Caleb Brabham cbrabham@marshallnewsmessenger.com

Book lovers stampeded into Jefferson this weekend as book club The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys held its annual conference in Jefferson.

“The book club’s sole mission is to promote authors, books, literacy and reading,” Pulpwood Queens Founder Kathy Murphy said. “We also like to champion first-time authors who have not been recognized in a big way. We have a lot of New York Times best-selling authors. But we really like to help the little guys who may never get seen. There are 10,000 books published a day — how does someone even get seen? That’s our goal.

”Hundreds turned out for the event, attending lectures, author meet-ups and book-signings.

Murphy said The Pulpwood Queens Book Club has grown tremendously since its humble start in Jefferson in 2000.

“This is our 19th year,” Murphy said. “We have 767 chapters. There are three more in the works. We’re also in 15 foreign countries. I started it in Jefferson with six complete strangers. It’s grown to be the largest meeting and discussing book club in the world.”

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Sabine Pass

By William “Doc” Halliday

Sabine Lake is a 90,000 acre salt water estuary formed by the confluence of the Neches and Sabine Rivers.  Sabine Pass is the natural outlet of Sabine Lake into the Gulf of Mexico.  It borders Cameron Parish, Louisiana and Jefferson County, Texas.  The former city of Sabine Pass, Texas is now a suburb of Port Arthur, Texas. 

The Confederacy constructed a major fort there in 1861. The principal Confederate defense force at Sabine Pass during the early months of the war had been Spaight’s Texas Battalion.  In the early morning hours of September 25, 1862, Union forces under the command of Acting Master Frederick Crocker attempted to enter Sabine Pass.  As Crocker and his forces made their way through the inland passage towards Beaumont, the Confederates attacked.

When the Union squadron approached Fort Sabine, Crocker ordered his ships to begin an artillery bombardment of the enemy position. Confederate forces numbering thirty infantry and artillerists manning their artillery, additionally supported by thirty cavalrymen, were unable to effectively return fire as the outdated guns were unable to reach the Union fleet. The commanding officer, Major Josephus S. Irvine (CSA), ordered his artillery spiked and then retreated during the night.  Without a significant military presence, the town of Sabine Pass, surrendered the following day.  This became known as the First Battle of Sabine Pass.  On October 8, 1862, Galveston, Texas was captured.  At that point, the Union controlled much of the Texas coast.

In November of 1862, Confederate General John Bankhead Magruder came to Texas with the intention of altering the direction of the war in this area. Magruder was an early Confederate hero in Virginia, and was assigned the difficult task of expelling the Union forces from Sabine Pass and Galveston.  Another unit, Capt. F. H. Odlums’ Co. F, of the 1st Texas Heavy Artillery, was sent to Sabine Pass in December of 1862. 

Magruder’s efforts were soon successful. He recaptured Galveston Island on January 1, 1863 and then turned his attention to Sabine Pass.  The two units manned artillery aboard two old gunboats referred to as cottonclads.  The gunboats were the Uncle Ben and Josiah Belle, which the Confederates used to break the blockade on Jan. 21, 1863, by chasing two Union sail ships, the Morning Light and Velocity, for 30 miles at sea and capturing them during a battle.

The decks of the two Rebel ships were stacked with cotton bales. Riflemen were placed behind the bales and the ships steamed towards the two Union ships, the Morning Light and the Velocity. Some of the riflemen became seasick and had to be removed, but the voyage continued. The Confederates chased the Union ships into open water, and the sharpshooters injured many Union gunners. Both Union ships soon surrendered. Magruder’s victory reopened the Texas coast for Confederate shipping. 

January 21, is the anniversary of the recapture of Sabine Pass, Texas, and the opening of that important port for the Confederacy when two Confederate ships drove away and captured the two Union ships. 

The Union intended to recapture Sabine Pass.  They planned revenge by capturing Sabine Pass, Beaumont, and Orange. They hoped to capture all the cotton and ships in port, as well as to burn railroad bridges and ferries on the rivers. Then they planned to attack Houston along the railroad to the west of Beaumont, and then starve Galveston Island into submission.  However, the effort was thwarted when less than 50 Confederates inside the fort there held off a much larger Union force.

After that embarrassment to the Federal forces, Union Gen. Benjamin Butler of New Orleans was determined to capture Sabine Pass by sea, but he had to await the seizure of Vicksburg before enough shallow draft gunboats were available. About Aug. 1, 1863, Gen. Butler began massing four gunboats and 19 troop transports at New Orleans in preparation for the battle. 

About 6:00 am on the morning of September 8, 1863, a Union flotilla of four gunboats and seven troop transports steamed into Sabine Pass and up the Sabine River with the intention of reducing Fort Griffin and landing troops to begin occupying Texas. As the gunboats approached Fort Griffin, they came under precise fire from just six cannons. The Confederate gunners at Fort Griffin had been sent there as a punishment. To break the day-to-day tedium, the gunners trained firing artillery at range markers placed in the river. Confederate engineers drove marker posts in the oyster reefs 1,200 yards distant from the fort to mark the guns’ maximum range, and during the month of August, Lt. Dowling used a sunken schooner as a target as he sharpened his artillerymen’s gunnery prowess to the peak of perfection.

Their practice paid off. Fort Griffin’s small force of 47 men, under command of Lt. Richard W. Dowling, forced the Union flotilla to retire, and captured the gunboat Clifton and about 350 prisoners. Further Union operations in the area ceased for about a month. The heroics at Fort Griffin—47 men stopping a Union expedition—inspired other Confederate fighters.

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Japanese-American Internment

By William “Doc” Halliday

Most Americans believe that the United States was surprised by the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  I doubt this country was surprised strategically. 

By 1931 U.S.-Japanese relations had become strained.  Japan’s civilian government was unable to deal with the pressures of the global Great Depression and had been transformed into a militaristic régime. The new regime was prepared to strengthen Japan by forcibly annexing areas in the Asia-Pacific, and it started with China.  That year, the Japanese army launched attacks against Manchuria, quickly conquering it. Japan announced that it had annexed Manchuria and renamed it “Manchukuo.” 

The U.S. refused to diplomatically acknowledge the addition of Manchuria to Japan, and Secretary of State Henry Stimson said as much in the so-called “Stimson Doctrine.” That response, however, was only diplomatic. The U.S. did not threatened military or economic retaliation.  Japan desperately needed China’s raw materials in order to continue its program of modernization. The U.S. needed a democratic Chinese government to counter both Japanese military expansion in the Pacific and the spread of communism in Asia.

Actually, the United States did not want to disrupt its profitable trade with Japan. In addition to a variety of consumer goods, the U.S. provided resource-poor Japan with most of its scrap iron and steel. Most importantly, it sold Japan 80% of its oil. 

In a succession of naval treaties in the 1920s, the United States and Great Britain had attempted to limit the size of Japan’s naval fleet. However, they had made no attempt to cut off Japan’s supply of oil. When Japan renewed aggression against China, it did so with American oil, and in 1937, Japan began a full-blown war with China. 

In 1935 and 1936, the United States Congress had passed Neutrality Acts to prohibit the U.S. from selling goods to countries at war. The acts were presumably to protect the U.S. from falling into another war like the First World War. President Roosevelt did not care for the acts because they prohibited the U.S. from helping allies in need, although he did sign them. 

The acts were not active unless Roosevelt invoked them, which he did not do in the case of Japan and China. He favored China in the crisis, and by not invoking the 1936 act he could still shuttle aid to the Chinese.

Not until 1939, however, did the United States begin to directly challenge continued Japanese aggression in China. That year the U.S. announced it was pulling out of the 1911 Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Japan, indicating an approaching termination to trade with the empire. Japan continued its operations against China.  .

In December of 1939, the U. S., which was supplying Japan with nearly all its aviation fuel, stopped the export of any technical information about the production of aviation fuel.  When the Japanese invaded Indochina in July of 1940 the U. S. responded by cutting off oil exports to Japan.  In September 1940, the U.S. froze Japanese assets.  In November of 1941 the U. S. told Japan to get out of China and Indochina. 

The American policies forced Japan to the wall. With the approval of the Japanese emperor, the Japanese navy began planning to attack Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and other bases in the Pacific in early December to open the route to the Dutch East Indies and the oil located there.

In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the West Coast appeared particularly susceptible to another Japanese military offensive. A large population of Japanese Americans inhabited the western states and American military analysts feared some might conduct acts of sabotage on west-coast defense and agricultural industries.

On January 14, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring aliens from enemy countries–Italy, Germany and Japan–to register with the Department of Justice. Registered persons were then issued a Certificate of Identification for Aliens of Enemy Nationality. A follow-up to the Alien Registration Act of 1940, Proclamation No. 2537 facilitated the beginning of full-scale internment of Japanese Americans the following month.

Liberal Japanese resented American anti-Japanese policies, particularly in California, where exclusionary laws were passed to prevent Japanese Americans from competing with U.S. citizens in the agricultural industry. Despite these tensions, a 1941 federal report requested by Roosevelt indicated that more than 90 percent of Japanese Americans were considered loyal citizens. Under pressure from military advisors and influential California politicians, Roosevelt agreed to begin the necessary steps for possible internment of the Japanese-American population.

Proclamation No. 2537 permitted the arrest, detention and internment of enemy aliens who violated restricted areas, such as ports, water treatment plants or even areas prone to brush fires, for the duration of the war. A month later, a reluctant Roosevelt signed the War Department’s blanket Executive Order 9066, which authorized the physical removal of all Japanese Americans into internment camps.

Ultimately the government forced more than 110,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps, but some, including Fred Korematsu, Minoru Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi, defied orders imposed exclusively on their ethnic group. For refusing to do what they’d been told, these courageous men were arrested and jailed. They eventually took their cases to the Supreme Court—and lost. 

Four decades later legal historian Peter Irons stumbled upon evidence that government officials had withheld several documents from the Supreme Court stating that Japanese Americans posed no military threat to the United States. With this information in hand, Korematsu’s attorneys appeared in 1983 before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco, which vacated his conviction. Yasui’s conviction was overturned in 1984 and Hirabayashi’s two years later.

In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, which led to a formal government apology for internment and payment of $20,000 to internment survivors.

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