MATAGORDIAN WITH WAR RECORD DIES

Stroke of Apoplexy Cause of Sudden Death of William Selkirk of Galveston .
 

William Selkirk died at his home in Galveston Wednesday morning at the age of 70 years after a stroke of apoplexy. Mr. Selkirk was born in Matagorda Dec. 1, 1845 , and at the age of 16 was deputy county clerk under his father. At 18 he joined the mounted infantry, Co D., under Colonel Reuben Brown, and served throughout the war. He was one of the ill-fated portion of Co. D, when under Capt. Edward Rugeley, they were ordered to the peninsula to repell an attack from the Federals stationed at Pass Cavallo, and narrowly escaped with his life. At the close of the war, Mr. Selkirk went to a business college in New Orleans and then located at Galveston where he has since lived. His wife and five children survive him.

Early on the morning of December 31, 1863 , a courier brought to Capt. Rugeley, commander of the post at Matagorda, news that the Federals stationed at Decrow's Point, at Pass Cavallo, 40 miles below Matagorda, had planned an attack upon the town for that night, it being reported that gunboats were to shell the town from the peninsula. The information was that the attacking party were to come in gunboats to the peninsula opposite Matagorda, from which point the marines or infantry were to come across the bay in small boats and the gunboats attack from across the bay. Capt. Rugeley called for volunteers from the company, and all the company wanted to go, says Judge Burkhart, the only survivor of the company living in Matagorda; but Sergeant Burkhart was made officer in charge of the guard of about fifteen to remain at the post and the remainder, about 45 made preparations to go meet the attack. Henry Cookenboo's sailboat, the George Burkhart was procured, small for the purpose but the best available at the time and the party embarked in that, a few going in a still smaller boat. During the day the weather was fair, but about the time for starting a fierce norther blue up, but nothing daunted, the brave men set sail for the peninsula shore. The storm grew worse and intensely cold, ice forming an inch on the ropes until the men were so benumbed with cold, and the frozen ropes and rigging, the boat became unmanageable, and about midnight capsized, just before reaching the John Kerr an old river steamboat which had been armed with two cannon and was to do service as a gunboat.

As the wreck occurred close to the shore of the peninsula, though the night was very dark and the wind blowing a perfect gale, about half of the party including Capt. Rugeley and Captain Cookenboo, were washed ashore and escaped. But most of the men already benumbed by the cold, in the water were soon helpless, and were either drowned for frozen to death.

The death of Mr. Selkirk leaves Judge Alex Burkhart of Matagorda, the sole survivor of the company which met with such disaster there. From Judge Burkhart, who was officer of the guard at the post while the major part of the garrison were sent on the expedition to meet the Federals, we get most of the information herein.

Mr. Selkirk in relating his experience said he was so overcome by the cold that he remembers little of the occurrences immediately preceding the wreck, and nothing of the experiences following. His first recollection, when partly restored to consciousness, was being carried by a strong fellow-soldier names Decrow (Mr. Selkirk was about twenty years old and of slight build); that Decrow laid him down on the sand of the beach and said "Will, you rest here while I go to that house yonder where the light is and get help." How long he remained there he does not know, as he again lapsed into unconsciousness; but after a while he heard voices, and heard Decrow say, "Well, here is where I left Will; I remember this log; I am sure, for I noted this log particularly. Mr. Selkirk says he could hear but could not move or talk; he tried to call but his voice would fail him, and he remembers with what horror his mind, was filled at the thought that if they should fail to find him "It would be all up with me that time, sure." Finally Decrow came close enough to him to see him, and they carried him into the house, which proved to be the home of Mr. Henry Freeman, a stock-farmer on the peninsula, and now the grandfather of George Kilbride of Matagorda, to whom Mr. Selkirk related the above experience, a year ago on a visit to Bay City while they stood admiring the monument which had just been erected to the memory of the ex-confederate soldier.

The Matagorda News and Midcoast Farmer, Friday, March 12, 1915
 

 

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