Thirty years ago, when the Museum was just beginning to build its Masonic collection, staff purchased a Civil War-era powder horn decorated with Masonic symbols. It also bore this evocative inscription: “H. S. P. Rollins Prisoner of War Tyler Texas Captured at Sabine Pass Sept 8th 1863.” Purchased at a New England auction, the horn came to the museum with no known history. Our files contained descriptions of the battle at Sabine Pass--where fewer than fifty Confederate soldiers captured two U.S. gunboats and several hundred soldiers and sailors-- but it did not tell us who H. S. P. Rollins was or where he came from.
Drawing on some of the great resources available on the Internet (thank you, Google books!), museum and library staff not only identified the powder horn’s maker as Henry S. P. Rollins of Exeter, New Hampshire, but also discovered that he played an important role in the battle that led to his imprisonment. During what was, in many ways, a badly managed battle on the Union side, Rollins’ performance earned him special notice. In his report on the battle, Frederick Crocker, the Acting Volunteer Lieutenant in charge of the U.S.S. Clifton, commended Master’s Mate H. S. P. Rollins and a fellow shipmate “for the gallant manner in which they fought their guns and performed every duty.”
In spite of his efforts, Confederate troops captured Rollins and marched him to the prison camp along with 350 other Union men. One prisoner later described the Camp Ford as: "… four acres-barren of timber and grass. Sand blows desperately."
Rollins survived his imprisonment, only to die of stomach disease in New Hampshire a few years after the war.
Powder horn, ca. 1863, Henry S. P. Rollins (1832-1869), Tyler, Texas, National Heritage Museum, 77.11.2. Photo by David Bohl.
Texas Beyond History, “From Training Camp to Prison,” University of Texas at Austin, http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/ford/prison.html
"Capture of the United States Steamers Clifton and Sachem: Report of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Frederick Crocker," Edgartown, Mass., April 21, 1865. In Annual Reports of the Navy Department: Report of the Secretary of the Navy, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1865, p. 401-2