In late 2010, having volunteered to assist Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington, California, with research in pro-secession activity in California, director Susan Ogle handed me a list of names, places and events for possible investigation. One of those names was that of Dan Showalter, a California politician turned Confederate cavalry officer of whom I'd never heard.

Becoming fascinated just after reading the barest outline of Showalter's life, the next year found me hunting down everything I could find about this largely forgotten character. When I had finished my research -- which included the discovery of several previously unpublished items as well as obtaining the only known photograph from a Showalter descendent -- I had so much material that Susan exclaimed, "You've got a whole exhibit right here!"

And with her guidance, on November 5, 2011, co-curated by myself and Susan Ogle, my "Dan Showalter: California's Arch Rebel" exhibit went on display at the Drum.

Now being slated for removal in August 2012 in that ongoing round of ever-successive new exhibits that mark good museums, I've started this website as a place where, over time, I can memorialize and expand upon all the material accumulated on this remarkable Californian.

Hope you'll return often as this website expands and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In Defense of the 4th

One thing I'd like to comment on, in now expanding from the original exhibit, is the reputation Showalter's regiment has gained over time as, supposedly, renegades and marauders. The historical record is somewhat confusing over this in that there appears to have been more than one "4th Texas Cavalry," but my investigation supports the thesis that, in fact, Showalter and his regiment remained faithful and honorable soldiers in defense of Texas and the Confederacy until the very end of the war.

Following Showalter's return to command of the 4th Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade, after his acquittal at court-martial (another topic on which I plan to comment at a later time), the unit was ordered from the Rio Grande and Col. Ford's command to Houston via Corpus Christi. Col. Ford comments on this himself in his memoirs (Rip Ford's Texas) while also attesting to Showalter's character: "When not under the influence of liquor, he was as chivalrous a man as ever drew a sword."

Come May 19, 1865, while stationed around that city itself, the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph prints an adamant letter signed by Dan Showalter:

Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, May 19, 1865, p. 1

At a meeting held by the 4th Arizona Regt of Cavalry, Col. Showalter commanding, on Wednesday the 16th day of May, 1865, on motion, Col. Showalter was elected President, and W. C. Sevier Secretary.

Col. Showalter, on assuming the duties of the Chair, and in response to the request of the regiment, delivered an able, patriotic and eloquent speech, the sentiments of which were responded to by frequent and heartfelt applause from the men of his command, after which, on motion, the following resolutions were adopted by acclamation without a dissenting voice:

Whereas, We have recently learned with painful regret of the surrender of most, if not all, of the armies of the Confederacy east of the Mississippi river, and deeply deploring as we do the disposition now manifested by many citizens and soldiers in the Trans-Mississippi Department, to tamely submit to the re-establishment of peace, upon the degrading condition of an absolute and unconditional surrender and a consequent return to the Federal Union, with most, if not all, of our essential and cardinal rights as sovereign States ruthlessly torn from us, since the commencement of the war, by sectional and fanatical legislation on the part of Congress and the military edicts and proclamations of the President of the United States.

Therefore, be it

Resolved, That we as members of the 4th Arizona Regiment of Cavalry, composed of Californians, Texans, and Missourians, in view of the perilous condition of the country, and relying on the justice of our cause, will stand by the military to the last, in defence of our country against the brutal and tyrannical foe who, flushed with their recent successes East of the Mississippi River, now threaten this Department, and seek by one fell blow of arms, or through the cowardly submission of our soldiery, to conquer and hold us by military force, nominally as co-members of the Federal Union, but really as a subjugated Province, to be governed by military satraps, under the absolute decrees of a military dictator.

Resolved, That in view of the surrender of the troops in the Trans-Mississippi Department, we do not hold that we are bound by any stipulations which may compromise our Liberties, and that as free agents and true Southern soldiers, we will maintain our freedom at all hazards—remain in open warfare against any Yankee rule, and fight the enemy as long as life lasts—follow our commanders into the last trench—denying the right to be surrendered to the hateful foe who is now approaching our sacred threshold for the purposes of confiscation, tyranny and death.

Resolved, That this regiment will stand by and remain true to Texas and the Confederacy in the last great and final struggle for freedom against tyranny, which existing facts dictate is about to transpire upon her soil—so long as her sons evince a determination to achieve their independence or go down to honorable graves—and if forced to retire from the soil we have so long defended, we will take with us the battle flag of our Regiment, presented to us by the ladies of Texas and under its folds will if necessary cut our way through to some defensible locality, where cherishing the principles of which it is the consecrated emblem will repel the foe who dare assail us or perish in the attempt.
                                                                                                DAN. SHOWALTER,
                                                                                                Lt. Col. Comd’g, President.

W. C. Sevier, Secretary.

(Transcription provided by Vicki Betts, Librarian at University of Texas at Tyler)

So the question presents itself: How, in a period of two months -- other than general aspersion being thrown on Col. Showalter over his drinking and the unsustained allegation of his court-martial -- did both he and his regiment end up with the sullied reputation that has followed them down through time?

A wonderfully vivid letter has come down to us from one Thomas H. O'Callaghan, Chief Justice of San Patricio County, written to Maj. Gen. J.G. Walker complaining in strongest terms of the passing of "Showalter's Regiment" through "this place" early in their movement eastward from Brownsville, "as if a Regiment of the enemys troops and not our own, had invaded us":

Although Justice O'Callaghan complains bitterly of the plundering done by "Showalter's Regiment" ever since leaving Brownsville, a very significant mention is made beginning at the bottom of the second page:

"...about six miles from here they received orders to go to Corpus Christi -- only about one hundred and fifty obeyed this order and these men must not be held responsible in any manner for the acts of their fellows -- The balance of the Regt something over one hundred and sixty proceeded to elect one of their most desperate characters as their chief or colonel and proceed on their way towards Goliad, and I have every reason to believe in their course of plunder."

So what becomes obvious at this point is that there was a rift or mutiny by early March, when the regiment headed away from Brownsville, and it was this mutinous group, headed by "one of their most desperate characters," who was guilty of the charges Justice O'Callaghan makes. The "only about one hundred and fifty" obeying their orders to proceed to Corpus Christi would be the remainder of the unit still under Showalter's command.

This is borne out by a brief report in the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph of
May 10, 1865:

Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, May 10, 1865, p. 2, c. 1

                We are gratified to learn from Showalter’s regiment, now at Harrisburg, that nearly all those who left the regiment in the so-called “burst up,” two months ago, have come back.  A soldier of the regiment informs us that all the absentees will come in save perhaps thirty or forty who crossed the Rio Grande.  The morning reports show 318 men for duty.  Company G will be in in a day or two with 50 more.  This intelligence is very gratifying to the friends of that regiment.

(Transcription again provided by Vicki Betts.)

Note the comment there about being "gratifying to the friends of that regiment." That is not a comment that would seem warranted by a band of desperados.

A large part of the assumed malfeasance of Showalter's Regiment is the fact that another unit designated as a 4th Texas Cavalry -- not part of the Arizona Brigade -- was actively running amok in northeastern Texas in later 1864 and early 1865. This unit was so bad that, in fact, other Confederate units were sent to and did apprehend them in early 1865.

Just as further argument for vindication, the gentlemanly character of the 4th Texas Cavalry on duty under Col. Showalter is revealed in this clipping (again from Vicki Betts):

Houston Daily Telegraph, May 10, 1865, p. 2, c. 3
                                                                                                Hd. Qrs. Col. Showalter’s Regt.}
                                                                                                Near Harrisburg, May 8, 1865.}
                The members of Co. A, 4th Texas Regt. Arizona Brigade, tender their sincere thanks to the ladies of Sweet Home and vicinity for their very liberal donation of clothing to the company.
                                                                                                  H. D. E. Wolf,
                                                                                                  2d Lt. Co. A, 4th Arizona Brigade.

I hope I've here laid out a reasoned case in defense of Showalter's Regiment, the 4th Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade, and for its commander, "as chivalrous a man as ever drew a sword." It will be recalled that recruiting for Showalter's unit in western Texas was difficult and time-consuming due to the low character of most men in that area. It may also be true that Showalter himself was seriously and frequently inebriated by this time. However, the documentation cited argues that at all times those remaining under Showalter's command continued to dutifully follow orders and, as the May 19, 1865, letter of defiant resistance to the invading Union Army demonstrates, serve in honorable defense of their fellow Confederate Texans.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

One more credit

Oh! And all of those military transcriptions are of the materials found in The War of the Rebellion, the tremendous compilation of all Northern and Southern   Civil War records made by the U.S. Government over several decades following the war.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Credit where credit's due

Before going any further, I think it appropriate to give credit to the various sources for the items displayed as part of the Drum Barracks exhibit and to the various folks who were and continue to be of great help in what's turned out to be ongoing research on Dan Showalter.

First of all, again I thank Susan Ogle, Director of Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington, California, without whom this entire project never would have come about. Not only did she introduce me to Showalter in broadening my knowledge about pro-secession California, but her assistance ran right down to completing most of the physical preparation of the exhibit itself from the materials supplied.

Next I have to thank Robert L. Showalter, the great-great nephew (if I can ever keep the "greats" in order) of Elihu Showalter, elder brother of Dan. It was Bob who had gathered all of those wonderful previously unpublished photos and letters, and it was my greatest fortune in stumbling upon his contact information in an already several-year-old posting on a Civil War discussion board online.

Vicki Betts, librarian at the University of Texas at Tyler, was also of tremendous assistance, particularly in locating old issues of the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph in trying to verify assertions about the later history of the 4th Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade (much to be said about this disputed subject later).

I have to mention Alex Vassar, the archivist at the California State Assembly. I had contacted him at the very outset of my research, thinking, well, sure, Dan's old political haunt should have some material on him. As it turned out, they had almost nothing. This struck me as sad, so months later, after I had accumulated so much material and that great photo of Showalter, I sent digital copies of the photo and a few more significant items for keeping in the Assembly's archives. Upon receiving them, Alex told me that he had been talking to some of the officials up there in Sacramento -- and I am proud to relate that not only are these items now on file in both the Assembly archives and the California State Library, but that an enlargement of the Showalter photograph now hangs on one of the Library walls. So perhaps this most humbling of consequences of my research is that old Dan has returned at last to Sacramento.

Besides the unpublished material from Bob Showalter and the Showalter family, the full newspaper photos are from issues in my own collection. The large Texas map is a reproduction readily available for purchase. The photos of the various California period newspaper clippings are from the California Digital Newspaper Collection at the University of California, Riverside (http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cdnc), a great site. The various letters reproduced here came from Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com/), another incredible site. Various other photographs were largely found online in general image searches.

A smaller exhibit taken from the larger Drum Barracks production was displayed on November 19 and 20, 2011, at the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Showalter Affair (the capture of the Showalter Party) by the Vail Ranch Restoration Association at the Little Temecula History Center in Temecula, California. Many thanks to Steve Clugston, the event coordinator, for that opportunity to further educate the general public on this little-known figure of California history. This was a memorable event as Bob Showalter actually came out from Pennsylvania to join me, as well as, over the two days and between Temecula and Drum Barracks, three other Showalter descendants.

One last word of premature thanks, premature in that discussion leading from this contact is yet to come. But many thanks go out to Fannie Kavanaugh Smith, the great-great niece (again, if I've got the "greats" right) of Showalter's second-in-command, Finis Ewing Kavanaugh. I received an initial e-mail from her out of the blue after she'd come across the article about my research in the San Bernardino Daily Bulletin (for which I also give thanks; thank you columnist Joe Blackstock!) while hunting down her forebear. The subsequent discussion we've had about Kavanaugh's own history has shed all sorts of light on the last days of the 4th Texas Cavalry and the time in Mexico (all to be revealed later).

As in all of these givings of credit, I'm sure I've omitted something or someone. Without specification, my thanks go out. If I become aware of those forgotten sources as we go along, I'll try to remember to add that mention.

Oh, and along these lines, I should state that I am not an academic researcher by trade. Therefore, I will generally not footnote things and give formal bibliographical-type information. But where I can and recall, I will try to give some minimal citation at least.


Word of Robert E. Lee's surrender to U.S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse came hard to Texas. On May 12-13, 1865, over a month later, what was to be the last battle of the war was fought in Texas at Palmito Ranch -- ironically, a rousing Confederate victory at the same location at which Showalter's troops had been cannonaded by Cortina's revolutionaries in September the year before.

On May 19, 1865, a letter promising the citizens of Texas that the 4th Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade, Dan Showalter commanding, would fight to the very end was printed in the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph. But on May 26, 1865, Gen. Kirby Smith surrendered to Union forces, ending the American Civil War.

Signaling the actual end of the American Civil War, the surrender of Texas by Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith was given ample coverage in this June 18, 1865, issue of the New York Herald.

Hundreds, ultimately thousands, of disheartened Confederates unwilling to live under Federal authority left Texas and other Confederate states. The most famous post-war exodus was that led by Gen. J.O. Shelby -- the only Confederate general refusing to surrender. Among those with him were Dan Showalter, old "Chiv" friend Justice David S. Terry, ex-Arizona Congressman Granville H. Oury, Maj. F.E. Kavanaugh, and their families.

Photograph of Gen. Joseph Orville (Jo) Shelby. Like most, Shelby returned to his home state of Missouri within just a few years of leaving for Mexico.

A group of Confederate generals photographed in Mexico in October 1865. From left to right, top to bottom, they are Generals John Magruder, William Hardeman, Cadmus Wilcox, Sterling Price and Thomas Hindman.

After arriving in Mazatlan in the summer of 1865, Showalter opened a hotel and saloon with partners. In January of 1866, while drunk in his own saloon and called to task by his bartender partner, Maj. F.E. Kavanaugh from 4th Texas Cavalry days, Showalter was shot in the arm. Ten days later, on February 4, 1866, he died of infection from the wound and was buried in the "foreign cemetery" in Mazatlan.

The Daily Alta California of November 19, 1865, reports on the establishment of Showalter's Mazatlan hotel.

The account of the bar fight leading to Dan Showalter's death in the Daily Alta California of February 25, 1866.

At some unknown date in later years, unrecorded family members placed a memorial stone to Lt. Col. Dan Showalter, 1831-1866, in the cemetery at the Jefferson Davis House in Beauvoir, Mississippi.

And at this point, the exhibit "Dan Showalter: California's Arch Rebel" as it appeared at Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington, California, is concluded.

"We propose to take one hundred chosen men under the command of Lieut. Col. Dan Showalter"...

The idea of retaking the former Territory of Arizona for the Confederacy and then continuing on to pro-secessionist Southern California held great importance for many throughout the Civil War, not the least because of the allure of the open Port of Los Angeles.

This letter of February 14, 1864, written to General Edmund Kirby Smith, the Confederate general in charge of the western front, advocated an army be formed for that purpose under the command of Dan Showalter.

In addition to the signatures of Dan Showalter and others are those of Granville H. Oury, who had been the representative of the Territory of Arizona to the Confederate Congress, and Showalter's second-in-command, Major F.E. Kavanaugh.

Although still nearly a year and a half before the end of the war in Texas, no further attempts were made by the Confederacy to reach the Pacific.

Photograph of Granville H. Oury.

4th Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade

In the spring of 1863, four Texas cavalry units were organized as the Arizona Brigade, with the intent of retaking New Mexico and Arizona (together briefly the Confederate Territory of Arizona) from the Union forces. Dan Showalter was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of the 4th Texas Cavalry and eventually given command of that unit. In spite of its original purpose, the 4th Texas Cavalry became a reserve cavalry unit fighting in Arkansas, the Indian Nation (Oklahoma), and various parts of Texas.

In mid and later 1864, as part of Col. John Salmon "RIP" Ford's expeditionary force along the Rio Grande, Showalter and the 4th Texas Cavalry played a significant part in the Confederacy's regaining of western Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Photograph of a company from the 4th Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade, with ten new recruits (not yet uniformed) in the spring of 1864. This is the only known image of Confederate Texans outdoors in their own state.

Letter of June 3, 1863, written by Dan Showalter, shortly after being given command of the 4th Texas Cavalry, reporting to headquarters in San Antonio on the progress of recruitment. Recruitment was difficult among the desperados, deserters and outlaws in western Texas. Note that a large part of his troops are "refugees from California."

In the actual exhibit, this reprinting of an 1860 map of Texas was marked to indicate areas in which Showalter's 4th Texas Cavalry regiment served and at what times. in mid 1863, while still recruiting, Showalter was in the western part of the state. In late 1863, the newly formed unit was sent to fight Indians in the Indian Nation/Territory and Arkansas, at the upper right of this map. In mid to late 1864, as part of Ford's expeditionary force, they swept down the Rio Grande, at the southwestern border with Mexico, all the way to the Rio Grande. From March 1865 until the end of the war, moving from the Rio Grande area, the unit served in the vicinity of Houston.

Confederate troops in Texas were not only fighting Federal troops. Skirmishes with Indians were frequent. The revolution in Mexico under Benito Juarez was in progress and skirmishes with both the native Mexicans and their French overlords were common.

After retaking the Rio Grande all the way to Brownsville on the Gulf in late summer of 1864 -- much of that time under command of Lt. Col. Showalter due to the severe illness of Col. Ford -- Showalter's unit was cannonaded by forces under Mexican revolutionary General Juan Cortina on September 9, 1864. Showalter was taken under surprise and unfit to command due to excessive drinking, an increasing problem by this date. Ford was threatened with his own court-martial unless he brought charges against Showalter, who was then ordered to San Antonio for trial. Although summoned, Col. Ford did not attend and Showalter was acquitted of his charges, returning to the 4th Texas Cavalry. The unit was then assigned to the Houston area in March of 1865.

In later years, in his memoirs, Col. Ford wrote of Dan Showalter: "When not under the influence of liquor, he was as chivalrous a man as ever drew a sword."

Dan Showalter's dispatch to Col. Ford written while under cannonade from Cortina's Mexican revolutionary forces on September 9, 1864.

Photograph of Col. John Salmon Ford, referred to as "RIP" Ford for his habit of writing "RIP" next to the names of dead soldiers in his reports.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"I found myself a stranger in a strange land"

Shortly after release from Fort Yuma, undaunted by capture or loyalty oaths taken, Showalter assembled another group of men, went south to Mexico, and crossed overland to Texas, arriving in late 1862. He earned distinction in the opening days of January 1863 at the battles of Galveston and Sabine Pass. Following those battles, Galveston and Sabine Pass remained the only open Confederate ports through the end of the war.

Engravings from the January 31, 1863, issue of Harper's Weekly depicting scenes from the battles of Galveston and Sabine Pass.

Photograph of Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State of the Confederacy. In a letter of February 7, 1863, to the English consulate, Benjamin wrote:

     "This Government is officially informed of the total dispersion (and disappearance) of the blockading squadron recently stationed off Galveston Harbor by the combined attacks of land and naval forces of the Confederacy. In this attack the enemy's steamer Harriet Lane was captured, and the flag ship of the squadron, the Westfield, was blown up and destroyed.
     "The blockade of the port of Galveston is therefore at an end.
     "The armed river boats which raised the blockade at Galveston then proceeded to Sabine Pass, where they again attacked the enemy's blockaders, captured 13 guns, a large quantity of stores and a number of prisoners.
     "No blockading fleet now exists off Sabine Pass, and the steamers of the Confederacy were at the last account cruising off the Pass with no enemy in sight."

While the Southern press largely downplayed the significance of the battles of Galveston and Sabine Pass, Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune did not. This issue of January 20, 1863, devoted its entire front page to giving the headline's promised “Full Account of the Disaster.”

Daily Alta California clipping from March 13, 1863. Showalter is now an artillery captain.

The following is a transcription of a letter from Dan Showalter to Anna Forman, recovered from the body of a Confederate spy carrying mail between Texas and California, so never delivered to Anna. Her father had been the commanding officer at U.S. Camp Latham in Culver City, but resigned shortly after his appointment. Neither Anna nor Showalter most likely ever heard from each other again. Anna married approximately ten years later.

                                                                                San Antonio, February 8, 1864
Miss Anna Forman:
          My Dear Friend Anna: I arrived here yesterday from Arkansas and the Indian Department, where I have been with my command for the past nine months, and you can scarcely imagine my delight and surprise on learning that a party of my old friends had arrived the day before, among the number Mrs. Judge Terry, bearing to me your most welcome message. I had abandoned the hope, so long fondly cherished, of hearing from you during the present war. I would have written to you long since, but feared it might bring you or your parents into serious trouble if it were known that you corresponded with an arch rebel like myself. Silent as I have been, I have often thought of you while walking my lonely beat at night, and on the battle-field, when comrades were fast falling around me, and the firm belief that your heart and sympathies were with us, gave me additional courage and cheered me on in the path of duty and honor. Anna, I have not yet had cause to regret the course I marked out at the commencement of this long, bloody, and desolating war. I am proud to fight, and, if necessary, die, with a people who have contended so gallantly for their liberties against such fearful odds. If you could see them as I have, the old and the young, marching on apparently to certain death, and the noble women of the land, unaccustomed to labor, working day and night, knitting, spinning, and weaving to clothe our gallant soldiers, taking their carpets from their parlors to make blankets and their surplus wearing apparel to make shirts -- were I to tell you all that these people have suffered without a murmur, you would say with me (as I am sure you do), having purchased liberty at such a frightful sacrifice, they are deserving of it, and never can be conquered. Our army is now in a better condition than at any time since the war commenced, while our people all over the country are more firmly united than ever. It is true we have lost a great many gallant men; indeed, almost every house in the land is in mourning over some fallen relation. Still, we have enough left to continue the war for years, and we feel that it would be much better that the last man should perish in defense of his rights rather than live the despised serfs of a Northern despot. The enemy have landed at several points along the coast, and are evidently preparing to make one last desperate effort to crush and subjugate us. All is as yet quiet, but it is the calm which precedes the storm, and we may soon expect to have the clash of arms all along the coast from the Rio Grande to New Orleans. Come as they may, we are prepared to meet them, and if forced to fall back before superior numbers, we have determined to lay waste every field, burn every dwelling, and leave to the invaders no mark of civilization save the ruins of our once happy homes, the deserted fields, and the mangled bodies of the slain. I am truly gratified to hear of your father's resignation. You know we were always firm friends, and it pained me to think that we should be arrayed against each other. When I arrived in Texas I found myself a stranger in a strange land. Those whom I expected to meet were either dead or in our army east of the Mississippi. I, however, soon met with Capt. George L. Patrick, of Tuolumne. You doubtless remember meeting his sister Annie at Sacramento, during the session of 1861. I at once joined his company as a private, and soon after had the honor of participating in the battle of Galveston, and soon after in the naval engagement off Sabine Pass, when we captured the enemy's blockading fleet. My name was favorably mentioned in the reports of both those fights, and soon after the latter I was promoted to a lieutenant-colonelcy. I have since organized a fine cavalry regiment and been in several engagements in Arkansas and the Indian Nation. My command will in all probability remain in Texas during the next campaign. I would like very much to have you write to Miss Patrick; tell her George is well and in Texas. I would also like to have you write to my sister Kate; she will be delighted to hear that I am living and well. I have not heard a word from my people since I left California. I fear my brothers in Pennsylvania may have gone into the Northern Army; if so, I can only pity; I have no desire to see them again. I would be delighted to see you. Indeed, if I had only twenty years to live, I would give up ten years of that time to see you and talk with you one hour. I may survive this war. If so, we may meet again; but should I fall, you will have the last kind thought, the last fervent prayer of
         Your devoted friend,
                                                                                Dan Showalter
         Write often; do not wait to hear from me, but write whenever an opportunity presents itself.

The following are previously unpublished photographs of Dan Showalter's sister Kate and brothers Elihu, William and John, in that order, from Showalter family collections. Union military rosters show the names of all three brothers.

Capture of the Showalter Party

In the early months after hostilities broke out in the eastern states, large numbers of armed Southern Californians began leaving for Texas to aid the Confederacy. One such group was the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles, the only organized California militia unit to join the Confederate Army as a group.

Dan Showalter, leading the advance party of another of these groups, was arrested with his men on November 29, 1861, at the Minter Ranch southeast of Temecula, by U.S. troops stationed at nearby Camp Wright.

Report of the capture of the Showalter party from the Sacramento Daily Union of December 7, 1861.

Names of the members of the Showalter party reported in the Sacramento Daily Union of 
December 12, 1861.

Photographof Minter's Ranch, where the Showalter party was captured.

Photograph of the Butterfield stagecoach stop at Oak Grove, which had been converted to Camp Wright in October 1861.

                          Report of Brig. Gen. George Wright, commanding department of the Pacific,
                          to Brig. Gen. L. Thomas, Adjutant-General U.S. Army, Washington D.C.

                                                               Headquarters Department of the Pacific,
                                                               San Francisco, Cal., December 10, 1861.
     GENERAL: For several weeks passed small parties have been organizing in the Southern District of this State, with the avowed purpose of proceeding to Texas to aid the rebels. To enable me to frustrate their designs I have seized all the boats and ferries on the Colorado River, and have been strongly guarded. I have reenforced Fort Yuma with two more companies, one of infantry and one of cavalry; also with two 12-pounder cannon. Major Rigg, First California Volunteer Infantry, commanding U.S. troops near Warner's ranch, on the border of the desert between that place and Fort Yuma, has arrested a man by the name of Showalter, a notorious secessionist, and his party of seventeen men. I have ordered the whole party to be taken to Fort Yuma and held securely guarded until further orders. I have given positive orders that no person shall be permitted to pass beyond Yuma or cross the Colorado River without my special permit; also that all persons approaching the frontier of the State shall be arrested and held in confinement, unless satisfactory evidence is produced of their fidelity to the Union. The time has arrived when individual rights must give way, and I shall not hesitate to adopt the most stringent measures to crush any attempt at rebellion within this department. I will not permit our Government and institutions to be assailed by word or deed without promptly suppressing it by the strong arm of power, feeling assured that I shall be sustained by my Government and receive the cordial support of every patriotic citizen on this coast.
        Hoping that what I have done or proposed to do may be approved by the General-in-Chief and Secretary of War, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
                                                              G. Wright,
                                                              Brigadier-General, U.S. Army, commanding.

Two excerpts from reports of Maj. Rigg on the capture. Captain Hugh Gorley, mentioned as commanding Camp Wright, had been a classmate of Showalter's at Madison College in Pennsylvania.

From the dispatch of Maj. Edwin Rigg on the capture to Col. James Carleton, November 30, 1861:

They now regret that they did not resist. If they had they would have given us a hard fight. There is no doubt that every one of them is a rank secessionist, and are on their way to lend aid and comfort to the enemy. I would like to know as soon as possible what to do with them. They have pack-mules and are well fitted out, and a desperate set of men.

From the formal report of Maj. Edwin Rigg to Col. James Carleton of December 4, 1861:

I had examined them all, and send copies of their statements to you; also the oath of allegiance I administered to them... I could find nothing about them that would go to show what they really are. Their ostensible destination is Sonora. I had concluded to discharge them, and informed them that I would, but Lieutenant Wellman has just returned from another scout. His report you will please find enclosed... He intercepted many letters... which, in my opinion clearly proves that a regular organization exists, and that this party, with a few exceptions, is in it. I think there are a few of them who are honest and going to Sonora for mining purposes, but that they have been drawn into this organization. From the fact that the men who are all bound for Sonora are southern men is suspicious... You will see that Showalter only desired to get over the line, and then if interrupted or interfered with to make the best fight they could... I will leave here at 7 a.m., leaving Camp Wright commanded by Captain Gorley, Company D, First Regiment California Volunteers.

After imprisonment at Fort Yuma, Showalter and companions were released on April 29, 1862. They were given ten days' provisions to return first to Camp Wright and then to Drum Barracks -- then also called "New San Pedro" -- to recover their equipment, horses and arms.

Further villainized after his capture and imprisonment, the Sacramento Daily Union of May 12, 1862, brands him a model of treason.

A photograph of Fort Yuma in the 1860s, seen from the Arizona side of the Colorado River.

Report on the release of the Showalter party in the Sacramento Daily Union of May 28, 1862.

California's Last Political Duel: The Showalter-Piercy Duel

Dan Showalter and the then 24-year-old Charles Piercy, State Assemblyman from San Bernardino, fought the last politically motivated duel in California on May 25, 1861. Piercy had challenged Showalter several days after an argument during Assembly proceedings in which he felt he had been insulted. Piercy was killed in the second round of shots from rifles at 40 paces. The pro-Union press in California used this duel to demonize Showalter and the secessionist cause.

Clipping from the Sacramento Daily Union of May 18, 1861, reporting on a pro-Union resolution passed in the California legislature to great surprise.

Clipping from the Sacramento Daily Union of May 20, 1861, reporting on the attempt to pass a pro-Confederate resolution in the California legislature. It was argument on a procedural issue during this debate that prompted Piercy to challenge Showalter.

Clipping from the Daily Alta California of May 25, 1861, describing the upcoming Showalter-Piercy duel and events leading up to it.

Clipping from the Daily Alta California of May 26, 1861, describing the events and aftermath of the duel.

Announcement of the duel, although illegal, from the Sacramento Daily Union of May 25, 1861.

Transcription of a previously unpublished letter of Dan Showalter to his brother William explaining his actions in the Showalter-Piercy duel, together with a statement of its provenance (below). These pages courtesy of the Showalter family collections.

Pre-Civil War Politics in California

The only known photograph of Dan Showalter, likely taken in California at the height of his political career, 1860-1861, at approximately age 30. Showalter was elected twice to the California State Assembly, serving on a number of committees as well as being elected Speaker Pro Tem of the Assembly in April of 1861, just as the Civil War began. The original photo is in the Showalter family collection.

William M. Gwin, extremely influential U.S. Senator from California. Head of the "Chivalry" (pro-Southern) movement in California. Until the election of David Broderick, Gwin virtually controlled California politics.

John C. Breckinridge, vice president of the United States in 1860. His entry into the 1860 presidential election as a pro-Southern, pro-secession candidate split the Democratic Party, allowing the candidate of the minority Republican Party -- Abraham Lincoln -- to win the presidency.

David S. Terry, justice of the California Supreme Court at the outbreak of the Civil War and a noted secessionist. Killed David C. Broderick in one of California's last political duels.

David C. Broderick, U.S. Senator from California, killed in his duel with Justice David Terry in 1859. Until the election of Broderick to the U.S. Senate, California's pro-Southern politics, ruled by William M. Gwin, had gone unchallenged.

First page of the official record of the California State Assembly’s opening session, January 5, 1857, reflecting Dan Showalter’s first political office.

Clipping from the Sacramento Daily Union of July 14, 1857, showing Dan Showalter as a delegate to the state’s Democratic Convention.

Clipping from the Sacramento Daily Union of January 7, 1861, listing members of the new California State Assembly and their political affiliations, Dan Showalter a staunch Breckinridge Democrat.

Although distant from the other American states, California was very much engaged in the nation’s politics on the eve of the Civil War. Among the controversies debated by California’s legislators was the Lecompton Constitution, one of four constitutions submitted to Congress for ratification of the statehood of Kansas. Southerners favored its allowance of the continuation of slavery but curtailment of the importation of slaves; Northerners found it unacceptable.

An anti-Lecomptonite political cartoon of the day.

The Daily Alta California of January 18, 1861, reports on the inability of the Assembly to elect a Speaker in the wake of disagreement over the Lecompton controversy. Unable to elect a speaker throughout the 1861 term, Dan Showalter served as Speaker Pro Tem as the Civil War began.