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 When I had finished my research -- which included the discovery of several previously unpublished items as well as obtaining the only known photograph from a Showalter descendent -- I had so much material that Susan exclaimed, "You've got a whole exhibit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!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment