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 When I had finished my research -- which included the discovery of several previously unpublished items as well as obtaining the only known photograph from a Showalter descendent -- I had so much material that Susan exclaimed, "You've got a whole exhibit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

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 It was Bob who had gathered all of those wonderful previously unpublished photos and letters, and it was my greatest fortune in stumbling upon his contact information in an already several-year-old posting on a Civil War discussion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.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all your work. Been looking for a photo of Dan SHowalter 25 years now. A book about dueling in California will be issued by Stairway Press in September. I have sent a copy of your article and picture of Showalter to the publisher.
    Best, Christopher Burchfield