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 When I had finished my research -- which included the discovery of several previously unpublished items as well as obtaining the only known photograph from a Showalter descendent -- I had so much material that Susan exclaimed, "You've got a whole exhibit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

"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.

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