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 When I had finished my research -- which included the discovery of several previously unpublished items as well as obtaining the only known photograph from a Showalter descendent -- I had so much material that Susan exclaimed, "You've got a whole exhibit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

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