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 When I had finished my research -- which included the discovery of several previously unpublished items as well as obtaining the only known photograph from a Showalter descendent -- I had so much material that Susan exclaimed, "You've got a whole exhibit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

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. 

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