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 When I had finished my research -- which included the discovery of several previously unpublished items as well as obtaining the only known photograph from a Showalter descendent -- I had so much material that Susan exclaimed, "You've got a whole exhibit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, February 24, 2013

Recent contacts and new photos

One of the most exciting things about having done this research on Dan Showalter has been those folks who have contacted me "out of the blue" with new tidbits of information or, even better, previously unknown photographs of the dramatis personae in the Showalter saga. While I made the initial overtures in contacting Showalter descendent Bob Showalter which ultimately led to the finding of that wonderful, and only known, photo of Dan Showalter, these next folks I will be mentioning found me, on way of another.

An important figure in the later life of Dan Showalter is Finis Ewing Kavanaugh, the New Mexican physician, Indian fighter, territorial legislator, horse racer -- et cetera, et cetera -- who served as Showalter's second-in-command in the 4th Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade -- and also ended up Showalter's killer in that Mazatlan bar brawl. For what In my research, I have been hugely indebted to Fannie Kavanaugh Smith, descendant through FEK's (as we've come to address him) brother (please forgive, Fannie, if I've got the lineage wrong!) for both information and, yes, another only known photograph, this one found by her at, and published here with permission of, the University of Southern Mississippi:

Is this a fantastic old carte de visite or what? Fannie and I have recently been mulling over when this photo might have been taken. There are few clues. For one, if you look closely (remember, you can click on all of these photos and get larger views), FEK has his major's star on his collar -- but no black facing, which was the official collar for surgeons in the Confederate Army. Senior surgeons were often moved to brigade command and given additional line officer duties, which would imply this photo is from his 4th Texas Cavalry days -- but the reverse of the card implies an earlier date:

Granted, the penciled-in date is speculative by its very notation, but Kavanaugh's signature (?) is preceded by "Sr," for surgeon. Before his more active duties in 4th Texas Cavalry command, he indeed was the regimental surgeon (military records show the shift as of March 1864) -- but when would he have been in New Orleans? This may well have been following the battle at the Sabine Pass in early 1863 -- it is known he fought there as well as Showalter -- since that is right on the Texas-Louisiana border, but why, then, no black collar facing? Although it is known that uniform regulations were often more or less disregarded the farther west one went during the war. But at least as far as known postings and areas of action, the 4th Texas Cavalry, during its existence, was never really anywhere near New Orleans. So the mystery continues.

We'll save the historical discussion of FEK's interactions with Showalter until further posting(s).

Returning to the topic of folks popping up out of nowhere, I was just very recently contacted by one Gene Armistead from California. Gene is a fellow historian of California and the Southwest in the Civil War, with several publications along those lines. I can certainly recommend taking a look at his great article on the California Military Museum site about the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles, the only California militia group to go into the Confederate Army as a unit -- apparently the 3rd Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade! And then there's this about a truly obscure, but most interesting, topic, "Horses and Mules in the Civil War."

Gene contacted me about use of the Showalter photo for an article he is presently writing about the capture of the Showalter party in its first attempt to leave California for Texas in November 1861. I will certainly post notice of this article on this blog when it is published.

But one good turn leads to another, as they say. Gene then put me in contact with another new friend, Shirley Anne Wellman South. I provide this decorous appellation because Ms. South is the descendant of none other than Captain Chauncey Wellman -- commanding officer of the Union troops that captured Showalter and company on that late November day! As with Showalter himself and Bob's descent through his brother Elihu, Shirley is the great-great granddaughter of Capt. Wellman's brother Samuel. And with a double relation on top of that: Her antecedent Samuel and Capt. Wellman were married to sister!

Along with this new introduction came yet another previously unseen photo. Here is Capt. Chauncey Wellman in a photograph taken prior to the Civil War, when he was still a sergeant:

Ironically, at the time this photo was taken, Sergeant Wellman as posted in the Indian Territory -- where the newly formed 4th Texas Cavalry, Arizona Brigade, was first posted upon its formation.

Did these guys know how to wear uniforms or what?

I want to again thank all of these folks -- Bob, Fannie, Gene, Shirley -- both for their wonderful contributions and for their acquaintance and friendship.