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 When I had finished my research -- which included the discovery of several previously unpublished items as well as obtaining the only known photograph from a Showalter descendent -- I had so much material that Susan exclaimed, "You've got a whole exhibit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

Friday, March 1, 2013

Palmito Yet Again

Now and again, I'm finding, it really is good to get back to old materials and read them yet again. After coming across that exculpatory first-person account in the Austin newspaper about what really happened on that fateful September day in 1864, I happened across the regimental return for that month -- with a startling discovery!

In that the report is not too lengthy, I will transcribe it here:
Note: At 6 O'clock P.M. 6th of Sept. 1864, the Reg't then stationed at Camp Palmeto on the Rio Grande River & 10 miles above its mouth, was attacked by the forces of the Mexican General Cortina from the Mexican side of the River with artillery. The Enemy's battery being out of range of small arms & there being no means of crossing the river to reach it, the Reg't held its position under fire until 1 o'clock P.M. when the Yankees from Brazos Santiago with about 500 Cavalry & 7 pieces of artillery advanced on the East side of the River and attacked the Camp from that direction. The position being no longer tenable, the Reg't fell back in the direction of Brownsville seven miles when the advance of the enemy was checked. On the 9th, the Reg't reinforced by Giddings Batt. attacked the enemy four miles abov & forced him back to this point. On the 11th, with other of the Expeditionary Forces under command of Col. Giddings, drove the enemy from this point, the Yankees retiring to Brazos Island & the Mexicans, who had joined them, to the Mexican side of the River. The Reg't then reoccupied this position, where it has remained quiet to the present date.

So this begins to look less and less the sudden cannonading taking the hopelessly drunk commander by total surprise that has been the version handed down through time. We now have Cortina's barrage beginning in the evening three days before Murrah's Rangers arrive, with that colorful account of extreme rain and flood conditions.

We now have 19 hours of overnight bombardment from across the river, immediately after which the Union attack begins, effectively surrounding Showalter's troops on September 7th. This means it was another two days, apparently of continued fighting to withstand the Union and Mexican advance, before reinforcement arrived, first, we know, by Murrah's Rangers, who met Showalter's troops still engaged, and then Giddings' troops later on the 9th. Even then, it took the reinforced regiment another two days, until the 11th, to retake their position on Palmito Hill.

I think the evidence becomes more and more convincing that this was no panicked fleeing of troops because of a commanding officer so drunk that he could not exercise command. This sounds like a protracted and heavily fought battle which ultimately led to no loss of territory. I become more and more convinced that Gen. Drayton had some ulterior motive in his ultimatum to Col. Ford that Showalter be court-martialed.

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