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Archive for February, 2011

Remembering Dowling: Library Assignment #1

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

First of I would like to say that microfilm is not my friend. Finding and chronicling the article from “list A” was a chore I wish not to repeat. I had a much easier time looking up the second article as it was in book form. For what its worth I think we should keep all articles in book form. But I digress.

The first article that I dealt with was “Hero of Sabine Pass buried, forgotten here in hometown” by Bob Tutt published in the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday September 2, 1997. The article addressed how we view Dick Dowling today. The article had a tone of trying to remember Dick Dowling, but I feel that this was overshadowed by current events in 2007. Just three days before Princess Diana was killed in a car crash, the entire world was memorializing and trying to remember the Princess. The Chronicle was filled with articles about the Princess; it was near impossible to find a page that didn’t have an article about Diana. I feel that the title of the Dowling article was ironic, “Hero of Sabine Pass buried, forgotten here in hometown.” The article was meant to address why Houston’s hero had fallen from the public sphere, on this day Dowling’s legacy was overshadowed because of the news of Princess Diana’s death.

It is a sad fact that we do not memorialize and give our heroes the credit that they deserve. The article addresses the often-ignored aspect of Dowling’s Irish heritage. Dowling was forced to leave Ireland with his sister to escape the plights of the Irish Potato Famine. He soon Settled in Houston and adopted it as his home. Dowling was largely invested in the city Texas gave him the opportunity to make something of himself. The article notes his many business ventures in Houston and his impact on the city as a business leader. I believe that the article helps to answer the question: “Why did Dowling, a non-slave owning Irish immigrant, enlist to serve in the Confederate army?” The answer is because he was fighting to protect his home. In her book Manning argued that all Southerners fought to preserve slavery in one form or the other, but we get the impression from this article that this was not so with Dowling. Dowling was a well to do businessman, an immigrant, and as an Irishman someone who had see the evils of the oppression of a people. The article mentions how Dowling treated blacks fairly, even empowering them with leases on property where no rent was collected. This article leads me to believe that the “Hero of Sabine Pass” was fighting because he felt a moral obligation to defend the people and place that had given him so much. It is truly a shame that Dowling’s memory is beginning to fade and be stymied by false accusations of racism. As Houstonian we should make an effort to honor Dowling once again as one of our city’s greatest heroes, and as a man who went to war for honorable reasons.

The second article that I researched was an article from “Confederate Veteran” magazine this article, “Presentation of Dick Dowling Sword,” was very different from the Houston Chronicle article. In 1901, when this article was written, Dick Dowling’s memory was at its strongest. The article goes as far as to describe Dowling as “the sainted hero of Sabine Pass.” The article detailed the ceremony at which Dick Dowling’s sword was presented to the Dick Dowling Camp of Veterans. This called me to question the statements made when researching the Dowling monument that Dowling did not have a sword. It makes me believe that the Statue of Dowling depicts him with his sword because this “relic” of the Civil War hero had been recently given to the Dick Dowling Camp in the years just prior to the monument’s erection. The article goes on to list the men who fought with Dowling at Sabine Pass, and gives a summary of the battle. On a related note the article states: “the names of every one of whom should be raised in golden letters upon the monument to be erected to the memory of [Dowling].” This makes me wonder: “What was the reason that the names are not ‘raised in gold’ on the monument as it stands today?” The officers of the Dick Dowling Camp are all noted in the article and intensive biographies are provided for the two surviving members of the Davis Guards. The article gives us perspective about what men made up the Dick Dowling Camp, and what they valued in 1901. It should be noted that Dowling was not depicted as a Houstonian, businessman or Irishman. But that the Irish heritage of the two surviving members of the Davis Guards is noted, also we should take not of the histories of these two men, both had similar backgrounds to Dowling. Neither of these men had any reason to fight to preserve the institution of slavery. It is important that we remember Dowling and these men for that, and not allow the issue of slavery to tarnish their memories in any way. The portrayal of Dowling is as a heroic savior, a “saint,” a “honorable, charitable, and just man. It appears that the perception of Dowling at this time was that of greater than man. The depiction of Dick Dowling as a fearless and venerated leader in the statue, that now sits in Hermann Park resonates thorough this article.

Both articles contribute to the memory of Dick Dowling. I think that it is important to remember Dowling as the man of both articles. It is important that we not forget who Dick Dowling was or what he did for out city. We must work to strengthen and preserve Dowling’s memory so that he is not lost to time.

Library Assignment 1

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

This week I went deep into the bowels of Fondren library to the Kelley Government & Microform section to go in search of articles pertaining to Dick Dowling’s memorial or the Battle of Sabine Pass. I will confess though, that either Dr. McDaniel or Mercy Harper, had to do the real grunt work to find where these articles lived in the probable millions of pages stored in microfilm.  I found two articles of note.

The first we have seen before in the Houston Public Library Digital Archive. It is from September 14 1939 and documents briefly the relocation of the Dowling statue from its original site at Market Square (Preston & Travis streets today) to Sam Houston Park. The author of the article, while adhering to modern journalist tendencies to keep objective, shows a bit of disappointment at the move when he contrasts that “a fleet of yankee gunboats couldn’t dislodge” Lt. Dowling whereas it took only a few workers to take him off his pedestal. Furthermore, it notes that Dowling’s statue was being moved to make room for the construction of bus sheds because old City Hall was being converted into a bus station after the move of the city government to a new building. Of interest to our study of the memory of the Civil War, the article states that the monument was erected in 1905 by the “Dock (sic) Dowling Camp of United Confederate veterans” with the “aid of other organizations”. I attribute the spelling error to poor copy-editing, not a deliberate slight, however it is clear that in 1939 the UCV takes credit for the memorial. Also of interest is the relative obscurity of the article. It was found on the last page of the local section, almost added as a post-script next to an article on garbage service satisfaction. The newspaper as a whole was primarily focused on the escalation of WWII in Europe.

The second article, in my opinion is a lot more interesting for the study of Dick Dowling and the memory of Sabine Pass. It comes from a June 12, 1893 edition of The Galveston Daily News. Although it starts with a few pronouns without antecedents that confuse where the author gets his information (eventually it is revealed to be a veteran of the battle), it embarks on a history of the events at Sabine Pass with particular attention paid to the actions of Dowling and Dr. G.H. Bailey, a volunteer that joined Dowling during the fight. There are a few very important details relevant to the public history of the Battle of Sabine Pass. First, the article mentions that the Davis Guards (and the volunteers) were given silver medals by the people of Houston in the battle’s aftermath. Interestingly this commemoration was spearheaded by a Catholic priest– father Luerat, which leads me to believe that the Irish aspect of commemoration existed the length of post-Civil War history. Secondly, the article also addresses the controversy of how many men fought in the battle of Sabine Pass. It states 44 (42 Davis Guards and 2 Volunteers) were present.  Thirdly, the author raises the point of the plight of veterans. While this was written before Dowling’s statue was erected, he despises the fact that money is spent creating monuments in favor of providing social services to veterans who must rely on the “bread of charity”.  The author also concludes with an interesting observation: that “old confederates cheer loudly when the bands strike ‘Hail Columbia’…and the compliment is returned when ‘Dixie’ floats upon the air.

The article, while helping to satisfy the eternal questions of historians: “what actually happened” and “who was involved”, has raised a few questions particularly with regards to commemoration. Who was Father Luerat, and was he actually associated with an Irish church or was Catholicism irrelevant? This might mean that Irish commemoration of Sabine Pass started much earlier than we thought. Also, is the social commentary of the article – that monument funds should be shunted to help veterans – purely the views of the author? Or did public opinion begin to shift away from monuments in the 1890s, and thus Dick Dowling’s monument needed Irish support to overcome this block in public opinion?

Library Assignment #1

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

The first article I analyzed was from the May 17, 1958 issue of the Houston Chronicle and titled “Dowling Statue Deserves Display.”  The article appeared on the front page and it advocated the memorializing of Dowling.  According to the article, the statue had been in storage for about a year at the time the article was written, but that it was going to be placed in Hermann Park soon.  The article goes on to explain Dowling’s role in the Battle of Sabine Pass, why he is an important figure for Houstonians to remember, and advocating the value of a public display for him.

To be honest, the placement of the Dowling article on the front page strikes me as a little bit odd.  It is sort of news because it announces that a display for Dowling will eventually be erected in Hermann Park, but the rest of the article is almost an editorial about why Dowling deserves to be honored.  It’s located under a heading called “Our City” though, so I imagine that the article might be part of a series featuring local news.  Nonetheless, the article seems like it would be more suited for the opinion page than the front page since it advances such a distinct viewpoint.

Some of the other articles I took note in the same issue of the Chronicle were about the Algerian Crisis and Charles de Gaulle’s return to politics in France.  As a political science major, I found that particularly fascinating because I remember learning about how the May 1958 crisis eventually led to the establishment of the Fifth Republic in France.  Slightly more pertinent to the Dowling statue, I found an article about how a student committee had passed a resolution supporting the desegregation of every aspect of campus-life at the University of Texas.  Certainly, the conflict over desegregation in that period might have influenced people’s opinions about honoring a Confederate hero.  Unfortunately, there was no byline on my article, so I couldn’t try to find out if the author had some sort of agenda in pushing for Houstonians to honor Dowling.

The second article I analyzed was from the August 22, 1937 issue of the Houston Post.  It was a story recounting two historical events that occurred during the Civil War and highlighting the heroics of the Confederate soldiers and officers involved.  The first part of the article talked about the sinking of the U.S.S. Hatteras by the CSS Alabama near Galveston in January of 1863.  The author of the article was apparently a child living in Galveston at the time and the account was rather one-sided.  It basically talked about how the Confederates beat the odds to sink the larger Hatteras and commended them for their heroics and valor.  The second part of the article discussed the Battle of Sabine Pass when the Confederates again beat the odds to score a victory against the Union.  Dick Dowling is mentioned in the article, but a lot of attention is paid to the other Confederate officers involved.  It gives a very detailed account of events on the Confederate side leading up to the conflict.

This article was clearly written from a pro-Confederate point of view and paints the Confederates as heroes fighting against difficult odds during the Civil War.  I’m not sure if the general population of Houston was pro-Confederate at the time the article was published, but the author clearly is.  However, since the author remembers the Civil War, he must’ve been quite old at the time the article was published and his views might not have been shared by most people.  The fact that these accounts were published in a mainstream publication though supports the idea that holding pro-Confederate views in 1937 wasn’t totally frowned upon in Houston.  I thought it was interesting that the article made no mention of why the South was fighting the Civil War.  There was no mention of slavery or states’ rights.  Instead the events recounted in the article were treated as an underdog story of victory.

A Glorious Affair

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I examined the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph from September 12th, 1863, and found an article entitled “Glorious Affair at Sabine Pass,” which appears to be the initial account in the Telegraph of the battle and its outcome. It is a relatively brief chronological account of the battle, consisting of one paragraph, and written largely objectively, although at the end it expresses a strain of pride:

“The Davis Guards, under the command of Lt. Dowling and Lt. Smith, of the Engineer corps, who [commenced] to assist, have won lasting honors for themselves and their country. Not a man hurt or a gun [dismantled] – all ready for another fight. The prisoners say there is ten thousand (10,000) [men] on board their vessels, and [will] come again, but we are now better prepared and await their pleasure.”

This account was submitted by someone calling themselves “Uncle Ben” and dated the 8th of September, 1863. An addendum dated the next day reports that prisoners from the battle have arrived in Beaumont. It is interesting to note that the article mentions nowhere the Irish background of Dowling and the Davis Guards, an aspect of the heroes that would be played up in later years, as illustrated beautifully by the other articles I analyzed.

Jumping ahead over 40 years, I also examined the Houston Chronicle from March 17, 1905, the day the Dick Dowling monument was unveiled where it originally stood, in Market Square at the corner of Travis Street and Preston Avenue. As this was St. Patrick’s Day, the paper was full of reports on Irish festivities around Houston, and as Dowling and the Davis Guards are local Irish heroes, remembrance of their achievements was woven into many of the celebrations of the day. Interestingly, the paper seems very praiseworthy of the Irish, dedicating much space to report on their festivities.

Within the paper, I found two articles explicitly honoring Dowling and his fellow Davis Guards. On the front page of the paper is an article entitled “Three Out of Forty-Seven: Trio of Sabine Pass Heroes Received With Cheers.” The article chronicles how three of the four members of the Davis Guards still alive at this time came to Houston for the unveiling of the Dowling monument. Although many Confederate veterans were in town for the day, the Davis Guards received special attention, being transported in carriages as part of a parade; according to the article, as they passed along the parade route, “they were applauded again and again and the cheers brought to them smiles of satisfaction and pleasure. ” Indeed, the article paints a picture of a joyous and momentous celebration. The unveiling ceremonies were honored by the presence of not only Mayor A. L. Jackson of Houston, but Governor S. W. T. Lanham, who both gave speeches. The author is particularly praiseworthy of Lanham’s oration. The article makes brief mention of how, amidst the joy, time was taken to remember and honor the “late lamented” John A. Reagan, whose relevance to Dowling, Houston, or the Irish was probably obvious to contemporary readers but is no longer clear from this article, and ends with a brief portrait of the hardships faced by Dowling in his early life, which we know little about.

The second noteworthy article, entitled “Monument is Now Unveiled: Houston Pays Tribute to Memory of a Hero,” begins on page 9 and continues on page 11. This article starts out with sentimental praise for Irish Confederates and Confederates in general, lamenting the march of time which was then thinning out the survivors of the Civil War. Although “Three Out of Forty-Seven” displayed some pride and praise, this article is definitely much more emotional, and portrays the unveiling ceremony as an even more exciting and crowded affair than the former article had conveyed, poetically describing the scene and noting that “a jam of humanity” swarmed around the statue for the celebration. The article describes the monument in detail, even down to the complete inscription, including the full roster of the Davis Guards. A poem, written by Wharton resident Mrs. Ellen R. Croom, has been included, which praises the heroes of Sabine Pass and calls the survivors back to Houston to honor Dick Dowling, a request that all but one of them had indeed fulfilled. Interestingly, the introductory notes to the poem repeatedly report that Dowling fought alongside forty-one men, while elsewhere in the article the number is given as forty-seven, as well as in the very title of the previously discussed article. I theorize this is because Mrs. Croom’s poem, which mentions forty-one men, is at odds with the newspaper’s information that there were forty-seven, but rather than mentioning the discrepancy they just allowed it to exist, counting on the readers not to notice or care. Finally, a historical account of the Battle of Sabine Pass is given. This account, by the recently deceased Dudley D. Bryan, was not written fresh for this issue of the paper, but was taken from a souvenir pamphlet which had been composed for the St. Patrick’s Day four years prior and used to help raise money for the monument fund.

I did find that the primary, contemporary account of the battle, published merely days after the events, did not glorify the victory as much as I may have thought. Certainly it expresses pride in the accomplishments of the Davis Guards, but for an event that Jefferson Davis and others would so laud as being another Thermopylae, the initial report is quite restrained, and occupies a relatively small chunk of the rightmost side of the page, with little fanfare. This may be journalistic professionalism to maintain a somewhat objective viewpoint, or a hesitation to get too excited, as the prisoners had threatened that ten thousand men remained aboard the escaped vessels and would make another attempt to breach the pass. It seems that as time passed and word spread, people became more impressed with the feat of the Davis Guards and sought to honor them.

Evidence of how praise of their achievements has inflated over time can be found in Bryan’s account of the battle, as found in “Monument is Now Unveiled.” Written almost 40 years later, it is more detailed, with many of the details serving to add to the overall effect of impressing the reader with the immense odds the Davis Guards were able to conquer. For instance, while “Glorious Affair at Sabine Pass” references only a “fort,” Bryan’s account is sure to point out that said fort “consisted of a simple earthwork, barely large enough to mount six guns.” “It was hard to convince the prisoners that the entire number of their captors was less than fifty,” Bryan claims. In addition, he provides following anecdote, in which the Davis Guards cry out as one articulate voice:

“General Magruder sent orders to spike the guns, blow up the fort and retreat to Taylor’s bayou, and there attempt to hold the enemy in check. When these orders were conveyed to Lieutenant Dowling he addressed his men, asking if they wanted to spike the guns and retreat.

With a loud cry of indignation they said: ‘No! We prefer to fight while there is a detachment to man the guns.'”

While ostensibly objective, Bryan’s account contains some material that seems a bit anecdotal, and the details given are calculated to provide an effect of the bravery of the Davis Guards and the impressiveness of their victory, which Bryan calls “one of the most remarkable achievements of the civil war.”

From Conflict to Conflict: Irish Immigration to the Secessionist South

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

When we wrote our original observations and questions about the Dick Dowling monument, I considered the discrimination with which Irishmen were viewed in the Civil War era and asked,

“Just as people find it fascinating to imagine why blacks might want to fight for the Confederacy, as we have just discussed, it is also interesting to debate why ethnic minorities, especially recent immigrants, would want to fight for a country that their family had not long inhabited and which did not always treat them with respect. Why would Irishmen fight under a climate that often did not recognize them as ideal Americans?”

Browsing through the Houston Public Library’s archives have given me some food for thought on an answer to this question, for the Irish at least.

During his adult life, Dowling was a citizen so popular that the Houston Daily Telegraph reported on his sickness and recovery and cautioned, “Houston cannot afford to lose such men as you” (Muir 207). Yet over time his memory has faded to such an extent that people have to be constantly informed and reminded of his identity and history, as many documents in the archive attest. His great-great-grandniece, Ann Caraway Ivins, found that even at a Houston middle school named in his honor, only one faculty member knew anything about him (SC1268-f1-19).

The people who have kept Dowling’s memory alive over the years seem to be Confederate and other historical societies and Irish heritage societies. However, the former have fallen significantly from public repute after the Civil Rights movement. Yet in today’s United States culture of political correctness and multicultural celebration, it makes sense that cultural societies have thrived, and their influence over memory of Dowling as an influential Irish Houstonian rather than just a Civil War hero has been allowed to prevail.

Thus we see two different sides of the Dowling memory which, if not exactly competing with each other, have allowed people to focus on what they find most admirable about the hero as well as what is most socially acceptable to the general public at the time. But the fact that Dowling was Irish is not just incidental to his involvement in the Civil War. He signed up with a group made up heavily of his fellow Irish and led by an Irishman, his uncle-in-law (Muir 181). Ivins believes that “it wasn’t ideology that decided which side they [the Irish] fought for. It was where they lived” (SC1268-f1-19). Nevertheless, ideology cannot be ignored, as these men were alive and full of thoughts and opinions, and doubtless would not have fought with their much-lauded bravery if not for what they deemed a good cause. Here I am reminded of Manning’s plea that we no longer can view soldiers as hapless victims of politics and circumstance, but movers and shakers of history in themselves.

I find clues as to why an Irishman would want to fight for the Confederacy, at least, in the history of what was going on in Ireland at the time. Dr. John Anthony Claffey, in his speech at the monument’s rededication ceremony in 1997, paints a picture of the political climate of the Emerald Isle at the time Dowling emigrated. He notes that Ireland was being subjugated by England in various ways, including taxation to support a church they had no loyalties to, unjust control by absentee landlords, and removal of the Irish parliament (SC1268-f1-22). An Irishman who had immigrated to the South would certainly understand the sectional conflict and sympathize with secessionists, having just come from a climate where their home country was being externally controlled and sought to break away.

But I still have less clear ideas on why an Irishman might want to fight for the Union, as heavy immigration patterns in the North led to heavy discrimination there. Remember the strength of the nativist Know-Nothing party in the North, as mentioned in the Kornblith article:

“‘By 1855,’ Holt observed, ‘[Know Nothings] controlled all the New England states except Vermont and Maine, and … were the major anti-Democratic party in the Middle Atlantic states and California.'”

Could it be, as Ivins suggests, that Irish would sympathize with the “underdogs in the world,” that is, the slaves (SC1268-f1-19)? Is there a counterpart Irish Union hero who could provide a starting point for looking into these questions?

Memorializing Dowling

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Looking through the Houston Public Library Digital Archives, it becomes apparent that the historical figure of Dick Dowling has meant different things to different people at different periods of time.  Dick Dowling was a Confederate soldier, an Irishman, and a Civic Leader in Houston.  However, which aspects of his life and memory are emphasized depends on who is doing the memorializing and what the purpose of the memorializing is.  I focused on the recent portrayal of Dowling in the media because, although he is still clearly regarded as a Houston “hero”, very few people still consider the Southern rebellion to have been heroic.  In order to maintain Dowling’s hero status in Houston, it seems that his identity as an Irishman and civic leader has become the emphasis when memorializing him.  Attention that is given to his military service in the past few decades seems to have a more neutral tone rather than being a celebration of his service or military heroics because that is no longer socially acceptable.

This can be seen in a 1989 Houston Chronicle article about Dowling’s mark on the city that focuses primarily on Dowling’s military service (RGA33-b2f27-35).  The article is about Dowling’s prominance, but the article is not inherently positive.  It is simply a reflection about Dowling’s influence in Houston.  It makes no claim that Dowling was fighting for any sort of great cause and it does not explicitly proclaim him as a hero.  Rather, the article’s reason for memorializing Dowling seems to be to inform the public about who he was and why he influenced Houston.  There is no attempt by the article to celebrate Dowling’s actions at Sabine Pass.  It is simply pointed out that they were quite notable at the time and influenced Houston.

During the rededication of the Dowling statue in 1997, the focus was on Dowling’s Irish history and civic contributions to Houston.  His heroics at the Battle of Sabine Pass are mentioned in a press release about the rededication, but the ceremony is described as a “celebration of Irish heritage” and occurred on St. Patrick’s Day.  It was also hosted by the Dick Dowling Irish Heritage Society and the keynote speaker was a historian from Tuam County, Ireland (RGA33-b2f27-21).  The lack of emphasis given to Dowling’s Confederate ties is probably because the event was clearly meant to celebrate Dowling’s life.  By 1997, any celebration of the Confederate cause would have been controversial.  This is evidenced by an article from a few months later, when an African-American historian protested the streets named after Dowling because he fought for the Confederacy (RGA33-b2f27-44).  This article focuses on Dowling’s military service and it certainly does not portray Dowling as heroic.  The only appropriate way to celebrate Dowling and his influence on Houston was to focus on the non-controversial aspects of his life.  If his Confederate service has been a major focus, the rededication event could not have been completely celebratory and positive.

Dick Dowling has been considered a Houstonian hero for generations.  However, as time has passed, public opinion about what is heroic and what isn’t has shifted.  Rather than revoking Dowling’s hero status as fervor for the Confederate cause has faded, the Digital Archives show that different aspects of Dowling’s life have been emphasized instead.  His military service in recent years has been presented neutrally while his status as a prominent Irishman and civic leader in Houston has been brought to the forefront.  This allows people to continue celebrating Dowling as a hero without having to also celebrate the Confederate cause.

Library Archive Post

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

The two most frequently asked questions of Blog Post 2 were: “I would like to know more about the groups who sponsored the statue,” and “Why is the statue in its current unsuitable location.” I believe that both of these questions are answered by the documents in the Houston Library Dick Dowling Archive. The archive contains many documents related to the Statue of Dick Dowling including meeting minutes, invitations to events, event programs and a scrapbook of the statues life. Through studding these documents we can find very clear answers to the questions we previously posed about the statue of Dick Dowling. I will address the answers found to the two questions mentioned above in two ways- the meaning in the past and the meaning now.

The first question posed was “Who put up this statue?” Through examination of the documents we find that they groups who erected the statue in 1905 were very diverse. There were Catholic organizations, Irish heritage organizations and Civil War Veteran organizations. We can see from the meeting minutes posted exactly who put money in to the statue and what groups played rolls in shaping the appearance of the statue. From the research we find that the people who erected the statue of Dowling were just Houstonians of every type. Now we must look at why the statue was refurbished and rededicated in 1997. To best understand this we must first look at who pushed and supported the refurbishment of the statue. As we can see from the statue’s rededication program. (SC1268-01-03/06) Many different groups played a roll in the Statue’s re-birth. Once again Irish societies contributes, confederate Veteran’s societies contributed, catholic societies contributed, and Houstonians contributed. The only new group to honor the statue was the Irish town of Tuam, Dowling’s birthplace. We can see Tuam’s support in the letter from the Tuam Commissioner. (SC1268-f1-17)
The second question posed was “Why such a bad Location?” I personally never believed that the location of the Dowling statue was “bad.” The statue has been in a place of importance since its original dedication. The statue rested in front of both city halls as described in the archive. (SC1268-01-03) Also we must look at why the statue was moved. As JCD2 pointed out the statue’s location in Herman Park is not “some obscure corner,” but one of the major entrances to the park. Though this entrance is not the “best” location in the park, I am sure that if we were to look at the number of people passing the statue every day we would find that the placement of the statue is comparable to its former location in front of city hall.

Lastly I would like to raise some of the questions that I had while looking through the archive. The first being why do people appreciate the statue today? Is it for their Irish heritage? For their pride in a hero? Or is it for the local connection of Dowling to Houston. Another question I had was: “What is the sentiment about Confederate heritage today.” I noticed that in many of the articles about the statue, including articles in the Catholic Harold (SC1268-f1-15) and the Houston Chronicle (SC1268-f1-13), the term “The War Against States” was used instead of Civil War. This makes me wonder about what the Civil War, or the War Between the States, means to Houstonians today.

Houston Digital Archive — 20th Century Views of the Civil War

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

“Had the commanding general of the [Union] expedition not proved himself both incompetent and cowardly, the expedition doubtlessly would have been a brilliant success.” (“Dick Dowling and the Battle of Sabine Pass”, 195)

This statement by late Rice professor Andrew Muir in 1958 belittles the military victory of Dowling at Sabine Pass, once called by Jefferson Davis “The Confederacy’s Thermopylae”, by attributing the Union defeat to atrocious leadership.  Only 55 years early hough, the Dick Dowling Memorial Association had amassed a large sum of money to buy a huge 7-foot statue of precious Italian Carrara marble to proclaim the exact opposite of Muir.  What happened between these two acts to cause this shift in opinion? The documents of the archive, especially news clippings post-1905 show a gradual shift in public opinion away from the triumphant image of Dick Dowling as “The Hero of Sabine Pass” to Dick Dowling as “the model Irish citizen” and downplaying his Confederate past.  Jocelyn and Alex both wondered how the statue has been maintained and with what sentiments it was viewed over time. The documents of the archive answer these questions in part by giving glimpses of public opinion from 1905 to 1997 at key points in the statues history.  They also provide a great jumping point for further study of trends in popular remembrance of the Civil War in the 20th century.

In 1905, on Saint Patrick’s Day, the statue to Dowling was dedicated with the fervor of a New York ticker-tape parade. Articles from the Houston Chronicle document that the “cavalcade…was gay with color” and the line of the march was “thronged with people…bent upon witnessing the ceremony”. (RGA33-b2f27-53) Amongst the speakers were important politicians of the day, such as John Kirby and Texas Governor SWT Lanham, who “referred to the deeds of the past and then to the work of Dowling at Sabine Pass [and] recited the record evidence of the greatness of the achievement” (RGA33-b2f27-54) In 1905, this monument was above all a remembrance of the Confederate cause.  While the journalist writes that ‘veterans of the Lost Cause’ will march alongside the ‘sons of Erin’ (an Irish Heritage club), he notes the monument was not only a monument to Sabine Pass, but also a monument to the patriotism of the [Confederate] citizens of the city and the members of the UCV Dick Dowling Camp 197.

Furthermore, what I originally assumed to be neglect that caused the statue to be moved from City Hall in 1939 was probably not the cause for the statue’s first location transfer.  Instead the program of the 1997 re-dedication ceremony leads us to believe that Dowling’s memory was still in high regard in 1939. It writes that the statue’s 1939 relocation to Sam Houston Park coincides with City Hall’s movement to the same area. (SC1268-01-03)

In the 1950s, however, it appears that public opinion shifted definitively against the Confederate memory of Dowling.  In 1957, the statue was put in storage during restoration of Sam Houston Park, and it was decided to not be returned to its old spot.  Instead, the statue was planned to be erected (and actually its pedestal was already placed) in the current location of George Hermann’s statue [at the corner of Fannin and Cambridge]. (RGA33-b2f27-59) However,  the memory of Dowling did not have the popular support at the time to sway Hermann’s estate from using the spot  and relegating Dowling’s statue to its unpopular spot at the Southwestern corner of the park. Since then, apart from a 1966 ceremony by the SCV and UDC, the statue has taken a strongly Irish memory.

When the statue was restored and rededicated in 1997, credit for its funding was devoid of Confederate interests. Instead, money was provided by the Houston Public Art Commission and the Dick Dowling Irish Heritage Society.  The Master of Ceremonies was Larry Miggins, an Irish-American who was featured in the Houston Chronicle 12 years earlier as being the sole conservator of the statue, and the keynote speaker was a historian from Tuam, Ireland.  (RGA33-b2f27-05). Apart from a brief summary of the Battle of Sabine Pass, the only reference to his military exploits is a Military Salute by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 858) at the conclusion of the ceremony. Clearly, in 1997, the organizers found it more prudent to emphasize his civic accomplishments and Irish pride, rather than using his status as war-hero to remember the Civil War.

In brief, the archive has a very valuable compilation of newspaper articles that trace the monument’s memory across the 20th century. Of course, as with any good summary, a better understanding of the overall trends begs the question: why. Why was Dowling’s statue not replaced in Sam Houston Park in 1958 with other monuments to Houston’s past? Was the Civil Rights movement a causative factor for this shift in public memory of the monument?  (see RGA33-b2f27-44 for an idea of African-American backlash to Dowling’s statue) On the other hand, why did in 1966, a consortium of 5 UDC and SCV camps create a large plaque dedicated to Dowling near his statue that called him “leader in victory, unparalleled in world history”, overestimate the Union force by 10,000, and call no attention to his civic roles as a Houstonian? Was it simply backlash to the tarnished name of the Confederacy during Civil Rights, or was there a larger upsurge in Civil War remembrance? Could this have a possible tie in with Ijames’s “Black Confederates” argument that 20th century amateur historians have distorted the confederate memory to make it more heroic or palatable?

The Hypothetical Presidency of Henry Clay

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Gary Kornblith’s article examines what might have occurred if the Mexican-American War had not taken place because Henry Clay defeated James K. Polk in the 1844 Presidential Election.  In doing this, he tries to find causation for the Civil War and determine whether it was inevitable because of ingrained cultural and political differences between the North and South (the fundamentalist view) or due to poor political decisions and actions by leaders and politicians (the neo-revisionist view).

First, Kornblith justifies his hypothetical Clay victory by explaining the factors involved in the Election of 1844.  He contends that Clay’s loss did not have to do with his reluctance to annex Texas or go to war with Mexico.  Rather, Clay lost because of an extremely close vote in New York where Polk and the Democratic Party had strong immigrant support.  The result was so close that Kornblith argues it only went to Polk because of chance and could easily have gone the other way.

Next, Kornblith outlines how a Clay Presidency likely would’ve gone using evidence of Clay’s policy views as support.  He posits that Texas annexation would not have occurred under Clay and that the Republic of Texas would’ve existed harmoniously, but separately from the United States.  He also believes that Mexico would’ve eventually recognized the Republic of Texas.  The future of California under the hypothetical Clay Presidency is not as certain, but Kornblith believes that an independent California might have occurred.  Kornblith’s main conclusion, however, is that America’s westward expansion would’ve been halted under Clay.  Instead, Kornblith argues that economic issues like a National Bank would have dominated Clay’s presidency and that those debates would have sparked partisan conflict rather than sectional conflict.  Also, the absence of westward expansion would mean no Wilmot Proviso to bring the slavery issue up again for debate.  Kornblith concludes that Clay would’ve attempted to keep slavery out of national politics and that he would not have supported emancipation or expansion of slavery.

Following a hypothetical Clay Presidency, Kornblith discusses the possible course the country would’ve taken.  He addresses whether or not the Whig Party would’ve collapsed without the issue of slavery driving the development of the Republican Party.  Without the lands gained from the Mexican-American War, there would’ve been no contentious Kansas-Nebraska Act and Kornblith concludes that the Whigs probably would’ve survived until 1857 when the economic crisis would’ve reignited partisan conflict and strengthened them even more.  Under this scenario, slavery would continue to exist in the South and no Civil War would’ve broken out.  Kornblith also believes that abolition of slavery was not inevitable and that without the war, it might have persisted into the 20th Century.

Kornblith’s ultimate conclusions are that the Mexican-American War was necessary for the Civil War to occur and that the Civil War was necessary for the abolition of slavery.  Southerners forced the issue of slavery by objecting to the Wilmot Proviso out of principle when they might have just let it go since slavery in the existing Southern states wasn’t being challenged.  The decision to force the issue, a political miscalculation, caused the Civil War in Kornblith’s opinion.  This conclusion is more in line with neo-revisionist view that the Civil War was not inevitable, but the result of decisions by politicians.  However, unlike some neo-revisionists who think abolition would’ve occurred peaceably without the Civil War, Kornblith does not view the emancipation of slaves as inevitable.

I find Kornblith’s arguments to be quite persuasive.  His counter-factual scenario seems logical even though no one can say with any certainty how events would’ve happened if Clay had been elected.  Mainly though, I find his arguments persuasive because of what I’ve learned about the rise and fall of American political parties in several of my political science classes.  We discussed the theory and history of party realignments in the United States.  Party realignments (like the rise of the Republican Party) occur when mass numbers of people change their voting habits because of a particular crisis.  Kornblith’s argument that slavery might never have become a full-blown crisis if not for the Mexican-American War is compelling and without that crisis, the realignment towards the Republican Party would’ve been unlikely to occur.

Fundamentalists argue that the differences between the North and South were so ingrained that slavery could not be reconciled without war and I can buy that.  However, I don’t buy that reconciliation of these differences was inevitable.  Without a crisis, support for the Republican Party might never have crystallized and the fundamental differences between the North and South might’ve continued to exist for generations longer.  However, even without the issue of slavery in new federal territories, it’s possible that some other crisis related to slavery might have eventually occurred.  Fundamentalists would probably argue that some sort of slavery-related crisis was inevitable.  I’m unconvinced that either the fundamentalists or the neo-revisionists provide a completely adequate argument.  Kornblith’s article is very convincing, however, that events easily could’ve occurred differently than they did and that the Civil War might have been delayed for a generation or two, at the very least.

Henry Clay-President

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

What if the Mexican-American war, would the American Civil War have occurred? This is the question posed by Kornblith in his essay “Rethinking the Coming of the Civil War.” Kornblith relies on then confactual reasoning method to determine the outcome of American History if Henry Clay had won New York in the election of 1844.
Kornblith asserts, “Had Clay won the “Manifest Destiny” of the United States would not have included Texas or the other lands seeded to the US as a result of the Mexican-American War.” (80) Kornblith later points out that with Polk’s nomination and election a very strong pro-annexation camp grew within the Democratic Party. Kornblith uses a letter written by Clay to support his argument that had Clay come to office no annexation would have occurred. Clay wrote in this letter “[That the annexation of Texas or war with Mexico] would menace the existence [of the US], if it did not certainly sow the seeds of a dissolution of the Union.” Kornblith writes off the results of the 1844 election as “arbitrary” citing the immigrant-vote turn out in New York as the deciding factor in the entire election.
The second argument Kornblith makes is that Clay’s election would have led to a renewal of the two-party system. (89) Because the issue of annexation should be off the table, Kornblith suggests that political discussions of Clay’s presidency should revolve around tariffs, the establishment of a national bank, and other social issues of the day. Kornblith writes “the conflict over economic issues would have strengthened the second party system and pushed the slavery question into the background of national politics. (90)
Kornblith notes the untenability of the institution of southern slavery, giving Gavin Wright’s work as an example of this. Wright writes, “Political friction between the slave owners and the free white workers…would not have gone uncontested.” (91) Wright follows this up by purposing that “a variant of the South African compromise should have developed” in the American South. (91) Kornblith states on page 92 that “slavery would have persisted… past 1865.” Because “Clay supported the gradual abolition of slavery, [had Clay been elected] he would have neither supported immediate abolition nor would he have acted to further slavery.”(94) Kornblith asserts “Clay’s administration… would have successfully contained sectional differences over justice for fugitive slaves.”(96) Kornblith notes that the sustainability of the second party system was an unsure thing, but that the second party system would have once again been revived in the later half of the 1850s. (100)
I tend to agree with Kornblith’s argument that if Henry Clay had been elected president in the 1844 election the Civil War probably would not have occurred. After reading Kornblith’s argument I believe that the driving force behind the Civil War and the secession of the Southern States was the annexation of Texas and the belief in of Manifest Destiny. I believe that the Issue of slavery was merely the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” While it is not reasonable to believe that all of the events would have conspired just as Kornblith suggested they would, I believe that this model accurately allows us to identify the underlying causes of the Civil War. The theories of the fundamentalists are too simple, the often leave out the most important political and social factors that drove this country to war. Kornblith’s essay accurately takes all factors in to account, and provides the most complete explanation for the question “what caused the Civil War?”