Book Review: "An Arch Rebel Like Myself": Dan Showalter and the Civil War in California and Texas


by Gene C. Armistead and Robert D. Arconti

Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2018. Pp. x, 236. Illus., maps. table, notes, biblio., index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 1476674612

A Yankee Adventurer in Gray

Like most of the men and women who experienced the Civil War, Dan Showalter (c. 1830-1866) was hardly a critical actor in the great national upheaval. But he lived through the events and, this first-ever biography of the man shows, had some interesting adventures that help throw light on life and war in America at the time. A

Showalter was a native of Pennsylvania, and as young man went to California to seek his fortune. There he became involved in state politics, which led to his participation in a famous duel. Although Northern-born, he joined the Secessionist faction in the state. Although confident of their ability to take the state out of the Union – to the extent that Federal authorities feared they could – the Secessionists actually had little influence, and rather quickly fled east after the outbreak of the Civil War.

Showalter spent some time in Mexico, then upon returning to the U.S. became a prisoner-of-war for a time. He eventually finally managed to join the Confederate Army. Rising to command the 4th Arizona Cavalry, he fought at Galveston, Sabine Pass, and in the Cortina War, a series of border clashes with Mexican nationalists, and was involved in schemes to detach California and Arizona from the Union. In Mexico after the war, he died due to bar room brawl.

There’s a lot of good color in here, not to mention a look at a more obscure corner of the war. The authors follow up Showalter’s life with a look at how his story was transformed by “Lost Cause” authors in the mid-twentieth century, largely made up from whole cloth. They also offer some critical analysis of the size of the pro-Confederate faction in California, making a good case that it was greatly inflated at the time, which has often been repeated down to the present. “An Arch Rebel Like Myself” is a very good read about one of the more interesting people of the day.


Note: “An Arch Rebel Like Myself” is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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