Friday, January 6, 2012

January 9, 1862 - An Arkansas Secessionist captured in California

Alcatraz, the old military party where some thought
Showalter and his followers should be imprisoned.
Library of Congress
One of the little known Civil War incidents of the far west was reported to readers back east on January 9, 1862, 150 years ago today. 
Called the Affair at Minter's Ranch, the incident itself took place on November 29, 1861, and marked the end of the Union army pursuit of a party of 18 men determined to leave California in order to go to Texas and enlist in the Confederate army. They were headed by Daniel Showalter, a State Assemblyman from Mariposa County, California.

Among the heavily armed and well-mounted men in his party was a man identified as J. Lawrence of Arkansas.

The following appeared on page two of the Albany Evening Journal, a New York newspaper, on January 9, 1862, and was a reprint of an article that had been published in the San Francisco Atla on December 11th:

As it is not at all unlikely that Alcatraz Island may speedily become the "Fort Lafayette" of the Pacific Coast, it may not prove uninteresting to give a list of the men who will probably be among the first involuntary boarders at that institution. They are expected on the next steamer.

The official account of the arrest is as follows:

Camp Wright, Oak Grove, San Diego County,
Lower California, Nov. 30, 1861.

COLONEL - I take advantage of the departure of Senor Sepulva Ramon, Carillo's brother-in-law, to inform you of the arrest of the Showalter party, Showalter with them. It consists of sixteen men, each armed with rifles and a pair of revolvers. They gave us a hard chase, but we finally captured them. They parlayed, but finally concluded not to resist, although against the advice of Showalter.

The names of the party are T.A. Wilson, Tennessee; W. Woods, Missouri; Charles Pendroth, Kentucky; Wm. Sands, Tennessee; T.L. Roberts, South Carolina; R.H. Wood, Mississippi; T.W. Woods, Virginia; J.W. Sampson, Kentucky; S.A. Rogers, Tennessee; J. Lawrence, Arkansas; Levi Rogers, Alabama; Henry Crowell, Pennsylvania; Wm. Turner, Georgia; Dan. Showalter, Penn.; A. King, Tennessee.

Retook two of the part on the 27th near the post, viz: E.B. Summers and F.V. Chum. They were the advancing party, eighteen in all. I am now examining them, and will send you by express, that will leave here to-night some time, full particulars. They now regret that they did not resist; if they had they would have given us a hard fight. There is no doubt that every one of them is a Secessionist, and are on their way to lend aid and comfort to the enemy. I would like to know as soon as possible what to do with them. They have pack mules, and are well fitted out, and a desperate set of men.

I am under great obligations to Francisco Ocampo for my success. It is reported that some eighty men are getting ready, and on the road. I will keep a good watch for them.

Very Respectfully,
Major, 1st Infantry, commanding Camp Wright,
To Col. Jas. H. Carleton, 1st Infantry C.V., Los Angeles, Cal.

P.S. - They were captured at daylight on the morning of the 29th, at John [M]inter's ranch, near San Jose Valley.

The men did not wind up in Alcatraz, but were held for for several months at Fort Yuma. Showalter did finally make it back east, where he subsequently commanded the 4th Cavalry Regiment of the C.S. Arizona Brigade.  He also fought at the Battle of Galveston and in several actions in Arkansas.

Uniquely, Showalter commanded troops at the Battle of Palmitto Ranch in Texas on May 12, 1865. Many consider that action to have been the last battle of the war, although there were sharp skirmishes in Arkansas, Alabama and elsewhere afterwards. He went to Mexico after the war.

This link will take you to a nice history of the Minter's Ranch incident on the site of the San Diego History Center:

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