Dick Dowling Statue in Houston, Texas
The statue of Confederate, Texas and Houston hero, Dick Dowling is located on the southeast edge of Hermann Park and the Houston Medical Center in Houston, Texas at 1900 N. MacGregor Way. For decades the statue was located in Market Square in downtown Houston. The statue honors Dick Dowling the commander of the Confederate forces at the Battle of Sabine Pass during the Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln fearing an invasion of Texas by the French (then occupying Mexico) and also wishing to open a new front in the southwest, sent an invasion force of 5000 Union soldiers on 22 transport vessels led by 4 iron-clad gunboats to attack a relatively defenseless portion of the Texas coast. The plan was a good one and if successful could have quickly given the Union control of Texas.
Standing in the way of this invasion force was Lt. Dick Dowling, a Houston saloon owner, and 47 Irish longshoremen from the Houston docks. The Battle of Sabine Pass occurred on September 8, 1863. In a battle compared to the Battle of Thermopylae by both Confederate President Jefferson Davis and historian Edward T. Cotham, Jr., Dowling and his 47 men, The Davis Guards, disabled two of the 4 gunboats, captured one of the gunboats and its crew, and repelled the entire 5000 man invasion fleet which returned to New Orleans.
MAJOR RICHARD WILLIAM (DICK) DOWLING, C.S.A.
(JANUARY 14, 1837 - SEPTEMBER 23, 1867)
BORN IN 1837 NEAR TUAM, COUNTY GALWAY, IRELAND, RICHARD
DOWLING EMIGRATED TO NEW ORLEANS IN 1846 DURING THE
IRISH POTATO FAMINE. IN 1857, DICK MARRIED ELIZABETH ANNE
ODLUM IN HOUSTON. BY 1860 HE OWNED 3 BARS, INSTALLED
HOUSTON'S FIRST GAS LIGHTING IN HIS HOME AND BUSINESS, AND
WAS A CHARTER MEMBER OF HOUSTON HOOK AND
LADDER COMPANY NO. 1.
DURING THE CIVIL WAR, DICK WAS FIRST LIEUTENANT, COMPANY
F, COOK'S REGIMENT, FIRST TEXAS HEAVY ARTILLERY. HE WAS IN
COMMAND AT FORT GRIFFIN IN 1863. ON SEPTEMBER 8 HE HELD
FAST WITH ONLY 6 CANNON AND 47 MEN INSIDE THE FORT
DESPITE RUMORS OF A FEDERAL INVASION AND ORDERS TO
RETREAT. TWENTY-SEVEN SHIPS CARRYING MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM B.
FRANKLIN AND 5,000 UNION TROOPS SAILED INTO SABINE PASS.
DOWLING AND 'THE IRISH DAVIS GUARDS' SHOT SO ACCURATELY
THAT FRANKLIN'S FORCES SURRENDERED IN 45 MINUTES. THE
CONFEDERATE CONGRESS CALLED THE BATTLE OF SABINE PASS
'ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT...ACHIEVEMENTS...OF THE WAR.'
DISCHARGED AS A MAJOR IN 1865, DICK REOPENED HIS MOST
FAMOUS BAR, 'THE BANK OF BACCHUS.' IN 1866 HE FORMED THE
FIRST OIL COMPANY IN HOUSTON. BY 1867, HE OWNED MORE
THAN 22 SQUARE BLOCKS OF DOWNTOWN HOUSTON AND VAST
LANDS ACROSS TEXAS. DICK DOWLING DIED OF YELLOW FEVER AT
AGE 30 AND IS BURIED IN HOUSTON'S ST. VINCENT'S CEMETERY.
To read the fascinating detailed history of how Dick Dowling and his men accomplished the seemingly impossible, read Sabine Pass, The Confederacy's Thermopylae by Edward T. Cotham, Jr. If you enjoy Texas or Civil War history, see the Dick Dowling monument and statue in the Hermann Park/Houston Medical Center area.
Notice the shamrocks above the inscriptions.
Dick Dowling is buried in St. Vincent's Cemetery which is located in the 2400 block of Navigation next to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. St. Vincent's is Houston's oldest Catholic Cemetery.