The Dowling Statue

The Houston/Harris County political shift of last year makes it somewhat more likely that measures of the liberal variety will affect county historical assets. One possibility would be the moving or otherwise forced retirement of a statue in Hermann Park commemorating a Confederate soldier, Dick Dowling, for whom Houston’s Dowling street was named (the renaming of that street would also be a possibility). Dowling was responsible for resisting a Union incursion in late 1863 at Sabine Pass which turned the ships back, ultimately preventing the establishment of a Union base in Texas.

The statue at the south end of Hermann Park has the likeness of Dowling looking east-southeast toward the location of the battle a hundred miles away, near the Sabine river. The presence of a statue of a Confederate hero in uniform is doubtless an irritant to many groups in the city. In fact, it’s a mild irritant to me, since the connection of the Confederate cause to the institution of slavery offends my strict individualist leanings. But why do I say mild? Because the tend toward removal of Confederate monuments smacks of the Egyptian/Roman practice of attempting to erase the past by changing dedication markers or even rededicating structures to unrelated personages or causes. Though I would not have supported (as Sam Houston did not support) the secessionist attempt, I find it a useful window into the past to have artifacts such as monuments from that era continuing to exist to the present day.

Diaries, swords, toys, boots, statues… any item from a lost cause (or a successful one) can assist our understanding, helping to place us into a time and context in which the benefit of contemporary hindsight was not available. To propose to erase these cues would suggest that those who would conceal the past do not trust the observer to draw the right conclusions. We must always view the control of information with grave and critical suspicion.

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