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Richard W. Dowling was a Confederate hero who defended Houston, Texas from a Union invasion during the American Civil War. He was born in 1837 at Knockballyvisteal, Milltown, near Tuam, in County Galway. He immigrated to the United States with his family when he was nine years old, after they were evicted from their home during the Great Famine. He settled in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he worked as a clerk and a bartender. He later moved to Houston, Texas, where he became a successful businessman and civic leader. He also formed the first oil company in Texas.

Dowling joined the Confederate Army in 1861, after the outbreak of the Civil War. He was assigned to an artillery unit called the Davis Guards, composed mostly of Irish immigrants. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and then major. He is best known for his role in the Second Battle of Sabine Pass, which took place on September 8, 1863. In this battle, Dowling and his men repulsed two attacks by a much larger Union force that attempted to capture the strategic port of Sabine Pass and invade Texas. Dowling’s men used their six cannons to sink two Union gunboats and capture about 350 prisoners, while suffering no casualties themselves. This victory was hailed as a “Thermopylae of the Confederacy” and earned Dowling a promotion to major and a hero’s welcome in Houston.

Dowling’s plaque was erected in 1998 on the facade of the Town Hall in Tuam, his birthplace. It is the first known memorial to an Irish-born Confederate soldier in Ireland. It depicts Dowling’s portrait and a brief summary of his achievements. It also mentions that he died of yellow fever in 1867, at the age of 30. The plaque was sponsored by the Major Richard W. Dowling Camp #1299 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization that preserves and honors the memory of Confederate soldiers.

The plaque has been controversial since its installation, as some people see it as a glorification of slavery and racism, while others see it as a recognition of Dowling’s courage and patriotism.


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Major Richard W. Dowling Plaque



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