GREAT CITIZENS - LTN. RICHARD WILLIAM DOWLING
Saloon-keeper, soldier and confederate folk hero, known as "Dick the Kid" to his buddies, was born in Knockballyvisteal, Milltown, near Tuam, County Galway, Ireland in 1838. One of Mary and William Dowling's seven children, Dowling arrived in New Orleans at the age of ten to visit relatives, accompanied by his eleven-year-old sister Honora. Later, the rest of the family arrived in New Orleans. When Dowling's parents died in a cholera epidemic, the children moved first to Galveston and later to Houston. On Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1857, at the age of 19, Dowling married Elizabeth Anne Odlum.
In 1860, Dowling opened the popular "Bank of Bacchus" Saloon at the corner of Houston's Main and Congress streets. During the war, Dowling closed his saloon and enlisted to defend the Confederacy. He was made first lieutenant in the Davis Guards, a Texas home-guard outfit consisting entirely of Irish stevedores. Dowling first saw action as an artillery officer on one of Confederate General John Bankhead Magruder's "cotton clad" vessels which recaptured Galveston Island on January 1, 1863 from Union occupation.
On September 8, 1863, while commanding the Davis Guards defending the strategic Sabine Pass, Dowling and his band of 42 routed a Union flotilla consisting of five gunboats, 22 vessels and some 15,000 men, part of General Franklins army sent to establish a blockade on the Texas coast. The Guards captured two gunboats and 350 prisoners. Dowling's victory was credited with halting the advance of Union troops to the Texas mainland. Dowling became a folk hero. His heroism at the Battle of Sabine Pass was the subject of popular poems and songs.
After the war Dowling re-opened "The Bank of Bacchus" and continued to operate it successfully until his untimely death from yellow fever in 1867. He was not yet thirty years of age. A statue commemorates his heroic stand at Sabine Pass and a street in Houston is named in his honor.