Richard William "Dick" Dowling (1838 – 1867) was born in Knockballyvisteal outside Tuam, County Galway, Ireland in 1838 and migrated with his parents and six siblings to New Orleans in the United States in 1846.
In 1853 a Yellow Fever outbreak in New Orleans took the lives of his parents and four of his siblings. Orphaned, Dowling settled in Houston where he established a successful
chain of saloons starting in 1857. Dowling was described as a likable red-headed Irishman and wore a large mustache. In 1857 he married Elizabeth Ann Odlum,
daughter of Benjamin Digby Odlum.
Dowling's most successful saloon was named the Bank of Bacchus and was located on Courthouse Square in downtown Houston. "The Bank" as it was known locally
became Houston's most popular social gathering place in the 1860's and was renowned for its hospitality. The Bank of Bacchus was the first business in Houston to install
At the outbreak of the Civil War Dowling enlisted in a Texas unit composed primarily of Irish dockworkers and known as the Jefferson Davis Guards.
He participated in the Battle of Galveston and in 1863 now-Lieutenant Dowling was assigned with a company of 44 men to an earthen artillery post on the Sabine River
named Fort Griffin. Known for his skilled artillery work, Dowling spent his time at the remote outpost instructing his men in artillery targeting drills across the Sabine River's
two channels, which the fort guarded. He implemented an innovative idea, placing colored poles in the river marking the distance and elevation for his artillery crews.
On September 8, 1863 a union navy flotilla of 5,000 men attempted to enter the channel. Dowling's artillery drills paid off as the Confederates scored several direct hits
on the flotilla, forcing its retreat and leading to the capture of 350 prisoners and a large quantity of supplies, thwarting a Union invasion of Texas. Dick Dowling and his Davis Guards
were the only Confederate unit to be awarded a medal of honor during the war by the Confederate government. The medals were actually Mexican coins that had been
smoothed down on one side and had the information carved into them. They were inscribed " Sabine Pass, 1864".
After the battle of Sabine Pass Dowling was elevated to hero status in his hometown of Houston. He subsequently served as a recruiter for the Confederacy and was personally
commended for his action at the battle by Jefferson Davis. After the war Dowling returned to his saloon business in Houston and quickly became one of the city's leading
businessmen. Dowling's promising future was cut short by a yellow fever epidemic and he died on September 23, 1867.
He is buried in Saint Vincents Cemetery in Houston, Texas.