Carl Nikolaus Riotte -> Carl Nikolaus Riotte -> Under Texas Skies - Historic Howard House at San Antonio

Historie Howard House at San Antonio


Place Where Robert E. Lee Wrote His Resignation From the United States Army.

    A typical Southern home, and at the same time an historic old building, is what is known as the Howard House, an South Alamo Street, at the head of Market Street. lt is a two-story stone and lumber structure, with a broad gallery in front. It is shaded by several large trees and stands back about a dozen feet from the sidewalk. Formerly a stone wall enclosed it, but some years ago a street car ran into and destroyed a considerable portion of this wall, since which time the balance of the wall has beenm removed, per¬mitting a better view and easier access ot the house.


    Charles Merritt Barnes, in a San Antonio newspaper several years ago, wrote about the house as follows:

    "Like many other San Antonio homes that have a history, it has sheltered families whose politics differed widely. It has not passed through nearly so many hands as most of the old homes and houses of San Antonio, but is has sheltered many occupants.

    "On account of opposing the Government of the portion of Prussia in which he lived, a very brilliant and cultured gentleman named Charles, or Carl N. Riotte, was exiled in 1848 and sought refuge from persecution in San Antonio. He secured a license to practice law, purchased the property described, and had built the structur eindicated in 1850-51 according to a set of plans mode' by an architect and civil engineer named Thielepappe. The architect afterward became the Mayor of San Antonio and was Mayor, during the Reconstruction days. There seemed to have been a close bond of sympathy between Riotte and Thielepappe. Soon after he erected his dwelling Riotte became manager of the old Turnverein and in the Yard of his premises were several of the, gymnastic appliances an which the Turners exercised. He was an athlete and very fond of teaching gymnastics to the youth of the city at that time.


German-English School

    "About that time the German-English School, now the Brackenridge Grammar School, was founded. The school was then under charge of Julius Behrens, who owned a book store an Commerce Street and who was also a warm personal friend of Riotte. Both Behrens and Riotte taught school, giving their services gratuitously for some time. Riotte also aided Behrens in bis book store enter¬prise, and is said to have had an interest in it. Nic Tengg, for some time, was a clerk for this book store.

    "While Riotte was duly licensed to practice law, he abandoned the, practice of that profession, giving as his reason that the method of practicing law here at that time differed very widely from the method in vogue in that portion of Europe. from whence he came to this country.



Lincoln Made Him a Minister

    "About this time the differences between the North and South arose. The question whether the South had the right to secede came up and so did that of abolition of slavery. Although, while in Europe, Enotte had favored changing the Government from a monarchial to a republican form, he opposed secession here. Likewise he favored the abolition of slavery and became so pronounced in his views as to bring him in opposition 'to the overwhelming Southern sentiment then prevalent. Seeing himself in a decided minority here he concluded to leave.

    "He sold his property to Thomas Howard. About this time Lincoln, who had been elected President, appointed Riotte Minister Plenipotentiary to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Riotte turned over the property to Howard and left for the North. Soon after he sailed for South. America and served for some years in his position as Minister. After the Civil War Riotte concluded to quit the United States and went to Switzerland, where, after many years, he died.

    One of his sons came here from Switzerland several years ago and revisited the scenes of his early boyhood, but Riotte never cared to return. He was very sensitive. His differences with his neighbors over political matters caused him to feel deeply aggrieved. He was highly esteemed and greatly respected, even by those with whom he differed."

    Thomas Howard', who, with his family, moved into the Riotte residence, held views just the opposite of those of Mr. Riotte. The Howard family favored secession and the sous served in the Confederate Army. Dr. H. Howard, one of the sons, was formerly Postmaster in San. Antonio. Dr. W. E. Howard, the latter's son, now resides in Dallas. He has made the name one that will endure as long as Texas endures because of his great work in the field of history.


Many Social functions

    "In the Howard house many social functions were held. Many distinguished military chieftains as well as prominent civilians congregated there. One of the most prominent of the military men who found shelter beneath its broad roof was the great General of the Southern Confederacy, Robert E. Lee.

    "Albert Sidney Johnston, Joseph E. Johnston, both of the McCullochs, General Van Dorn and several others who wore the stars of the Confederacy on the collars of their gray coats were also entertained there by the Howard family.

    "It was here that General Robert E. Lee wrote the document that severed his connection with the United States Army.


Source: Under Texas Skies, by A. Garland Adair and Son, Austin, Texas, 1946; vol. 2, page 122-124 (Courtesy of Lynn Parent, „Parent Research Services“, Austin, Texas)


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