Battle of Staunton River Bridge 52 Ancestors: #11 Benjamin Bowen

On January 13th, 1864, just four days after he turned 18, Benjamin Franklin Bowen was mustered into Company H, First Regiment District of Columbia Cavalry. He traveled nearly 200 miles from his home in Perry to the capital, Augusta, Maine, perhaps with fellow recruits and Perry-ites Columbus Frost, William McPhail and James Garnett1.

The war had already had a terrible impact to Benjamin’s family. His older brother George Washington Bowen died in Sep 1863 far away from home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Patriarch William died in 1862  at Camp Chase in Lowell, Massachusetts, a mere 4 months after enlisting. The family couldn’t afford to bring either of them home for burial.

His brother John Quincy Adams Bowen enlisted in December of 1863 and his brother-in-law Samuel Collier was fighting with the 18th Maine Infantry. Neither would make it back from the war.

Benjamin’s regiment was initially formed in mid-1863 specifically to defend Washington D.C., but in January 1864 was pressed into service with Kautz’s Cavalry Division. In late June, General Grant sent Brigadier Generals Kautz and Wilson to destroy rail lines that were feeding supplies to the Confederate troops defending Petersburg. They had destroyed about 60 miles of rail lines when they came to Roanoke Station and the covered rail bridge over the Staunton River.

IMG_0332

Staunton River Battlefield State Park map. Photo by Dave Lucey

Confederate troops defending the bridge were outnumbered, but they had a heads up and rounded up every able-bodied man and child to defend the bridge. They dug in and on the afternoon of the 25th the Union forces advanced on the bridge. Benjamin’s unit attacked from the east and were repulsed. Fighting continued for hours, with the Confederates holding ground, keeping the bridge safe. Eventually, the unit that was chasing the Union troops caught up and attacked from the rear, forcing Wilson-Kautz to move on.

Benjamin was injured during the fight and died two days later, on June 27th. He is supposedly buried in Coyner Springs Cemetery, but I’ve been unable to confirm that. What I can confirm is that he, like his father and brothers, did not make it home.

The Staunton River Bridge. At the time of the battle this was a covered railroad bridge.

The Staunton River Bridge. At the time of the battle this was the covered railroad bridge. Photo by Dave Lucey 2012

This post is 11th in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge series.

Further reading:
The Battle Story
Regiment Details
Battle of Staunton River Bridge

[1] Ancestry.com. U.S., Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Appendix D. Pg. 935-944. Record of Recruits for First Regiment District of Columbia Cavalry. Original data: California State Library; Sacramento; Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Maine.

Military Monday – James Lucey Civil War Service

It was tempting to call this post Mustache Monday, because James’ mustache is phenomenal!

James Edward Lucey, circa 1890
1848-1934

James enlisted 4 Dec 1863 for 3 years, at the time he was 16 years old (18 on the paperwork). He was the drummer boy for the Company M of the 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery regiment. Company M was mustered into service on Christmas Eve, 1863. On 8 Jan 1864, under the command of Captain Jere A Greeley,  they left for the regimental headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.

Co. M was in Norfolk and Portsmouth, VA until May 1864, then moved to New Bern, NC, Kinston, NC and Smithville, NC until Sept 1865 at which time they were sent home to Boston. At Gallups Island on 23 Sep 1865 they were mustered out. The regiment lost a total of 382 men, 363 to disease. There was a yellow fever epidemic in New Bern during the fall of 1864, which killed about 175 men.

From James’ military service and pension records (ordered from the National Archives), I’ve learned quite a bit. For example, Regimental Muster Rolls show some interesting details of what James was doing and/or breaking:


Jan & Feb 1865 – Lost or destroyed screw drive 23¢

Apr & May of 1865 – Picket and guard duty at Dove Station on Kinston + New Berne Railroad
July 1865 – Provide guard over prisoners Ft. Caswell, NC

From James Pension applications, there is a wealth of information. This is how I learned about his first wife, Mary Crotty, who, along with son James, died in childbirth in 1868. James and his family lived next door to the Crotty’s in Groveland, MA in the 1865 census. Mary’s brother Edward Crotty remained good friends with James, as he moved to Rochester, NH around the same time and was godfather to James’ daughter Cecelia.

The pension application also shows where James lived prior to enlistment (he listed Amesbury, which I’m not sure about but missed Andover.) It also lists all places lived since discharge and provides a physical description, 5’8″, 165 lbs, blue eyes, gray hair and a dark complexion.

James was very proud of his service to America and was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) for many years and participated in many parades and ceremonies in Rochester, NH. He also prominently displayed his honorable discharge papers and this beautiful “Soldiers Memorial”.

Honorable Discharge certificate

Sources:

Bowen, James L. Massachusetts in the War, 1861-1865. Springfield, MA: Clark W. Bryan, 1889 pgs 731-733

Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Vol. 2. Dayton, OH: Morningside, 1979 pg. 1241

Military Monday – Bowen Family Civil War Sacrifice

At the start of the Civil War, William and Mary (Boynton) Bowen lived on their small farm in Perry, Maine with 10 children, including my 2nd great grandfather, Frederic Lowell Bowen (age 4). By the end of 1864, she has lost her husband, 3 sons and a son-in-law to the war effort. Her eldest son William Alonso had also died, but not in the war as far as is known.

In November 1861, William and son George Washington Bowen enlist with the Maine 1st Light Artillery Battery. They are initially stationed at Camp Chase, in Lowell, Massachusetts. In February 1862, George leaves with the unit for New Orleans but William, too sick to travel, remains in Lowell and dies on March 17th.

Lowell Daily Courier - Wed. Mar. 19, 1862

Death of the Last Occupant of Camp Chase.

When the soldiers evacuated Camp Chase, they left behind a man named William Bowen, who was confined to the hospital in consequence of an abscess.  He died on Monday last.  He was about forty-five years of age; it is understood he enlisted at Eastport, ME., and he leaves a family, and also parents probably in that vicinity.  His body was buried by Mr. A.P. Lesure, undertaker, of this city, with whom his friends can communicate, should they wish to take any action in relation to the removal of his remains.  Maine papers will confer a favor upon his relatives by publishing a notice of his death.

Baton Rouge National Cemetery
Photo courtesy of Jeanne O’Shea

A cousin, Jeanne O’Shea, and I have tried to find where William was buried in Lowell, but the 1862 book is missing from the cemetery where they likely buried him. He is probably in the unmarked section as it’s doubtful that Mary had the money to bring his body home.

Son George dies in Baton Rouge, LA just 18 months later, on 14 Sep 1863 and is buried in Baton Rouge National Cemetery.

Son Benjamin Franklin Bowen enlists with the District of Columbia Cavalry on 13 Jan 1864 and dies 6 months later, on 27 Jun 1864, killed in a skirmish at Roanoke Station Virginia.

Photo courtesy of Jeanne O’Shea

Son John Quincy Adams Bowen enlists with Company D, Maine 2nd Cavalry Regiment on 8 Dec 1863. John dies of tuberculosis 21 Oct 1864 in Barrancas, FL (near Pensacola).

Mary writes this letter to find out the details of John’s death:

Perry November 18th 1864

To the Adgedent generel

Dear Sir  I have been informed by Copral James Gallegar of the Second Maine Cavalry Company D John M. Lincoln Captain that my son John Q.A. Bowen, a private in that Company Died on the 19th of October 1864 but of what Decise I have not been informed  has his Death been reported to you or the Deceuse he died off  please let me know   it is the third Son I have lost in the army and I have lost a Husband and Son in law and I have one Son in Company E 17th Maine Reg Fort Preble Portland Maine, if you have the report of his Death please forward a Copy to me and you will oblige me I  have never received any of their bountys as yet and my Husband has been Dead three years next March  
yours with respect

Mary Bowen

Mary Bowen letter

I’m not sure who the other son is that she mentions is in Company E, 17th Maine. She does have 2 other sons that could have been there, but they are not listed in the roster of the 17th. The son-in-law she mentions is Samuel Collier, husband of eldest daughter Frances Ellen. Samuel enlisted with Company K, 18th Maine Infantry on 21 Aug 1862. The 18th is an interesting story, they spent most of the war stationed around Washington DC, guarding the capitol. In January 1863 the regiment designation was changed to the First Maine Heavy Artillery. In the spring of 1864, they were called to the front lines for Grant’s push into Richmond and saw some of the worst casualties of the war over the next year.

Samuel died at Spottsylvania, VA 19 May 1864, the first day that his unit saw fighting. For an excellent writeup of this unit, check out Andrew MacIsaac’s history thesis “Here the Reaper was the Angel of Death: The First Maine Heavy Artillery During the Overland Campaign” posted here.

In 1866, Maine passed the “Pension Act” into law, which would pay the family of a veteran up to $8 per month. Mary immediately applies. “I have lost a husband and three sons in the War of 1861″she wrote. She had still not received the US widows pension she had applied for 22 Jun 1863. Her letter must have had some effect, as of 25 Jul 1866 she was receiving $8 per month plus $2 per month additional for each child listed  (Silas M., Mary E., Frederick L., Lucy E., and Linnie W.)