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 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.)