Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

 

John E. Bowers

 

LH-337

 

Introduction

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content

Inventory

 

Introduction

 

The Civil War letters of John E. Bowers were donated to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center by the Sandusky County Park District in 2006.

 

Biographical Sketch

 

John E. Bowers was born around 1843 in Pennsylvania to Cyrus and Catherine Bowers.  John was the oldest of ten children: Selina, Mary Jones, Martha A., Catherine Elizabeth, Ida Menirvia, Charles Wesley, Clara Jane, Cyrus, and James Carroll. The obituary of Cyrus Bowers states that he was the father of eleven children, but the name of a seventh daughter was not found.  The Bowers family lived in Voganville, New Holland, or Hinkletown, Pennsylvania.  (John Bowers mentions all three locations.)  The 1860 census shows the Bowers family residing in Earl Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Seventeen-year-old John was listed as a blacksmith, presumably working under his father who was listed as a master blacksmith. 

 

John enlisted for a three-year term in Company G of the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteers on august 18, 1862. He was reported to have been a good soldier, although he was sentenced by court martial in the spring of 1863 for falling asleep while on picket duty.  His fine of four months’ pay was reduced by half because of his excellent service at the Battle of Gettysburg.  During his service he wrote often to his family; his last letter was dated August 20, 1864, five days before his capture at Ream’s Station, Virginia on August 25, 1864.  He was confined at Richmond, Virginia on August 27, and on October 9, he was sent to Salisbury, North Carolina where he was admitted to the hospital for catarrh on November 27.   He returned to prison quarters on December 14. 

 

After this, it is difficult to tell what became of John Bowers, as there are various accounts offering conflicting stories.  His name appeared on an unofficial list copied by Moses Palmer, Jr. that showed Bowers to have joined the Rebel army while a prisoner of war.  Another account states that he was exchanged at Annapolis on March 10, 1865.  Contrarily, Anthony Knopf, a mess-mate of Bowers, wrote to John’s father and told him that John Bowers had starved to death while a prisoner of war.  All that is known for certain is that he never returned to his regiment, he was never discharged, and there is no official record of his death. 

 

Although Bowers tried for furlough many times, he never made it home to visit his family during the war.  Shortly after the war the Bowers family moved to Flat Rock, Ohio, in Thompson Township, Seneca County. In 1874 the family moved to Lindsey, Ohio.  It was from there that they applied for John’s pension in 1891.  It was denied due to the absence of discharge or death records. 

 

Scope and Content

 

This collection contains 98 letters and notes dating from January 2, 1862 to August 20, 1864 from John Bowers to his family. Bowers’ descriptive letters provide insights in the life of this rank and file Union soldier.  He lists sutler’s prices and outlines in minute detail preparations for a march and the execution of several deserters, for which he includes a sketch. Bowers saw action at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and at Petersburg

 

He wrote openly to his family of his wartime experiences, including being shot through the cap while the soldier next to him was shot through the head; witnessing rotting bodies on the Bull Run battlefield; plundering of Rebel homes; and trading with Rebel soldiers. The letters also track the rise and fall of Bowers’ morale and enthusiasm for the war.  At some points he “likes soldiering first-rate” and at others he believes the war’s only purpose is to make officers rich.  These well-preserved letters are legible and written in a clear hand. It is unknown if the doodles, sketches, and practice letters appearing on many of the letters were the work of Bowers or perhaps a family member.  

 

Inventory

 

Ac. 5652

 

Folder 1

 

1. January 2, 1862, Perryville, [Dear Father]

2. July 15, 1862 (Thursday), [Dear Father]

3. August 27, 1862 (Wednesday), Camp Curtin, [Dear Father and Mother]

4. August 29, 1862, Marching towards the Battlefield

5. September ?, 1862 (Sunday), [Dear Father]

6. September 6, 1862 (Friday), Camp Curtin, [Dear Father and Mother]

7. September 14, 1862, [Dear Father]

8. September 16, 1862, Camp at Gunpowder Bridge, [Dear Father and Mother]

9. September 22, 1862, Camp near Gunpowder Bridge, [Dear Father and Mother]

10. September 26, 1862 (Friday), Camp near Gunpowder Bridge, [Dear Father and Mother]

11. October 9, 1862, Camp Farlan near Gunpowder Bridge, [Dear Father and Mother]

 

Folder 2

 

12. October 11, 1862 (Saturday), [Dear Father and Mother]

13. October 15, 1862, Camp Fairlain, [Dear Father and Mother]

14. October 19, 1862 (Sunday), Camp Fairlain, [Dear Father and Mother]

15. October 29, 1862 (Wednesday), [Dear Father, and Mother, Brother, and Sisters]

16. November 9, 1862 (Monday), Cockeysville, [Dear Father and Mother]

17. November 23, 1862, Camp Fairlain, [Dear Father and Mother]

18. November 28, 1862, Camp Fairlain, [Dear Father and Mother]

19. November 30, 1862 (Sunday), Camp Fairlain, [Dear Father and Mother, Brothers and Sisters]

20. December 2, 1862 (Thursday), Camp Fairlain, [Dear Father and Mother]

21. December 20, 1862 (Saturday), Hancock Division, 2nd Army Corps, [Dear Father and Mother]

22. December 25, 1862, Hancock Division, [Dear Father and Mother]

23. December 27, 1862 (Saturday), Army of the Potomac, Hancocks Division, near Fredericksburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

 

Folder 3

 

24. January 1, 1863, Camp near Fredericksburg, VA, Hancocks Division, 2nd Army Corps, [Dear Father and Mother]

25. January 7, 1863 (Wednesday), Camp near Fredericksburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

26. January 7, 1863 (Wednesday), Camp near Fredericksburg, [Dear Father and Mother]

27. January 10, 1863, Camp near Fredericksburg, [Dear Father]

28. January 18, 1863 (Sunday), Camp near Fredericksburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

29. January 22, 1863, Camp near Fredericksburg, VA, [Dear Father]

30. January 24, 1863, Camp near Brandey Station, [Dear Father and Mother]

31. February 2, 1863, Camp near Fredericksburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

32. February 12, 1863, [Dear Father and Mother]

33. February 16, 1863, Fredericksburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

34. February 18, 1863, Camp near Fredericksburg, [Dear Father and Mother]

35. February 24, 1863, [Dear Father and Mother]

36. March 6, 1863, Camp near Fredericksburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

37. March 9, 1863, Camp near Fredericksburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

 

Folder 4

 

38. March 15, 1863, Camp Hancock, [Dear Father and Mother]

38aMarch 22, 1863, Camp Hancock, {Dear Father and Mother] [Ac. 5673]      

39. March 26, 1863, Camp Hancock, [Dear Father]

40. March 30, 1863, Camp Hancock, [Dear Father and Mother]

41. April 4, 1863, Camp near Halmouth Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

42. April 12, 1863 (Sunday), Camp Hancock, [Dear Father and Mother]

43. [No date, probably between April 12 and 18, 1863], Camp Hancock, [Dear Father and Mother]

44. April 18, 1863, [Dear Father and Mother]

45. April 25, 1863, Camp Hancock, [Dear Father and Mother]

46. May 7, 1863, Camp Hancock, [Dear Father and Mother]

47. May 12, 1863, Camp Hancock, [Dear Father and Mother]

48. June 8, 1863, Camp Hancock, [Dear Father and Mother]

49. June 19, 1863, Camp Hancock, [Dear Father]

50. June 22, 1863, Thourafare Gap, [Dear Father]

51. July 6, 1863, Camp Hancock, PA [Dear Father and Mother]

 

Folder 5

 

52. July 13, 1863, Camp near Sharpsburg, [Dear Father and Mother]

53. July 17, 1863, Harpers Ferry, [Dear Father and all the rest]

54. July 22, 1863, Camp near Bloomfield, [Dear Father and Mother]

55. July 24, 1863, [Dear Father]

56. July 28, 1863, Warrenton Junction, [Dear Father]

57. August 2, 1863, Camp near Morrisville, VA, [Dear Father]

58. August 5, 1863, Camp near Morrisville, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

59. August 12, 1863, Camp near Morrisville, VA, [Dear Father]

60. August 14, 1863, Camp near Morrisville, VA, [Dear Father]

61. August 17, 1863, Camp near Morrisville, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

62. August 21, 1863, Camp near Morrisville, VA [Dear Father]

63. August 30, 1863, Camp near Morrisville, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

64. September 1, 1863, Camp near Morrisville, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

65. September 4, 1863, Camp near Morrisville, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

 

Folder 6

 

66. October 7, 1863, Camp near Culpeper, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

67. October 17, 1863, Camp near Centreville, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

68. October 31, 1863, Camp near Warrenton, [Dear Father and Mother]

69. November 3, 1863, Camp near Warrenton, [Dear Father]

70. December 3/4, 1863, Camp near Mountain Run, [Dear Father and Mother]

71. December 13, 1863, Camp near Brandy Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

72. December 18, 1863, Camp near Brandy Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

73. December 26, 1863, Camp near Brandy Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

74. January 9, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

75. January 15, 1864, Camp near Brandy Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

76. January 18, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

77. January 25, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father]

78. January 28, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

 

Folder 7

 

79. February 2, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

80. February 11, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

81. February 22, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]. Note to “Dear Sister” (Selina) on bottom.

82. February 24, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

83. March 5, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

84. March 11, 1864, Camp near Brandey Station, VA, [Dear Father]

85. March 22, 1864, Camp near Stevensburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

86. April 8, 1864, Camp near Stevensburg, VA, [Dear Father]

87. April 19, 1864, Camp near Stephensburg, VA, [Dear Father]

 

Folder 8

 

88. May 13, 1864, Camp near Fredericksburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

89. June 11, 1864, Camp on Coal Harber Hills, [Dear Father and Mother]

90. June 26, 1864, Camp near Petersburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

91. June 29, 1864, Camp on the Battlefield near Petersburg, VA, Dinwiddie County, [Dear Father]

92. July 2, 1864, Camp near Petersburg, VA, [Dear Father]

93. July 17, 1864, Camp near Petersburg, VA, [Dear Father and Mother]

94. July 27, 1864, Camp on the Battlefield, [Dear Father and Mother]

95. August 20, 1864, Camp near Duch Gap, [Dear Father]

96. Undated note home.

97. Undated letter end.

98. Undated note home.

 

ADDENDA

 

Ac. 5673

 

Box 2

 

Thirteen books on poetry and textbooks