Portrait of a Patriot - My Ancestor, Isaac Bowman, by Lucas Howell, 5th Grade, St Paul Lutheran School, Ogden, Utah
The Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter, Volume 6, Number 1
I found out that more than 160 of my relatives fought in the Civil War, and this is only one branch of my family tree. But one who stands out is Isaac Bowman. He needs to be appreciated for what he did.
After Fort Sumter surrendered to the Confederates, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. Governor Andrew Curtin also made a plea to the citizens of Pennsylvania to preserve the Union. Isaac Bowman answered the call and enlisted on August 12, 1862, at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, in the 130th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company H. Isaac was 24 years old, six years older than the average volunteer.
By September, Isaac was fighting in the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland. Three days later he fought in Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. This was the first of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's two attempts to carry the war into the North. About 40,000 Southerners were pitted against the 87,000-man Federal Army of the Potomac under General George B. McClellan. When two Union soldiers happened upon a copy of Lee's battle plan wrapped around three cigars that had been left behind when the Rebels broke camp, McClellan wrote President Lincoln: "I have the plans of the rebels, and will catch them in their own trap. Will send you trophies."
But instead of attacking, McClellan hesitated. Isaac found himself where the fighting was the bloodiest and most desperate of the entire war. Union General Joseph Hooker's report confirms that, "every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before."
The 130th Pennsylvania Monument stands overlooking "Bloody Lane," the site described in Hooker's dispatch. This was the first major Northern victory of the war and gave President Abraham Lincoln the chance to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. It proclaimed that on January 1, 1863, all slaves in the States still in rebellion would be "henceforth and forever free." Now the war had a dual purpose: to preserve the Union and end slavery.
Later in the war, Isaac was captured, held behind Confederate lines, later exchanged, and ended up in Lincoln Hospital, Washington, D.C. Isaac was eventually discharged on a surgeon's certificate on January 20, 1863, with the rank of Corporal.
Isaac was more fortunate than two of his first cousins, brothers Charles and William Bowman, who served in the 191st PA Infantry Regiment. Charles and William were captured after the Battle of Cold Harbor and sent to the Confederate prison camp at Salisbury, North Carolina, where they both died and were buried in the prison cemetery.
A year after his discharge, Isaac married Rebecca J. Enders. Because he was a patriot, he left his pregnant wife to reenlist September 6, 1864, in the 210th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company A, and was soon promoted to sergeant. Isaac, now 26 years old, was assigned to the Fifth Corps, Second Division, Third Brigade, commanded by General Gwyn. He fought in several battles in Dinwiddie County, Virginia.
Isaac fought in many large battles, and wasn't always able to write to his wife. He sent a letter home to let her know he was "in the land of the living" and hoped she would be "rejoicing in good health again." Rebecca was pregnant with Laura Alice Bowman who was born March 28, 1865, and that is the reason she wasn't feeling well. But the war would soon be over.
The 210th stayed with the Fifth Corps and followed the retreating army closely, and at the surrender at the Appomattox Court House, was again at the front line and captured the flag of truce. After the rebel army laid down their arms, the 210th returned to Washington, marched in the "Grand Review" of the national troops, and mustered out of the service on the 30th of May. Isaac was one of 525 men to return to Camp Curtin on June 1, 1865. He was paid off and the 210th was finally disbanded on June 6, 1865.
Isaac returned home to his wife Rebecca, and met his daughter, Laura Alice, for the first time. A daughter Bertha was born on November 2, 1870. Isaac resumed his stone mason trade and left a legacy of hundreds of buildings and bridges as monuments of his manual labor. Isaac was a member of The Order of the Knights of Pythias. This great international fraternity was founded in Washington, D.C., on February 19, 1864 by Justus H. Rathbone. Rathbone believed the fraternity would help to heal the nation. President Abraham Lincoln said the following:
The purposes of your organization are most wonderful. If we could but bring its spirit to all our citizenry, what a wonderful thing it would be. It breathes the spirit of Friendship, Charity and Benevolence. It is one of the best agencies conceived for the upholding of government, honoring the flag, for the reuniting of our brethren of the North and of the South, for teaching the people to love one another, and portraying the sanctity of the home and loved ones.
Isaac died on September 11, 1881 from pneumonia. He was only 43 years old. The following article was printed in the Jacksonville Jottings on September 15, 1881:
His record as a soldier is beyond reproach, having performed his numerous duties fearlessly and with fidelity, winning the esteem of his comrades and the approbation of his company and regimental officers!Isaac was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Enders, Pennsylvania. His pallbearers were Cornelius Bixler, John G Killinger, Charles E. Riegel, and Samuel Meckley who were Isaac's comrades in the 210th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. His work on earth was done.
I'm proud to be an American. I'm proud of Isaac for being a loyal American and fighting for my freedom. In conclusion, you can tell Isaac was a good man. He came to the call of his president, Abraham Lincoln, and fought to keep America together as one as it is today. I use Isaac's example to help everyone answer the call of our country and to be a good American.