Henry H. Bowen Papers

Tiffanie and I have just finished adding the letters from the Henry H. Bowen Papers (part of our Military Collection’s Civil War Collection) to the North Carolina Digital Collection. The Bowen letters are interesting – for one thing, Henry Bowen may have had one of the more frustrating services of the soldiers whose letters we’ve read through. He was conscripted into the Confederate Marines (evidently very much against his will) in 1864. By October 1864 he was in Charleston, S.C. waiting for the ironclad that he was to serve on to be completed. By January 2, 1865, he was on-board the ironclad C.S.S. Columbia on which he was to serve, but by January 14, 1865 the Columbia had run aground and he was back to waiting on a steamer in Charleston harbor. Eventually most of the soldiers who were to serve on the Columbia were sent to Richmond, Virgina, but Henry Bowen and some of his fellow North Carolinians stayed in South Carolina until February when they were ordered to retreat in advance of an expected attack on Charleston by Sherman.  They were then sent to Wilmington, only to find out as they neared the city that it was already in Union hands, so they marched on to Fayetteville which is where our letters stop.

Henry’s letters have a lot of information on the monotony of life on-board ship; general impressions of Charleston in late 1864 and early 1865 during the Union bombardment; confused news about Sherman’s army and the related fears over where they might be headed next; concerns over the devaluing of Confederate money; and the challenge of sending and receiving mail between North and South Carolina.

And then there are his wife’s letters. Ann Bowen lived in Washington County, N.C., and unlike many of our Civil War wives wrote very detailed letters to her husband. She discussed the planting, harvesting and selling of their crops and often asked her husband how much she should charge for particular items. She was active in their community and frequently reported on the opinions and events happening in the county. This was particularly true when, in November 1864, the Union military took Plymouth and Washington County. From then on, almost all Ann’s letters convey her feelings of panic and confusion at living in occupied territory. In addition, she was constantly worried about delays in the mail (which made it difficult to consult her husband) and by a mysterious illness that made their daughter Cornelia Ann unable to move.

Next up for our letters digitization project will be the Poteet Family letters (link goes to the Poteet-Dickson Letters finding aid).

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7 Responses to Henry H. Bowen Papers

  1. Pingback: New Civil War Letters Available in the NCDC « History For All the People

  2. Zeno Windley says:

    Ashley,

    Henry Bowen is my GG Grandfather – my Grandfather Windley’s mother’s father. I just happened to stumble on your website and was thrilled to see your comments. I grew up in Nash County but have fond memories of visiting the old home place near Long Acre and Pinetown.

    My question is how did these letters and other Henry Bowen letters end up with the State Library?

    Thank you for your efforts to preserve our cherished history.

    Zeno Windley

    • I have a plate map of a pittsburgh land plot (in the house i grew up in) that says Henry H Bowen was the land owner about the same time as the civil war

      did he retire in pittsburgh or move south from pittsburgh for the war?

  3. Ashley says:

    Hi Zeno (fabulous name, by the way),

    I’m glad you found this blog and the Bowen Letters and were pleased by what we had to say about them. The Henry Bowen letters are part of the North Carolina State Archives’ Military Collection, Civil War Collection (you can find the finding aid to the Civil War collection here). I asked the archivist in charge of our Military Collection, Kenny Simpson, for more information about how the Bowen materials came to us and according to our accession records the letters were given to the State Archives by Janice Oden in Sept. 2004.

    I hope that answers your question and please let us know if we can answer anything else for you.

    -Ashley

  4. Pingback: Civil War Research at the North Carolina State Archives | North Carolina Civil War 150

  5. Wanda Stiles says:

    The Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City will be including Henry and Ann Bowen in our upcoming exhibit on the Civil War in Northeastern North Carolina. Would you happen to know where we can locate a picture of either one?

    • Ashley says:

      The finding aid (http://archives.ncdcr.gov/ead/eadxml/mil_civ_war.xml) indicates that what we have are the letters although it does mention “some miscellaneous post-Civil War items;” having not personally seen them I can’t say whether those miscellaneous items are photos or not, but I doubt that they are – that’s the sort of thing an archivist would usually mention in the description. I would suggest contacting our military archivist, Kenny Simpson (see http://archives.ncdcr.gov/contact/unit.htm) to see if he knows of any photos of Ann or Henry in our military collection. He may well put you in contact with Kim Cumber, our Non-Textual Materials archivist, who is in charge of our photograph collections. I did a quick search on Bowen in our online catalog MARS (http://mars.archives.ncdcr.gov) and didn’t see any photos listed, but Kim would know more about collections that may not be indexed down to the folder or item level in MARS.

      As far as any Bowen photos that may exist in the archives of other institutions, I’m not aware of any.

      Hopefully that all made sense and answered your questions. If not, please let me know.

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