Monday, November 10, 2008

Letters Home: George Gowen Wants Out. . .

While doing a bit of organizing this evening, I came across an interesting letter penned by George W. Gowen in early October 1862, just a few weeks after Antietam. At the time of this letter, Gowen, a civil mining engineer before the war, was serving as a lieutenant in Company C. He would soon be promoted to captain, and near the end of the war was the commanding officer of the 48th Pennsylvania. On April 2, 1865, one week before Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Gowen was struck in the face by a Confederate shell and killed instantly during the Army of the Potomac's final assaults on Petersburg. Gowen's body was taken to his native Germantown, Pennsylvania, for burial. It is interesting to note that one of George Washington Gowen's brothers was none other than Benjamin Franklin Gowen, the lead prosecuting attorney of the Molly Maguires.
Gowen led a fascinating life, and established a stellar wartime service record and in future posts I will focus more on Gowen's life and career(s). But for now, here is the contents of the early October, post-Antietam letter, in which he does not have too kind words for his fellow soldiers in the 48th Pennsylvania.
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Camp Near Anteitam Creek, Md
October 2nd 1862
Dear John!
I have been intending to write to you every day for a week, but ever since we have been in Camp, I have felt so miserably that I could not get up energy enough to do it. The lime stone water of this region does not agree with the troops and there is a great deal of sickness in Camp. The greater portion of the Army is on this side of the Potomac, yet I do not think it will be very long before a general move across the river will be made.
I passed through the late engagements at South Mountain and Antietam Creek safely--at the latter place our Division carried the stone bridge. Genl. Sturgis is our Division sommander now. We lost Jesse Reno at South Mountain--he was a gallant officer. Wherever the fray was thickest there was Reno to be found. He was always with us on the battle field. The soldiers became very much attached to him. When he fell he was just in rear of our Regiment. I am getting along pretty well, and expect to be made a Captain within a short time. Yet I often feel that I could be situated more pleasantly and have regretted a thousand times that I did not get a position in the Regular Army a year ago. You cannot imagine the difference between the two branches of the service--the four months I spent with Co "C" 1st [U.S.] Artillery were by far the pleasantest of the campaign--there are two or three very fine fellows in my Regiment, but when that is said, all is said. A position on a Staff is my ambition, as it is of most young officers. I notice by the papers that General Cadwalader has been made a Major General and is at present a member of the Court Martial about to convene at Washington. He has not yet been given a command--do you think there could be any prospect of my getting a position on his Staff? . . .
With much love to all
I remain your Affectionate Brother

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