Sunday, May 21, 2023

A New Headstone for Colonel Gowen

I was only at Saint Luke's Episcopal Graveyard in Germantown, Pennsylvania, once, and this was many, many years ago. 

I was there to locate the grave of George Washington Gowen, the 48th Pennsylvania's fourth commanding officer, following James Nagle, Joshua Sigfried, and Henry Pleasants. 

I thought I located it. . .but wasn't entirely sure. I found a plot for the "Gowen" family, at least, and I thought I saw the headstone for George but, again, I could not be certain. 

Surely, I thought, for someone born into a very prominent family and for a colonel who was killed in action leading his regiment into battle, George Gowen would have a large and easily recognizable headstone. But such was not the case. 

As it turns out, his grave marker had fallen into great disrepair and was hardly recognizable. 

This is why I was so happy, several weeks ago, to see that Frank Jastrzembski, founder of Shrouded Veterans, and working with Saint Luke's Episcopal Church in Germantown, saw to it that Colonel Gowen get a new headstone.

A New Headstone for Colonel Gowen. . .

Stands now in front of his original stone. 

Twenty-five-year-old George Washington Gowen, the son of Irish immigrants, was killed in action on April 2, 1865, during the 48th's final  battle action of the Civil War at Petersburg, Virginia. Sergeant Patrick Monahan, himself an immigrant from Ireland and Medal of Honor recipient for his heroics at Petersburg in June 1864, remembered Gowen's death vividly: "I saw. Col. Gowen step to the side of Sam Beddall, one of the Color Sergeants, lean over, and speak to him. My impression was that Sam was hurt, and I stepped to the side of the Colonel to take the colors, if such was the case. The Colonel straightened up, and I moved a step out of his way, when a shell, hot from the mouth of one of the rebel guns of Fort Mahone, exploded in our midst. The Colonel fell on his face; I turned him over on his back, and saw that half of his face was carried away. He was killed instantly. Myself and two others of the regiment carried him back to the rebel picket line, where we were relieved by others, and returned to the front; joined the colors, and entered Fort Mahone by way of the embrasure from which the shell had been fired that killed Colonel Gowen."

His remains were later returned to his native Germantown for burial. 

In the early 1900s, the veterans of the 48th placed an impressive statue of Gowen near the spot where he was killed. 

Colonel George W. Gowen
(as commander of Company C and as a pre-war civil mining engineer,
Gowen played a leading role in the tunneling of the 48th's mine at Petersburg) 

The 48th Pennsylvania Monument at Petersburg 
features a bronze statue of George W. Gowen. 

Many, many thanks to Frank Jastrzembski and Saint Luke's Episcopal Church for seeing to the placement of a new headstone for Colonel George Gowen! 

Now. . .I will need to make a return trip to Germantown!