Sketches of Students of First
GENERAL S. M. BOWMAN. About the middle of the last century three young men by the name of Beauman emigrated from Northern Germany to Philadelphia. The father was a practical metallurgist, and held from the crown a lease of a silver mine near Ems, on the river Lahn. The mine had been destroyed by influx of water, and the family impoverished by fruitless efforts to retrieve it. In America the name came to be spelled as it was pronounced, Bowman. Of this stock came the subject of this sketch, and Bishop Thomas Bowman, his cousin. Samuel Millard Bowman was born near Berwick, Pennsylvania, in 1815, became a student in Cazenovia in 1833, where he received all the regular tuition he ever had beyond the common school. In 1837 he removed to Dixon, Illinois, when that city could boast three loghouses and one ferry-boat as the sum total of all material progress thereabouts. In 1844 he removed to St. Louis, and engaged in the practice of the law. In 1847 he was employed to visit Europe on professional business, besides attending to which he found time to jot down his impressions of European life as it appeared to him in London, Paris, and by the way-side. These were in the form of "Letters from Across the Ocean," subscribed S. M. B., and published in the St. Louis "Republican," and brought the author into favorable notice as a writer. In 1852 the St. Louis bankers, Lucos, Turner, & Co., established a branch bank at San Francisco, of which General Sherman was the managing partner, and Mr. Bowman is stated as counsel and attorney. Next came the civil war, that changed the current of events in the lives of so many men. In 1862 Sherman, the banker, and Bowman, the attorney, met on the battlefield of Shiloh. The former wore the uniform of a brigadier-general of the United States army, and the latter that of major of cavalry. The business was not banking or law now, but war. General Bowman entered the army as major of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, though a resident of New York at the time. June 2, 1862, Governor Yates, of Illinois, on learning of the exploits of the third battalion, under the major's command, commissioned him colonel of cavalry "for special meritorious conduct" in four different engagements mentioned. About the same time Governor Curtin, of his native State, tendered him the command of the Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Infantry, a regiment in the field, which he accepted. For information relating to the military career of General Bowman we are indebted to the files of the War Department.
The following is an extract of a letter from Major-general S. A. Hurlbut to President Lincoln, dated November 6, 1863:--
"When I knew Colonel Bowman at Fort Donaldson, thence to Shiloh and Corinth, he was major of the third battalion, Fourth Illinois Cavalry, in my command, and, in my judgment, the best cavalry officer in the service with us."
General W. T. Sherman, in relating to the secretary of war, under date of December 26, 1863, the relation Colonel Bowman sustained to the important matter of breaking the Charleston and Memphis Railroad east of Corinth, wrote:
"The breaking of that road was the great chief object of the movement up the Tennessee. I dispatched Colonel Bowman (then major Fourth Illinois Cavalry) with a detachment of one hundred men, duly officered, with orders to break a common bridge across Bear Creek, an unfordable stream, and then to break the railroad bridge further back. This called for rapid and determined action, as the enemy guarded the bridge, and had heavy reserves at Iuka, only six miles off. The cavalry was followed by infantry, but Major Bowman accomplished all before the infantry got up, and he did the work effectually."
General Bowman's record in the Army of the Potomac was equally creditable. June 20, 1863, he was assigned to duty in Washington as a member of the board to examine officers to command colored troops, and was afterward sent to relieve General Binney, in Baltimore. The friends of the Union in Maryland had invited the General Government to enlist the slaves into the military service as a measure of emancipation, because "no soldier can be a slave." There was great opposition to the measure in Maryland. General Bowman was selected to perform this delicate and difficult duty. He was greatly aided by a society in Philadelphia, that contributed funds and influence, and it was not long before recruiting squads, "with fife and drum, and banners flying," were marching up all the roads to invite the slaves to the new emancipation. At the same time steamers with other squads visited all the estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay, and the business of recruiting was prosecuted with so much vigor that in the course of a few weeks there were no able-bodied colored people left to do the hard work. The men servants had disappeared from their accustomed places, the plow stood still in the furrow for want of a plowman, the wheel stood still in the mill for lack of a miller, and those who were dependent on slave labor learned to do without it. At the close of the war General Bowman was in command of the District of Delaware. It has been already stated that General Bowman was not a graduate; but in July, 1866, Dartmouth College, at the suggestion of the late Chief-Justice Chase, conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts. A student among students, a lawyer among lawyers, an officer among officers; called into the military service in the hour of our country's greatest peril, General Bowman seems to have performed his part always creditably.
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