On May 5, 1864, my wife’s great-great-great grandfather, Levi Bowen, was wounded and taken prisoner in the Battle of the Wilderness. By the spring of 1864, Levi, a member of Company H, 7th Pennsylvania Reserves was a seasoned veteran. In fact, he had been wounded and captured once before, at the Battle of Glendale. Fortunately, he was exchanged a few weeks later. He recuperated in Washington in time to rejoin his regiment for the Fredericksburg Campaign. This time, however, his captivity would last much longer. From the battlefield, Levi was marched to Orange Court House and then eventually to Andersonville. A family surprise has shed some light on his experience in the Wilderness and his time as a prisoner of war.
In February, one of my wife’s cousins reached out to my mother-in-law. In the e-mail, he attached a transcribed and typed copy of the diary that Levi carried with him into the Wilderness and to Andersonville. I had not known, nor did my wife know, that the diary existed. The original is housed in the Cumberland County Historical Society outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
While many of the entries are two or three sentences, there are some interesting aspects to the diary. For instance, Levi called the Battle of the Wilderness the Battle of Locust Grove. It seems that this identification is derived from the community closest to the battlefield that Levi passed traveled through following his capture. It also appears that Levi kept a listing of other members of the Pennsylvania Reserves that he encountered at Andersonville as well as fellow soldiers who died there.
That September, Levi was transferred out of Andersonville and sent to the prison at Salisbury, North Carolina. He was exchanged on February 27, 1865 but never returned to the Army of the Potomac. His wounds and poor health in captivity caught up with him and he spent the remainder of the war at hospitals in Annapolis and Baltimore. Following the end of the conflict, Levi returned to Pennsylvania and started a family. Along with several comrades, he returned to Andersonville for the dedication of the Pennsylvania Monument in the National Cemetery. He passed away in September, 1924.