“Was Taken Prisoner”: A Pennsylvanian in the Wilderness and Andersonville

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.

The Pennsylvania Monument at Andersonville.
The Pennsylvania Monument at Andersonville.


12 Responses to “Was Taken Prisoner”: A Pennsylvanian in the Wilderness and Andersonville

  1. Thanks Daniel…another priceless insight into the life of a Civil War soldier.

  2. Dear Daniel Davis,
    In the last few years, I’ve become a fan of yours and most all of the Emerging Civil War series. I’ve met and conversed with a couple of the other others once or twice as well. (I should be getting Chris M. to sign my copy of his new book about the Wilderness @ Ellwood for instance). I try to be as much a scholar of the Wilderness as possible for an amateur and a Friend of the Wilderness Battlefield. Please come out to Ellwood and share your writings and thoughts on the Wilderness more and/or join us @ the Anniversary activities (tonight) & Saturday. If not, I’d sure like to meet you myself and absorb what you know & write about the Wilderness in the future.
    Joe LaFleur III
    Resident of the and FoWB volunteer

    P.S. If I’m not mistaken, I believe you may know my wife Kathleen and were hired by her @ Ft. Knox

    1. Hi Joe,
      Thank you for the kind words. I do know and Katie (my boss at one point) and I believe you and I met at one time while the Branch was still in Alexandria. Unfortunately, a family engagement will keep me away this Saturday. However, I would be more than happy to to schedule some with FoWB at Ellwood sometime later this summer. You can reach out to me at danieltdavis81@gmail.com

      All the best to you and Katie!

      1. Thanks for responding Daniel, I thought we’d met & “the Boss” tells me now it was HRC here and that you were smart enough not to follow us to Ft. Knox. Tomorrow wouldn’t be the best for me anyway, I’ll be busy with FoWB and fawning over Chris Mackowski to boot. He’s donating proceeds from ‘Hell Itself’! and that’s a wonderful thing, despite how it may sound.
        I’ll contact you soon in regards to this summer. We’re enjoying watching your career blossom and hope to meet you again soon. My apologies for straying from your topic in this forum.

    2. Thanks Joe. It is very much appreciated and again thank you for the kind words. I look forward to it!

      Take care,


  3. Great article! My great grandfather suffered six months in Salisbury and was released or escaped from Columbia Prison about the same time and spent the rest of his time in service in the Arlington Hospital/Rehab facility. He had fought in the second battle of Grant’s Overland Campaign, Spotsylvania Courthouse, was wounded at Petersburg and then captured at Rheams Station after he returned to his company.

  4. Thank you for sharing Levi’s story. It’s consoling to know he was not forgotten. Levi was my great-great grandfather. My grandmother is the person who donated Levi’s diary to the Historical Society. I would love to connect and share info with others.

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