Shrouded Veterans: Bvt. Brig. Gen. George W. Gowen

Bvt. Brig. Gen. George W. Gowen

A veteran headstone was placed at Brevet Brigadier General George W. Gowen’s grave.

On August 20, 1861, Gowen, a mining engineer before the Civil War, was appointed a first lieutenant with the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. A month later, he was promoted to captain. He served as an assistant engineer in the Army of Ohio and as an acting aide-de-camp to Major General John G. Parke.

Gowen was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 48th in October 1864. By January 2, 1865, he was colonel. He was killed in action at Petersburg, Virginia, on April 2, 1865. He was 25.

The night before the attack, Gowen told Colonel John I. Curtin that it would be his last battle. While leading his regiment the next day, he was struck in the face by a shell and killed instantly.

Sergeant Patrick H. Monaghan provided an account of his death:

“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.”

On April 15, the officers and soldiers of the 48th sent their condolences to Gowen’s family: “[We] sustained a loss which can never be repaired, inasmuch, that he possessed the rare qualities of the perfect gentleman united with those of the brave and efficient officer. Ever attentive to the innumerable wants of his command, courteous to those with whom he had intercourse, and displaying to all a kindness of heart seldom to be met with in the army.”

In 1907, surviving comrades, school children, and citizens of Schuylkill County erected a bronze statute near the spot where he fell.

Gowen was posthumously brevetted brigadier general for “gallant services in the assault upon the rebel works in front of Petersburg, Va., where killed.”

A family friend returned his remains to Pennsylvania and they were buried at St. Luke’s Episcopal Churchyard in Germantown. Despite his impressive monument at Petersburg, only a fragment of Gowen’s original headstone marked his grave.

Fragment of Gowen’s original grave.

A special thanks to Father Dave Morris and everyone else with St Luke’s Episcopal Church, Germantown, who helped to honor him with a veteran headstone.

Gowen’s new headstone

1 Response to Shrouded Veterans: Bvt. Brig. Gen. George W. Gowen

  1. In 1907 the statue must have been located in the middle of nowhere. Now it’s at a busy intersection with development as far as the eye can see.

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