Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Bowe Brothers of Company "D" of Birge's Western Sharpshooters (66th Illinois Volunteer Infantry)

The three brothers from the Bowe family of Michigan, Seth, Prosper and Gilbert, enlisted in Company "D" of Birge's Western Sharpshooters (later known as the 66th Illinois Volunteer Infantry). The unit was recruited by John C. Fremont, organized in St. Louis and mustered into Federal service on November 23, 1861. 
Tintype photograph of five Company "D" privates reveals the diversity of dress in the regiment. Seated from the left - Front row: Prosper O. Bowe, James Smith, Unidentified. Rear: Unidentified, Gilbert S. Bowe. Note the smoking pipes, oversized cravats and bottles pouring into a cup.
It consisted of ten companies recruited in different Midwestern states, Company "D" being from Michigan. Seth and Prosper enlisted in late 1861, and Gilbert in September 1862. The regiment first operated in Northern Missouri; five companies would see their first action there at Mount Zion Church. In February 1862, they were shipped to Fort Henry shortly after its capture, taking part in the capture of Fort Donelson.
Sergeant Seth A. Bowe left, and brother Gilbert S. Bowe.
Note the sack coats tucked into their trousers.
At Fort Donelson, Pvt. Prosper Bowe was known to have captured the colors of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry. Although, it's not exactly known if he captured it in battle or after the surrender. 

The Western Sharpshooters went on to see action at Shiloh and in the Luka-Corinth Campaign. In late 1862 they were transferred to Illinois service, becoming the 66th Illinois Volunteer Infantry (Western Sharpshooters). Seth A. Bowe was discharged on June 17, 1862, due to disability, Gilbert enlisted on September 1, 1862, and Prosper remained in service and reenlisted on December 24, 1863. That December, 470 men reenlisted, and the regiment was sent to Chicago to be given a veteran furlough. 

Prosper O. Bowe in civilian
clothing. Date unknown.
Prosper O. Bowe's two brothers, Seth, were the oldest, born in 1837, and Gilbert, the youngest, born in 1844. They also had a sister, Dorcas P. Bowe, born in 1840, to who Prosper is known to have written letters. 

All four siblings seem to have originally been born in Jefferson County, New York; the family moved to Michigan in 1855.

After the reorganization in early 1864, the 66th Illinois Sharpshooters returned to Pulaski, leaving for Chattanooga in April. From there, they would travel to the Army of Tennessee in Georgia and see action in the Atlanta Campaign. 

Being sharpshooters, they saw a good amount of skirmishing all throughout the campaign and were heavily engaged on July 22, 1864, at the Battle of Atlanta. 

The 66th Illinois was known for being largely equipped with Henry repeating rifles. Prosper wrote to his sister about how he put his Henry rifle to good use in the Battle of Atlanta, "I stood and fired nearly ninety rounds without stopping. My gun was so hot I could not touch it - spit on it... and it sizzled!"
To become a member of this regiment, a prospective member was required to fire a 3-shot group of 3 ⅓″ or tighter cluster at 200 yards. These rifles were originally known as Birge's Western Sharpshooters after their commander Col. John W. Birge. They were made in various calibers ranging from 33 up to 69 and fired a special Schuetzen bullet.
The 66th Illinois finally participated in the March to the Sea and Carolina's Campaign (May 7, 1864 - December 2, 1864).

They marched in the Grand Review at Washington on May 24, 1865, and were discharged from service on July 7, 1865. All three brothers survived the war; both Prosper and Gilbert mustered out with the regiment on July 7, 1865.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The Bowe Family Genealogy

Seth A. Bowe:
Birth: February 20, 1837, Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, USA
Spouse: Nellie H. Walton Bowe (1850-1931)
Death: March 21, 1905, Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, USA
Burial: Riverside Cemetery, Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, USA

Prosper O. Bowe:
Birth: March 26, 1842 - Clayton, Jefferson County, New York, USA
Death: March 25, 1923, USA
Burial: Watervliet Cemetery, Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan, USA

Gilbert L. Bowe:
Birth: April 1844, Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, USA
Spouse: Mary Bowe (????-1926)
Death: January 16, 1921, California, USA
Burial: Los Angeles National Cemetery, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA

SISTER: Dorcas Priscilla Bowe Boyer:
Birth: March 20, 1840, Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, USA
Children: Sterling Edward Boyer (1859-1923) & Seymour Albert Boyer (1871-1914)
Death: May 17, 1917, Bangor, Van Buren County, Michigan, USA
Burial: Arlington Hill Cemetery, Bango, Van Buren County, Michigan, USA

FATHER: Horace Bowe:
Birth: November 12, 1802, Connecticut, USA
Death: October 28, 1880, Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan, USA

Horace moved from Connecticut with his family in 1848 to Watertown, New York and in 1855 to Michigan, where he settled in Berrien County. Horace died in the home of his son Prosper with whom he had been living for several years. 

MOTHER: Susan Clark Bowe:
Birth: November 5, 1809, Connecticut, USA
Death: November 25, 1882, Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan, USA 

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