By Marvin Sowder Dalton 150th Civil War Commission
Before the advent of the automobile, one of the most sought-after individuals was the village blacksmith. He was a valued member of any community, his trade was much needed and most appreciated.
Since it was the blacksmith who made the horseshoes and the nails to attach them, it was to him that everyone took their horses, mules and oxen when they needed shoeing. One such man in Tunnel Hill in 1863 was Henry Bowman.
He was born in North Carolina on Dec. 25, 1804. As a young man he married Mary Elizabeth Cameron and moved to Georgia before the Cherokee Removal of 1838. He eventually settled in Tunnel Hill. He and Mary Elizabeth raised five children, three sons and two daughters. He farmed a little but primarily followed the trade of blacksmith. Shortly after the war broke out his three sons joined the Confederate States Army.
The eldest son, James A. Bowman, joined as a private in Company B, 6th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, on July1, 1861. He died of a gunshot wound Sept. 16, 1862, received during the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam). Sarah, his young widow, came to live for a while with her father-in-law in Tunnel Hill. Later in life she drew a widow’s pension until her death on March 8, 1905.
The second son, Vincent Frank Bowman, married Mary R.J. Coker and moved to Franklin County, Ala., in 1859. He joined as a private in Company E, 5th Alabama Calvary, and rose to the rank of corporal while serving under the commands of Gens. Philip Roddy and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Like his father, he was a blacksmith and worked as a government blacksmith from Dec. 15, 1862, through June 1, 1863, in Cherokee County, Ala.
On Jan. 28, 1864, he was paid $40 by Capt. C.C. Swoops, quartermaster, for making and putting on 15 mule shoes, putting on two wagon boxes and repairing several ambulances near Dalton. He served through the entire war without being wounded or captured. After the war he moved to Comanche County, Texas, where he operated a blacksmith shop and a cotton gin. He and his wife Mary raised 10 children there.
The third son, Thadius Clinton Bowman, joined as a private in Company I, 12th Georgia Cavalry, under Capt. Avery at Dalton on Jan. 10, 1862. He attained the rank of corporal and was taken prisoner in Whitfield County on Nov. 25,1863, probably while visiting his ailing mother in Tunnel Hill. He was sent to Louisville, Ky., as a prisoner of war. On June 24, 1864, he took the oath of allegiance to the United States and remained north of the Ohio River during the war.
Henry Bowman and one of his sons-in-law, Isaac A. Whitten, enlisted in the Tunnel Guards of the 1st Georgia State Guards for six months.Whitten married Elizabeth Bowman in Tunnel Hill on Sept. 1, 1861. After the war, he farmed in the Red Clay and Varnell areas.
On Sept. 9, 1863, Bowman was detailed as a blacksmith by Special Order No. 24 and probably never left Tunnel Hill. He not only served the citizens of Tunnel Hill but was called on many times to do repair work for surgeon B.M. Wible and the quartermasters of various cavalry regiments camped around Tunnel Hill. Wible was in charge of the Confederate hospital complex situated in and around Tunnel Hill.
Bowman’s earliest involvement with the medical department for which records exist is dated March 1, 1863, when he rented out a four-room house at Tunnel Hill for a hospital. Capt. A.J. Barry, quartermaster for the Army of Tennessee at Ringgold, paid $8 rent for the month of March, 1863. On March 2 he charged Barry 75 cents for steeling one ax and on April 13 was paid 25 cents for making a door latch, 75 cents for steeling another ax and 50 cents for putting two shoes on a mule. The same day he was paid a whopping $44.25 for four horseshoes, five staples, one hook, one pick ax, one pair of small gate hinges and one pair of large gate hinges, all for the quartermaster department.
In the latter part of 1863, Sgt.James Parrett of Company H, 28th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, became ill while stationed near Tullahoma, Tenn., and was sent to the hospital at Tunnel Hill. He was married to Mahala Ann Bowman, a second cousin to Henry Bowman. In a letter to her he wrote, “Dear Wife, I have nothing important to write to you about the war. I learned about ten minutes ago that the Yankees had Vicksburg surrounded — I must tell you about your kinfolk. I have found your father’s one cousin. He lives in Tunnel Hill in Whitfield County Georgia. I stayed with him some and he did not charge me anything. His name is Henry Bowman. He is doing well and is the master worker. He is a blacksmith.”
He finished this rather lengthy letter by writing, “That knot of love that is tied to my heart will never die. Good by, James.”
On June 4, 1863, Bowman sharpened two plows for Surgeon Wible, which seems to indicate the medical department personnel were growing their own vegetables. On June 9, he also made two pot bails for the Catoosa Springs Hospitals.
Records indicate that on Sept. 8,1863, Bowman was paid $147.67 by Capt. C.W. Kennedy, quartermaster, Army of Tennessee, for 51 assorted jobs covering the summer of 1863 from June 5 through Sept. 8. Likewise, Wible had a similar list covering an assortment of 26 jobs performed for the medical department for that time frame, totaling $51.35.
From these two lists, one can pretty much follow what was going on in Tunnel Hill during that time. They seem to indicate that Henry Bowman was never out of Tunnel Hill for any length of time during his enlistment in the Tunnel Guards. In September, he made two wheels and put six shoes on a mule and horse. On Sept. 30 Bowman sold a complete set of blacksmith tools to a quartermaster for $113.49 including bellows and an anvil. He also sold him 11 bushels of corn for $16.50.
There are no records of government work for November of 1863. Perhaps it was because he was caring for his ailing wife. On Nov. 28, 1863, tragedy struck the Bowman family again. His wife of 43 years, Mary Elizabeth, passed away. Except for his widowed daughter-in-law, Henry Bowman was left alone in the middle of a gruesome war.
By Dec. 11, he was back at work mending wagons attached to Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s Cavalry Division Headquarters and shoeing as many as 32 horses for the couriers of Gen. John Kelly’s Division and 12 mules belonging to division headquarters. He also sold to the quartermaster 84 horseshoes at 40 cents per shoe. This activity rounded out the year of 1863 for Henry Bowman. He continued to follow his trade up to Feb. 6, 1864. After that date there are no further war period records available for him.
After the war Henry Bowman, now 66 years old, was still running a blacksmith shop in Tunnel Hill in 1870 along with a 16-year-old apprentice, John Teasker. Bowman passed away Nov. 5, 1875, and was buried beside his wife in Foster Cemetery in Tunnel Hill.
An appropriate C.S.A. headstone was placed at his grave in 1997 by the Tunnel Hill Historical Foundation. May he rest in peace.
This article is part of a series of stories about Dalton and life in Dalton during the Civil War. The stories run on Sunday and are provided by the Dalton 150th Civil War Commission. To find out more about the committee, go to www.dalton150th.com. If you have material that you would like to contribute for a future article contact Robert Jenkins at (706) 259-4626 or robert.jenkins@ robertdjenkins.com.