Lowery, Thomas (Corporal)

Note: Alternative spellings of surname: Lowery, Lowrie, Lowry, Lowrey

 

Born in Ireland in 1835, Thomas Lowery was employed as a miner when the Civil War broke out. The 1860 federal census shows him living with his wife, Henrietta (a Pennsylvania native born sometime around 1834), and their Pennsylvania-born daughters: Ann Catharine (aged 4) and Sarah Ann (aged 1). Thomas had married Henrietta in 1857, according to the 1900 federal census.

Civil War Military Service

Alma Pelot's photo showing the Confederate flag flying over Fort Sumter 16 April 1861 (public domain, Library of Congress).

Alma Pelot’s photo showing the Confederate flag flying over Fort Sumter 16 April 1861 (public domain, Library of Congress).

Thomas Lowery was an early responder to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops to help defend the nation after the fall in mid-April 1861 of Fort Sumter to Confederate forces. He mustered in to Company E of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on 16 September 1861. Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, he was transported with the 47th Pennsylvania by rail to Washington, D.C. Company C Musician Henry D. Wharton penned this update regarding the regiment’s progress for his hometown newspaper, the Sunbury American:

After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.

After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.

Stationed roughly two miles from the White House at Camp Kalorama on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September, Corporal Lowery and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were officially mustered into federal service with the U.S. Army on 24 September 1861.

On 27 September – a rainy day, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By that afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvania was on the move again. Ordered onward by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, the Mississippi rifle-armed 47th Pennsylvania infantrymen marched behind their regimental band until reaching Camp Lyon, Maryland on the Potomac River’s eastern shore. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in moving double-quick (165 steps per minute using 33-inch steps) across the “Chain Bridge” marked on federal maps.

Heading toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had just crossed, they made camp in a deep ravine near a new federal fort under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, were situated fairly close to General W.F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac. Here, they joined with their brigade in defending the nation’s capital.

On October 11, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads after having been ordered with the 3rd Brigade to Camp Griffin. In a mid-October letter home, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) reported that companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops.

On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.” Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.”

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

As a reward for their performance that day – and in preparation for the even bigger things which were yet to come, Brigadier-General Brannan ordered that brand new Springfield rifles be obtained for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

1862

Rendering of Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida, Harper's Weekly, 1864 (public domain).

Rendering of Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida, Harper’s Weekly, 1864 (public domain).

Next ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Fall’s Church. Sent by rail to Alexandria, they then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before they were marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped railcars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.

By the afternoon of Monday, 27 January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had commenced boarding the Oriental. Ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers, the enlisted men boarded first while the officers boarded last. Then, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, the Oriental steamed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. They were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the Union, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas.

In February 1862, Company E and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Key West, where they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor. On 14 February, the regiment made its presence known to area residents via a parade through the city’s streets.

Drilling daily in heavy artillery tactics, they also strengthened the fortifications at this federal installation. Per Schmidt, Captain Charles H. Yard commanded three regiments charged with “clearing land and cutting roads” in April 1862. A “fine military road had been cut by the brigade from Fort Taylor directly through the island.”

From mid-June through July of 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered to Hilton Head in South Carolina. The men of the 47th made camp there at Hilton Head before they were afforded housing in the Beaufort District, U.S. Department of the South. Picket duties north of the 3rd Brigade’s camp were commonly rotated among the regiments present there at the time, putting soldiers at increased risk from sniper fire. According to historian Samuel P. Bates, during this phase of their service, the soldiers of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing.”

Illustration of the Union Navy's base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

Illustration of the Union Navy’s base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

During a return expedition to Florida beginning 30 September, the 47th joined with the 1st Connecticut Battery, 7th Connecticut Infantry, and part of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry in assaulting Confederate forces at their heavily protected camp at Saint John’s Bluff overlooking the Saint John’s River area. Trekking and skirmishing through roughly 25 miles of dense swampland and forests after disembarking from ships at Mayport Mills on 1 October, the 47th captured artillery and ammunition stores (on 3 October), which had been abandoned by Confederate forces due to the bluff’s bombardment by Union gunboats.

Illustration of the Darlington, a former Confederate steamer turned Union gunboat (public domain).

Illustration of the Darlington, a former Confederate steamer turned Union gunboat (public domain).

Companies E and K of the 47th were then led by Captain Yard on a special mission; ordered by their superiors to help extend the Union Army’s reach further along the Saint John’s River, and venturing deeper and deeper into Confederate territory, the men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s E and K Companies collaborated with other Union Army soldiers to scope out and  subsequently gain control of the town of Jacksonville, Florida on 5 October 1862. The combined Union force had also been charged with capturing or destroying the Confederate-controlled watercraft they encountered along the way.

The rebel steamer Governor Milton, captured by the U.S. flotilla in St. John's River, Florida, Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper). Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory Project (public domain).

The rebel steamer Governor Milton, captured by the U.S. flotilla in St. John’s River, Florida, Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper). Courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory Project (public domain).

A day later, while sailing aboard the Union gunboat Darlington (formerly a Confederate steamer) – with protection from the Union gunboat Hale, men from the 47th Pennsylvania’s  Companies E and K then traveled 200 miles along the Saint John’s River in order to capture the Gov. Milton on 6 October 1862. Another Confederate steamer, the Governor Milton was reported to be docked near Hawkinsville, and had been engaged in furnishing troops, ammunition and other supplies to Confederate Army units scattered throughout the region, including the batteries at Saint John’s Bluff and Yellow Bluff.

Identified as a thorn that needed to be plucked from the Union’s side, the Gov. Milton was seized by Companies E and K with support from other Union troops. Their expedition having gone deep enough into Confederate territory, the combined Union Army-Navy team sailed the Gov. Milton and other ships back down the Saint John’s River, and moved the Milton behind Union lines.

From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. (“T. H.”) Good and Lieutenant Colonel George Warren (“G. W.”) Alexander, the entire 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry joined with other Union regiments to engage the heavily protected Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina – including at Frampton’s Plantation and the Pocotaligo Bridge – a key piece of the South’s railroad infrastructure which Union leaders felt should be destroyed.

Harried by snipers en route to the Pocotaligo Bridge, they met resistance from yet another entrenched, heavily fortified Confederate battery which opened fire on the Union troops as they entered an open cotton field. A significant number of Union troops were wounded or killed.

Those headed toward higher ground at the Frampton Plantation fared no better as they encountered artillery and infantry fire from the surrounding forests. But the Union soldiers would not give in; grappling with the Confederates where they found them, they pursued the Rebels for four miles as the Confederate Army retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut. Unfortunately, the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of intense fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, the 47th was forced by depleted ammunition supplies to withdraw to Mackey’s Point.

Losses for the 47th Pennsylvania were significant, including a number of men from Company E who had been wounded or killed in action. Several resting places for men from the 47th still remain unidentified, the information lost to sloppy Army and hospital records management, or to the trauma-impaired memories of soldiers forced to hastily bury or leave behind the bodies of comrades upon receiving orders to retreat.

On 23 October, the 47th Pennsylvania returned to Hilton Head, where it served as the funeral Honor Guard for General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, the commander of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps and Department of the South who had succumbed to yellow fever on 30 October. The Mountains of Mitchel, a part of Mars’ South Pole discovered by Mitchel in 1846 while working as a University of Cincinnati astronomer, and Mitchelville, the first freedmen’s town created after the Civil War, were both later named for him. Men from the 47th Pennsylvania were given the high honor of firing the salute over his grave.

Having been ordered back to Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida with his regiment on 15 November, Private Thomas Lowery received an early Christmas present on 21 December 1862 when he was promoted to the rank of Corporal. The timing could mean only one thing – that he had served with distinction two months earlier during the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina.

1863

Woodcut depicting the harsh climate at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida during the Civil War. (Public domain, U.S. Library of Congress.)

Woodcut depicting the harsh climate at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida during the Civil War. (Public domain, U.S. Library of Congress.)

In 1863, Corporal Thomas Lowery and his fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers continued their defense of Florida and other southern territories. Duties for the 47th during this phase required that the regiment be split between Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas. As a soldier in E Company, Corporal Lowery served at Fort Taylor; those from the 47th who were stationed there helped to fell trees, build new roads and strengthen the fortifications of the federal installation.

The climate was harsh, and disease was a constant companion and foe.

1864

From March to May 1864, Corporal Thomas Lowery and the 47th made history as the only Pennsylvania regiment to participate in Union General Nathaniel Banks’ Red River Campaign across Louisiana.

Having left Florida aboard the steamer Charles Thomas on 25 February 1864, the 47th arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February 1864, and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – this time to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps.

From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the remaining members of the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.

Battle of Mansfield-Sabine Cross Roads (8 April 1864)

Map of the Mansfield-Sabine Cross Roads Area, DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, April 1864. (Source: General Nathaniel Banks’ official report on the Red River Campaign; public domain.)

Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the back-and-forth volley of fire unleashed by both sides during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads (Mansfield). The fighting waned only when darkness fell. The exhausted, but uninjured collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.

The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner who was the son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.

The 47th incurred significant casualties, including multiple killed and wounded during the Battles of Sabine Cross Roads and Pleasant Hill, as well as to typhoid, yellow fever and other diseases. Still others were captured by Confederate forces, several of whom perished or disappeared while being held as prisoners of war.

Following what some historians have called a rout by Confederates at Pleasant Hill and others have labeled a technical victory for the Union or a draw for both sides, the 47th fell back to Grand Ecore, where they resupplied and regrouped until 22 April. Retreating further to Alexandria, they and their fellow Union soldiers scored a clear victory against the Confederates at Cane Hill.

Known as "Bailey's Dam" for the Union officer who ordered its construction, Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 was designed to facilitate passage of Union gunboats to and from the Mississippi River. Photo: Public domain.

Known as “Bailey’s Dam” for the Union officer who ordered its construction, Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey, this timber dam built by the Union Army on the Red River in Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 was designed to facilitate passage of Union gunboats to and from the Mississippi River. Photo: Public domain.

On 23 April, the 47th and their fellow brigade members crossed the Cane River via Monett’s Ferry and, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey, helped to build a dam from 30 April through 10 May, which enabled federal gunboats to successfully traverse the rapids of the Red River.

Beginning 16 May, Captain Charles Yard and E Company moved with the majority of the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza, and then to New Orleans on 20 June.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Still able and willing to fight after their Bayou battles, the soldiers of Company E and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, D, F, H, and I returned to the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan beginning 7 July 1864.

Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, they joined with Major-General David Hunter’s forces in the fighting at Snicker’s Gap, and assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, early and mid-September saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Company D’s Captain Henry Woodruff, E Company’s Captain Charles H. Yard, and Corporal Thomas Lowery, also of E Company. All three mustered out with others at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service. Their regiment would go on to fight admirably in legendary Union General Philip Sheridan’s tide-turning 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

Returning Home

Following his honorable discharge from the military, Corporal Thomas Lowery made his way home to his wife and daughters Pennsylvania.

By 1880, Thomas Lowery was working as a miner and living with his wife (aged 45) was living with his wife (aged 44) in Shenandoah, Schuylkill County with their children: Mary (aged 19, working as a dressmaker), George and Thomas (aged 15 and 13, working for the coal mines as slate pickers), William (aged 9), and Cathrine (aged 6). John B. Lovet was also living with the family as a boarder.

According to the 1890 U.S. Veterans’ Schedule, Thomas Lowery suffered from rheumatism and dropsy, developed during his service with the 47th in Florida and Virginia. Often related to heart or kidney disease, dropsy or hydropsy is more commonly known today as edema, a swelling of soft tissues produced by excess amounts of fluid.

By 1900, Thomas and Henrietta were still living in Shenandoah. Their children, Sarah (aged 42) and William (aged 28), were living with them, as was their grandson, Thomas Bowler, aged 19. Thomas was working as a colliery laborer at this time while William was working as a policeman, and Thomas was working for a coal breaker. Only six of Thomas and Henrietta’s nine children were still alive by this time. This census also indicates that daughter Sarah had also given birth to a child by this time, and that this child also had survived.

Just six years after the dawn of a new century, Thomas widowed Henrietta, passing away on 8 January 1906. His death was reported in the 11 January 1906 (Thursday) edition of the Reading Times as follows:

Thomas Lowery, father of George B. Lowery, the circus proprietor, died at Shenandoah on Tuesday.

He was interred at Annunciation Cemetery in Shenandoah.


Sources:

1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.

2. Pennsylvania Veteran’s Burial Index Card. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

3. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.

4. U.S. Census. Washington, D.C.: 1880, 1900.

5. U.S. Civil War Pension Index (Application No.: 739758, Certificate No.: 305186, filed from Pennsylvania on 7 March 1890 by the veteran; Application No.: 841677, Certificate No.: 609857, filed from Pennsylvania on 19 January 1906 by the veteran’s widow, Henrietta Lowery). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives, 1890-1906.

6. U.S. Veterans Schedule (as “Lowrey, Thomas”). Washington, D.C.: 1890.

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