Lowrey, Thomas (Corporal)

While the exact year and point of emigration are not yet known for Thomas Lowrey, it is likely he witnessed a scene much like the one depicted in “The Embarkation” (The London Illustrated, 6 July 1850, public domain).

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

Born in the mid-1830s, Thomas Lowrey became one of the millions of men, women and children to emigrate from their hometowns in Ireland during the 19th century in the hope of finding better lives on distant shores.

Arriving in America before he had even turned twenty-five, he chose to make his new home in Pennsylvania.

Formative Years

Born in Ireland on 3 August 1834, Thomas Lowrey was employed as a miner when the American Civil War broke out. The 1860 federal census shows him living with his wife, Henrietta (Moser) Lowrey (1833-1913), a native of Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania who was born in April 1833, 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.

Their daughter Mary Lowrey (1861-1939) was born sometime in 1861.

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 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

Thomas Lowrey was an early responder to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops to help defend the capital of his adopted homeland, following the mid-April 1861 fall of Fort Sumter to Confederate Army forces. After mustering in to Company E of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on 16 September 1861, he underwent a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, and was then transported with the 47th Pennsylvania by rail to Washington, D.C.

Company C Musician Henry D. Wharton then penned this update regarding the regiment’s activities 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.

Chain Bridge across the Potomac above Georgetown looking toward Virginia, 1861 (The Illustrated London News, public domain).

Stationed roughly two miles from the White House at Camp Kalorama on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown beginning 21 September. On 24 September 1861, Corporal Lowrey and his fellow 47th Pennsylvanians officially mustered in with the U.S. Army. Three days later, on September 27, a rainy, drill-free day which permitted many of the men to read or write letters home, the 47th Pennsylvanians were assigned to the 3rd Brigade of Brigadier-General Ingalls Isaac Stevens. By that afternoon, they were on the move again, headed for the Potomac River’s eastern side where, upon arriving at Camp Lyon in Maryland, they were ordered to march double-quick over a chain bridge and off toward Falls Church, Virginia.

Arriving at Camp Advance at dusk, the men pitched their tents in a deep ravine about two miles from the bridge they had just crossed, near a new federal military facility under construction (Fort Ethan Allen), which was also located near the headquarters of Brigadier-General William Farrar Smith (nicknamed “Baldy”), the commander of the Union’s massive Army of the Potomac (“Mr. Lincoln’s Army”). Armed with Mississippi rifles supplied by the Keystone State, their job was to help defend the nation’s capital.

Unknown regiment, Camp Griffin, Virginia, Fall 1861 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

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 events which were yet to come, Brigadier-General John Milton Brannan ordered that new Springfield rifles be obtained for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

1862

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

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 Falls 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 Mackay’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 and, in short order, had several of its members assigned to serve 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 Lowrey 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 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

In 1863, Corporal Thomas Lowrey 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 Lowrey 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 Lowrey 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.

19th U.S. Army Map, Phase 3, Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield (8 April 1864, 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 Pennsylvanians fell back to Grand Ecore, where they remained for 11 days and engaged in the hard labor of strengthening regimental and brigade fortifications. They then moved back to Natchitoches Parish on 22 April, arriving in Cloutierville at 10 p.m. that same night, after marching 45 miles. While en route, they were attacked again—this time at the rear of their brigade, but they were able to quickly end the encounter and move forward.

The 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were stationed just to the left of the “Thick Woods” with Emory’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Division as shown on this map of Union troop positions for the Battle of Cane River Crossing at Monett’s Ferry, Louisiana, 23 April 1864 (Major-General Nathaniel Banks’ official Red River Campaign Report, public domain).

The next morning (23 April 1864), episodic skirmishing quickly roared into the flames of a robust fight. As part of the advance party led by Brigadier-General William Emory, the 47th Pennsylvanians took on Brigadier-General Hamilton P. Bee’s Confederate Cavalry in the Battle of Cane River (also known as “the Affair at Monett’s Ferry” or the “Cane River Crossing”). Responding to a barrage from the Confederate artillery’s 20-pound Parrott guns and raking fire from enemy troops situated near a bayou and on a bluff, Emory directed one of his brigades to keep Bee’s Confederates busy while sending the other two brigades to find a safe spot where his Union troops could ford the Cane River. As part of the “beekeepers,” the 47th Pennsylvania supported Emory’s artillery.

As Emory’s troops worked their way toward the Cane River, they attacked Bee’s flank, forced a Rebel retreat, and erected a series of pontoon bridges, enabling the 47th Pennsylvania and other remaining Union troops to make the Cane River Crossing by the next day. As the Confederates retreated, they torched their own food stores, as well as the cotton supplies of their fellow southerners.

In a letter penned from Morganza, Louisiana on 29 May, Henry Wharton described what had happened to the 47th Pennsylvanians during and immediately after making camp at Grand Ecore:

Our sojourn at Grand Ecore was for eleven days, during which time our position was well fortified by entrenchments for a length of five miles, made of heavy logs, five feet high and six feet wide, filled in with dirt. In front of this, trees were felled for a distance of two hundred yards, so that if the enemy attacked we had an open space before us which would enable our forces to repel them and follow if necessary. But our labor seemed to the men as useless, for on the morning of 22d April, the army abandoned these works and started for Alexandria. From our scouts it was ascertained that the enemy had passed some miles to our left with the intention of making a stand against our right at Bayou Cane, where there is a high bluff and dense woods, and at the same attack Smith’s forces who were bringing up the rear. This first day was a hard one on the boys, for by ten o’clock at night they made Cloutierville, a distance of forty-five miles. On that day the rear was attacked which caused our forces to reverse their front and form in line of battle, expecting too, to go back to the relief of Smith, but he needed no assistance, sending word to the front that he had ‘whipped them, and could do it again.’ It was well that Banks made so long a march on that day, for on the next we found the enemy prepared to carry out their design of attacking us front and rear. Skirmishing commenced early in the morning and as our columns advanced he fell back towards the bayou, when we soon discovered the position of their batteries on the bluff. There was then an artillery duel by the smaller pieces, and some sharp fighting by the cavalry, when the ‘mule battery,’ twenty pound Parrott guns, opened a heavy fire, which soon dislodged them, forcing the chivalry to flee in a manner not at all suitable to their boasted courage. Before this one cavalry, the 3d Brigade of the 1st Div., and Birges’ brigade of the second, had crossed the bayou and were doing good service, which, with the other work, made the enemy show their heels. The 3d brigade done some daring deeds in this fight, as also did the cavalry. In one instance the 3d charged up a hill almost perpendicular, driving the enemy back by the bayonet without firing a gun. The woods on this bluff was so thick that the cavalry had to dismount and fight on foot. During the whole of the day, our brigade, the 2d was supporting artillery, under fire all the time, and could not give Mr. Reb a return shot.

While we were fighting in front, Smith was engaged some miles in the rear, but he done his part well and drove them back. The rebel commanders thought by attacking us in the rear, and having a large face on the bluffs, they would be able to capture our train and take us all prisoners, but in this they were mistaken, for our march was so rapid that we were on them before they had thrown up the necessary earthworks. Besides they underrated the amount of our artillery, calculating from the number engaged at Pleasant Hill. The rebel prisoners say it ‘seems as though the Yankees manufacture, on short notice, artillery to order, and the men are furnished with wings when they wish to make a certain point.

The damage done to the Confederate cause by the burning of cotton was immense. On the night of the 22d our route was lighted up for miles and millions of dollars worth of this production was destroyed. This loss will be felt more by Davis & Co., than several defeats in this region, for the basis of the loan in England was on the cotton of Western Louisiana.

After the rebels had fled from the bluff the negro troops put down the pontoons, and by ten that night we were six miles beyond the bayou safely encamped. The next morning we moved forward and in two days were in Alexandria. Johnnys followed Smith’s forces, keeping out of range of his guns, except when he had gained the eminence across the bayou, when he punished them (the rebs) severely.

Christened “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 near Alexandria, Louisiana in May 1864 facilitated Union gunboat passage (public domain).

Having finally reached Alexandria on 26 April, the 47th Pennsylvanians learned they would remain at their latest new camp for at least two weeks. Placed temporarily under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey, they were assigned yet again to the hard labor of fortification work, helping to erect “Bailey’s Dam,” a timber structure that enabled Union gunboats to more easily make their way back down the Red River. While stationed in Rapides Parish in late April and early May, according to Wharton:

We were at Alexandria seventeen days, during which time the men were kept busy at throwing up earthworks, foraging and three times went out some distance to meet the enemy, but they did not make their appearance in numbers large enough for an engagement. The water in the Red river had fallen so much that it prevented the gunboats from operating with us, and kept our transports from supplying the troops with rations, (and you know soldiers, like other people, will eat) so Banks was compelled to relinquish his designs on Shreveport and fall back to the Mississippi. To do this a large dam [Bailey’s Dam] had to be built on the falls at Alexandria to get the ironclads down the river. After a great deal of labor this was accomplished and by the morning of May 13th the last one was through the shute [sic], when we bade adieu to Alexandria, marching through the town with banners flying and keeping step to the music of ‘Rally around the flag,’ and ‘When this cruel war is over.’ The next morning, at our camping place, the fleet of boats passed us, when we were informed that Alexandria had been destroyed by fire – the act of a dissatisfied citizen and several negroes. Incendiary acts were strictly forbidden in a general order the day before we left the place, and a cavalry guard was left in the rear to see the order enforced. After marching a few miles skirmishing commenced in front between the cavalry and the enemy in riflepits [sic] on the bank of the river, but they were easily driven away. When we came up we discovered their pits and places where there had been batteries planted. At this point the John Warren, an unarmed transport, on which were sick soldiers and women, was fired into and sunk, killing many and those that were not drowned taken prisoners. A tin-clad gunboat was destroyed at the same place, by which we lost a large mail. Many letters and directed envelopes were found on the bank – thrown there after the contents had been read by the unprincipled scoundrels. The inhumanity of Guerrilla bands in this department is beyond belief, and if one did not know the truth of it or saw some of their barbarities, he would write it down as the story of a ‘reliable gentleman’ or as told by an ‘intelligent contraband.’ Not satisfied with his murderous intent on unarmed transports he fires into the Hospital steamer Laurel Hill, with four hundred sick on board. This boat had the usual hospital signal floating fore and aft, yet, notwithstanding all this, and the customs of war, they fired on them, proving by this act that they are more hardened than the Indians on the frontier.

On Sunday, May 15, we left the river road and took a short route through the woods, saving considerable distance. The windings of Red river are so numerous that it resembles the tape-worm railroad wherewith the politicians frightened the dear people during the administration of Ritner and Stevens. – We stopped several hours in the woods to leave cavalry pass, when we moved forward and by four o’clock emerged into a large open plain where we formed in line of battle, expecting a regular engagement. The enemy, however, retired and we advanced ‘till dark, when the forces halted for the night, with orders to rest on their arms. – ‘Twas here that Banks rode through our regiment, amidst the cheers of the boys, and gave the pleasant news that Grant had defeated Lee.

“Sleeping on Their Arms” by Winslow Homer (Harper’s Weekly, 21 May 1864).

Having entered Avoyelles Parish, the 47th Pennsylvanians “rested on their arms” for the night, half-dozing without pitching their tents, but with their rifles right beside them. They were now positioned just outside of Marksville, Louisiana on the eve of the 16 May 1864 Battle of Mansura, which unfolded as follows, according to Wharton:

Early next morning we marched through Marksville into a prairie nine miles long and six wide where every preparation was made for a fight. The whole of our force was formed in line, in support of artillery in front, who commenced operations on the enemy driving him gradually from the prairie into the woods. As the enemy retreated before the heavy fire of our artillery, the infantry advanced in line until they reached Mousoula [sic], where they formed in column, taking the whole field in an attempt to flank the enemy, but their running qualities were so good that we were foiled. The maneuvring [sic] of the troops was handsomely done, and the movements was [sic] one of the finest things of the war. The fight of artillery was a steady one of five miles. The enemy merely stood that they might cover the retreat of their infantry and train under cover of their artillery. Our loss was slight. Of the rebels we could not ascertain correctly, but learned from citizens who had secreted themselves during the fight, that they had many killed and wounded, who threw them into wagons, promiscuously, and drove them off so that we could not learn their casualties. The next day we moved to Simmsport [sic] on the Achafalaya [sic] river, where a bridge was made by putting the transports side by side, which enabled the troops and train to pass safely over. – The day before we crossed the rebels attacked Smith, thinking it was but the rear guard, in which they, the graybacks, were awfully cut up, and four hundred prisoners fell into our hands. Our loss in killed and wounded was ninety. This fight was the last one of the expedition. The whole of the force is safe on the Mississippi, gunboats, transports and trains. The 16th and 17th have gone to their old commands.

It is amusing to read the statements of correspondents to papers North, concerning our movements and the losses of our army. I have it from the best source that the Federal loss from Franklin to Mansfield, and from their [sic] to this point does not exceed thirty-five hundred in killed, wounded and missing, while that of the rebels is over eight thousand.

Union Army base at Morganza Bend, Louisiana, circa 1863-1865 (U.S. Library of Congress, public domain).

As Wharton noted, the surviving members of the 47th marched for Simmesport and then Morganza, where they made camp again. While encamped there, the nine formerly enslaved Black men who had enlisted with the 47th Pennsylvania in Beaufort (1862) and Natchitoches, Louisiana (April 1864) were officially mustered into the regiment between 20-24 June 1864.

The regiment then moved on once again, finally arriving back in New Orleans in late June. On the Fourth of July, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers received orders to return to the East Coast. The members of the regiment were loaded onto ships in two stages: Companies A, C, D, E, F, H, and I steamed for the Washington, D.C. area aboard the McClellan, beginning 7 July, while the men from Companies B, G and K remained behind on detached duty and to await transportation. (Led by F Company Captain Henry S. Harte, the 47th Pennsylvanians who had been left behind in Louisiana finally sailed away at the end of the month aboard the Blackstone. Arriving in Virginia on 28 July, they reconnected with the bulk of the regiment at Monocacy, Virginia on 2 August.)

Although the members of E Company arrived in the Washington, D.C. area with the men from Companies A, C, E, F, H, and I as the Battle of Fort Stevens (11-12 July 1864) was under way, they appear not to have been engaged in the actual fighting. They did, however, have a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln.

Attached now to the U.S. Army’s 19th Corps, the members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry who had reached the Washington, D.C. area by this time were quickly put to work soon afterward, which led to their rapid re-engagement in combat—at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia (17-19 July).

Also known as the Battle of Cool Spring, the Union Army went after the Confederate troops of Lieutenant-General Jubal Early as they retreated from their loss at Fort Stevens. Although Union forces commanded by other leaders lost their engagements, the Union troops led by Major-General David Hunter were able pry loose the hold Confederates had on Berryville, Virginia, a success which helped pave the way for Union Major-General Philip H. (“Little Phil”) Sheridan’s tide-turning 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

On 24 July, C Company Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin was promoted to the central regimental command staff at the rank of Major.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, early and mid-September, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry saw the departure of several of its members, including Corporal Thomas Lowrey, who mustered out with others at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their respective three-year terms of service.

Returning Home

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

By 1880, Thomas Lowrey 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 Lowrey 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 [sic], father of George B. Lowery [sic], 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, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

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

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

4. U.S. Census (1880, 1900). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

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 Lowrey). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1890-1906.

6. U.S. Veterans Schedule (as “Lowrey, Thomas”; 1890). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

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