James Bowen was born in New York City on February 25, 1808. Independently wealthy by inheritance, Bowen was the first president of the Erie Railroad and was in the forefront of New York's civic leaders. He served as a member of the legislature during 1848-49 and was president of the first board of New York City police commissioners in 1855. He was also an intimate friend of such public figures as Daniel Webster, Thurlow Weed, and William H. Seward. In the first year of the Civil War he was instrumental in recruiting a number of regiments and on October 11, 1862, accepted a commission as brigadier general of volunteers. At the age of fifty-four, Bowen was considered too old for field service and was assigned to New Orleans as provost marshal general of the Department of the Gulf. Bowen was a trained executive and ran his office in much the same way as he had the Erie Railroad. Nevertheless, in company with a number of officers who had accompanied N. P. Banks on the Red River expedition, Bowen was relieved from duty with the Department of the Gulf and resigned his commission on July 27, 1864. The following March he received the brevet of major general "for meritorious service." Surviving the war by more than twenty years, General Bowen served a long period as commissioner of charities of New York, was a prominent clubman, and was said to have been a literary critic. He died in his summer home at Dobbs Ferry, New York, September 29, 1886, and was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery there.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.