Pinckney Downie Bowles

Pinckney Downie Bowles, the son of Isaac and Emily (Holloway) Bowles, was born on July 7, 1835, in the Edgefield District of South Carolina. His father, of an old Virginia family, was a planter near Pleasant Lane, a civil engineer, and a militia officer. A graduate of the Military Academy of South Carolina, Bowles briefly attended the University of Virginia from 1855 to 1856. Admitted to the bar in 1857, he practiced law in the office of future Confederate Brigadier General Samuel McGowen. Bowles moved to Sparta in Conecuh County, Alabama, in 1859 to practice as an attorney. In 1860 he was elected colonel of the local militia regiment.

The "Conecuh Guards" (Company E of the 4th Alabama Infantry) were organized on April 17,1861, with Bowles as first lieutenant and later captain.

The 4th was ordered to northern Virginia where, on July 21,1861, it saw action at the First Battle of Bull Run. Bowles fought at the Battle of Seven Pines (May 31 to June 1, 1862) and in the Seven Days' Battles (June 25 to July 1, 1862). On August 22,1862, Bowles was promoted to major. He was commissioned lieutenant colonel on September 3, 1862, and colonel on October 3, 1862. Bowles and the 4th, part of Brigadier General Evander Law's brigade, compiled an enviable record, participating in many of the battles of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Curiously, the gallant Colonel Bowles was never wounded during the war, though he was always in the thick of the fighting. At First Bull Run, his canteen was shattered by a bullet; at the Battle of Spotsylvania in May, 1864, his cap was shot from his hand. When General Law was wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864, Bowles took temporary command of the brigade. Despite postwar claims that Bowles led Law's brigade up to the final surrender at Appomattox, the Official Records show that another colonel of that brigade with more seniority, William F. Perry of the 44th Alabama, commanded Law's brigade on a regular basis after Cold Harbor. Perry was promoted to brigadier general in 1865.

Bowles led the 4th in the 1864-1865 siege of Petersburg, but was not included in the final surrender at Appomattox.

After the war Bowles returned to Conecuh County, built a lucrative law practice, and served as county prosecutor for ten years. From 1887 to 1898 Bowles was county probate judge. He was also a general in the United Confederate Veterans Alabama Division. On July 25, 1910, Bowles died in Tampa, Florida, at the home of his daughter. He is buried in the Evergreen, Alabama, Old Historical Cemetery.

Bowles is listed as a general in CMH, SHSP, Heitman, CV, and Wood. SHSP claims he was appointed brigadier general on April 2, 1865, to lead a brigade consisting of two mixed regiments and some Virginia reserves in Brigadier General James Walker's division. However, no such Virginia reserve organization is listed in Walker's division in the OR, and in any event the command of such a brigade would not have necessitated Bowles's promotion to general. Walker's division was not even in the same corps as Law's brigade; it was almost unheard of to bring in a non-Virginia colonel from another corps to lead a Virginia brigade. Owen's Alabama Biography, in its biography of Bowles written during his lifetime, states that while he was placed in brigade command (his old regiment was led by a lieutenant colonel throughout the Appomattox campaign), he was never made brigadier. Given the absence of any record of his promotion, Owen would seem to be correct.

Previous Page

Reference:  More Generals in Gray.  Bruce S. Allardice.  A companion volume to Generals in Gray.  Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.