Reminiscences of the War Between the States in Crawford County, Arkansas

Capture of Col. Bowen

The following was told to George Wood by Capt. J. C. Wright and by him sent to “The Confederate Veteran.”

From Capt. J. C. Wright of the 34th Arkansas Infantry and Lieutenant W. J. Pevehouse, both noted characters and brave officers in the sixties were obtained the following accounts of two important events which occurred in this county in 1884 namely the capture of Col. Thomas Bowen and the killing of Captain Wheeler, both of the 13th Kansas.

Concerning the capture of Col. Bowen. Captain Wright said:

"The Federals had had possession of Van Buren and the surrounding country for quite a while and had completely devastated the county, in many instances being  cruel and barbarous in the treatment of helpless southern  women and children. Several of the boys had slipped in   home and were mixing with the bluecoats occasionally.  Two Confederates, John Norwood and Bill Carey, who  had recently surrendered with the distinct understanding  that they were to be treated as prisoners of war, had been  tried by drum-head court-martial and were at Fort Smith  sentenced to be shot.

"A crowd of us got together and decided that if  we could capture Colonel Bowen, commander of the 13th  Kansas, stationed at Van Buren, we might secure the  exchange of Norwood and Carey or at least a commutation of the death penalty. Colonel Bowen was very  much a ladies' man and had become mitten with the  charms of Miss Maggie, the accomplished and charming  daughter of Dr. Richard Thurston. Dr. Thurston was out  south; but his family, consisting of his wife, daughter and one or two faithful negroes occupied the old fashioned southern home of the Doctor's, about one mile from the corporate limits of the town. Bowen was a frequent visitor at the Thurston home and in order to make sure of his own safety during the visits he had his outpost stationed at the Thurston yard gate and as a further precaution it was his practice to take an orderly with him.

 "On the night of July 21st I took eleven men — J. H. Marlar, Neise Tingler, little Sol Wagner, Cune Covington. Bill Black. Nick Wacks, John Huggins. Young Hight, Walk Foster, John Brodie and George Williams — through the mountains to a point five or six hundred yards north of the Thurston home. We arrived there just before day-light. dismounted, and secreted ourselves in a blackjack thicket on top of the hill overlooking the Thurston home. The country was full of Federals, and so we put sentinels out on the public road which ran east of us some two hundred yards. About nine o'clock on the morning of July 22nd. 1864 Colonel Bowen accompanied by his orderly rode up to the Thurston home, dismounted and went in. I sent four men down on the west side of the Thurston field, which was north of us and between us and the house. I took some of the other boys and went through the field throwing down the fence to facilitate our escape. Black and his party reached the house a little ahead of us and had held up the orderly and captured Bowen. When I rode up they were bringing Bowen out of the house and he was put on Black's mare, while Black rode Bowen's horse and he was a good one too. Mrs. Thurston and Miss Maggie begged piteously for Bowen not to be taken away. Mrs. Thurston did not recognize me although I had known the family for years. I hurriedly told her that I had recently seen her husband, Dr. Thurston, down in Hempstead county and that he was well.

 "Giving the command to double-quick, away we went with the commandant of the Van Buren post. We took him out on Frog Bayou to the old Howard place about fifteen miles north of Van Buren and there held a conference as what to do with him as we realized how difficult it would he for us to keep him. Things were pretty hot around there then, and we were shot at almost every time we turned a bend in the road or looked around the corner of the house. Some of the boys wanted to kill him, but I knew that would never do. After quite a parley, we made him promise to be less cruel and barbarous in his treatment of the helpless southern women and children and to do all in his power to save the lives of Norwood and Carey. With this understanding I paroled him and sent Bill Black down as far as the Winfrey place with him. From there he returned to Van Buren alone. Bowen also agreed to give us $300 in Uncle Sam's money, and a few days thereafter I sent my wife (we lived about twenty-five miles north of Van Buren in the Frog Bayou mountains) down after it. Pevehouse and some of the boys fearing that some scoundrel would take it away from her shadowed her all the way to Van Buren and back. Bowen gave her $100 in greenbacks and $l00 in Missouri state warrants. We used the greenbacks all right but could do  nothing with the state warrants.

“It is due Bowen to say that he did make the lives  of our women and children less burdensome, but that his  efforts to save Norwood and Carey were unavailing. They  were shot. Afterwards Bowen married Miss Thurston and  under reconstruction rule was supreme judge of Arkansas  and later went to Colorado.”

The Doctor Thurston home stood where the King  school now stands, but faced the main road. Colonel  Bowen died several years ago at Pueblo. Colorado, and in  less than a year was followed by his wife.

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