Friday, July 17, 2015

Conecuh County's Pinckney D. Bowles was born 180 years ago today

Col. Pinckney D. Bowles
Today – July 17 – marks the 180th anniversary of the birth of one of the baddest, toughest men to ever call Conecuh County home – Pinckney D. Bowles.

It was on July 17, 1835 that Pinckney Downie Bowles was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina to Isaac Bowles and Emily Holloway. He later attended The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. and went on to graduate with honors from the University of Virginia. After college, Bowles returned to South Carolina, where he became a licensed attorney in December 1858.

Bowles moved to Sparta in April 1859, where he worked in the county seat as a successful lawyer, and entered state militia service as the colonel of the 28th Alabama Militia. His life, like the lives of many Alabamians, took a turn on Jan. 11, 1861, when representatives at the Alabama Secession Convention voted, 61-39, to become the fourth state to secede from the Union.

That same date, Bowles entered the Confederate armed forces as a first lieutenant at Sparta and a few months later, on April 1, 1861, when the Conecuh Guards were organized at Sparta, Bowles was elected captain of the unit. Three days later, the unit left Conecuh County, and Bowles would help lead the unit throughout the war, including through some of the bloodiest battles ever fought on American soil.

According to the “Memorial Record of Alabama” by Brant & Fuller, Bowles “participated in many bloody battles and was fortunate in escaping unhurt, but had many narrow escapes, one of which was at first Manassas, where his canteen was shattered by a ball from the enemy and at Spottsylvania Court House his cap was knocked out of his hand by a missile from a Yankee gun.”

During the war, Bowles progressed up the ranks, receiving promotions to major, lieutenant colonel, colonel and finally to brigadier general. Bowles was promoted to brigadier general on April 2, 1865 for “gallant and meritorious conduct in the field,” and this promotion came a week before Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, effectively ending the war.

After the war, Bowles returned to Sparta and then moved to Evergreen when it became the county seat in 1867. Bowles served as the county’s prosecuting attorney for 10 years and later served as Conecuh County’s probate judge. Bowles was also an active member of Greening Masonic Lodge, No. 53, which still thrives in Evergreen today.

Later, on Nov. 22, 1907, Bowles and Capt. James W. Darby, both former members of the Conecuh Guards, traveled to Montgomery, where they presented the flag of the Conecuh Guards to the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Thanks to this donation, the flag is still preserved there today.

Nearly three years later, Bowles passed away at the age of 75 on July 25, 1910 in Tampa, Fla. and was buried in the Old Evergreen Cemetery, across Perryman Street from the Old Evergreen City School.

The local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was later named in honor of Bowles and years after that, the local camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans was also named in his honor. All male descendants of honorably discharged Confederate service members are invited to join the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The Pinckney D. Bowles Camp meets the first Tuesday of the month in Evergreen. 

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