Sunday Salute ~ James D. McGowan ~ Civil War Prisoner

mariettageorgiamapI have a tendency to concentrate on my Dad’s Hughes/Hayes side of the family. I think it may be because my relationship was always so bad with my mother due to her mental illness. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but I did decide to spend more time on the Smith/McGowan side this year. Boy, am I glad I did!


My 2x Great Grandfather James D. McGowan was born in 1837 in McMinn Co, Tennessee. He was the son of Francis McGowan who immigrated from Ireland in 1811. His mother was Margaret “Peggy” Divine. He moved to Camden, Ray Co, Missouri in 1855 at the age of 18. There he met and married Lucy Reavis in 1856. They bought a farm and began to grow both their crops and their family. By 1863 they had added 4 sons.

James D McGowan CW 2

In September 1863, James joined the Confederate Army, 10th MO Calvary.  Soon he was off to war.  He went to fight in Tennessee and there he joined the Company C, 37th Tennessee Infantry. He engaged in many battles, eventually moving into Marietta Georgia.  He soon found himself in the middle of the Battle of Kolb’s Farm just outside the city.


On June 22, 1864, Capt. John B. Hood and the company moved to a new position at Mt. Zion Church. Having been warned of Hood’s intentions, Union generals John Schofield and Joseph Hooker entrenched themselves in the city. The Union artillery and swampy terrain thwarted Hood’s attack and forced him to withdraw with costly casualties. James was taken prisoner.


I don’t know if the Union soldiers marched the captives the 411 miles to Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Illinois or if they took them there by train. I do know that when the prisoners arrived on July 1, 1863, they were marched through town to what had been the State Fair Grounds that had been turned into a Prisoner of War Camp. The 4 barracks consisted of large buildings that had been erected for cattle. The buildings were very drafty and they had dirt and hay floors.  The men slept in the stalls or wherever they could find an empty spot. By the time James arrived at the camp, it had over 5000 prisoners. Conditions were horrible and unsanitary. The latrines were large open pits near the center of the camp. As the camp became more crowded, the latrines were filled and reestablished elsewhere in various parts of the enclosure until the campgrounds became filled with the poisonous matter. Those prisoners who managed to stay healthy tried desperately to escape from the camp. It is estimated that 20% of the prisoners died while in the camp.


On February 2, 1865, James took the Oath of Allegiance and he was released. During his James D McGowan HS Lexington MOservice, he had attained the rank of Captain. He returned home to Camden, Missouri in May 1864. He went back to farming and taking care of his family and farm. He and Lucy added 3 daughters and one more son to their family. Sadly, their first daughter, Mary died at the age of 2. On December 27, 1878, his beloved wife Lucy died. James continued to farm and raise his family, never remarrying. He passed away on December 3, 1901. He is buried in the Machpelah Cemetery in Lexington Missouri.



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.














3 thoughts on “Sunday Salute ~ James D. McGowan ~ Civil War Prisoner

  1. My Civil War ancestor survived Andersonville and went on to have a long life. War is, indeed, “Hell.” I’m going to share your post in a Civil War group on Facebook. I hope it brings you lots of readers.

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