Andrew Cowan (soldier)

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Andrew Cowan served as a Union artillerist in the American Civil War. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Gettysburg and the Battle of Sayler's Creek.

Pre-War[edit]

Andrew Cowan was born in Ayrshire, Scotland on September 29, 1841, and he migrated to the United States as a boy. He married his first wife, Mary Asdit, in upper New York State where she bore a son, Albert Andrew Cowan, in August 1867 but she died the following month most likely from complications from childbirth.[1]

Civil War Service[edit]

Andrew Cowan had seen service in Virginia before becoming an officer in an independent battery.[2]

The 1st New York Battery was recruited by Capt Terance J. Kennedy, mostly in Cayuga County, beginning on October 18, 1861. The battery was organized at Auburn, New York.[3] Andrew Cowan was commissioned as the unit's first lieutenant. The battery was mustered into the service as a volunteer unit for a term of three years on November 23. The battery left for the Washington, D. C., arriving on December 4.[4] Officially designated the 1st New York Battery three days later, it was assigned to BG William F. Smith's division of the Army of the Potomac in January 1862. The division joined IV Corps in March of, 1862. The division joined VI Corps in May 1862, serving in the Peninsula Campaign. By that time, Lt Cowan was in charge. He was promoted to the rank of captain during the Peninsula Campaign.[5]

The 1st New York Battery served at the Battle of Yorktown and the Battle of Williamsburg under the division’s senior artillerist Capt Romeyn B. Ayres. It took part in Seven Days Battles, the Battle of South Mountain at Crampton’s Gap, the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Fredericksburg. In the Chancellorsville Campaign, the battery served in the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, covering the crossing of VI Corps into the town of Fredericksburg. It then supported the division of BG Albion Howe at the Battle of Salem Church.

The battery was assigned to the Artillery Brigade of VI Corps in May 1863. In that arrangement it served in the Battle of Gettysburg. In reserve at first, on July 3, 1863 it was placed just south of the copse of trees on Cemetery Ridge, in time to resist Pickett's Charge. Cowan’s guns filled a gap in the infantry line left when a regiment left the front. Cowan ordered his men to fire double canister on a group of Confederates trying to penetrate the federal line, and their fire broke up that threat. BG Henry J. Hunt, the army’s chief of artillery, was present with then and had his horse shot out from under him.[6] A newspaper account reported that Capt Cowan served in a gun crew at the height of the assault.[3] A monument to the battery, executed by J. G. Hamilton, stands on the site of this action.[7]

In the autumn of 1863, the battery served in the Bristoe Campaign, especially the Battle of Rappahannock Station, and in the Mine Run Campaign.

The battery served in the VI Corps Artillery Brigade in the Overland Campaign and in the earliest stage of the Siege of Petersburg. Then it served with the Army of the Shenandoah of MG Philip Sheridan from October 1864. In Sheridan’s portion of the Valley Campaigns of 1864, Cowan was wounded at the Third Battle of Winchester. His battery saw particularly hard service at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

After serving briefly in XXII Corps from December 1864 until it rejoined the Army of the Potomac on January 25, 1865. Men at the expiration of their term of service were given the chance to be discharged, but most reenlisted permitting the battery to continue in service.

In the Army of the Potomac, Capt Cowan, who had received the brevet rank of major, took command of the Artillery Brigade when Col Charles H. Tompkins was assigned to other duties. Cowan was in charge of the VI Corps guns during the Appomattox Campaign. At the Battle of Sailor's Creek on April 6, 1865, Cowan had gathered 20 guns near the Hillsman House. They opened fire at about 5:15 PM, experiencing no counter battery fire from the Confederates, because their guns had not accompanied the infantry. Two divisions of VI Corps attacked the Confederate rear guard under Ltg Richard S. Ewell at about 6:00 PM. Ewell's men attacked the VI Corps divisions as they crossed the stream. The federals were thrown back. However, Cowan's guns stopped the southern advance, allowing the infantry to reform and counterattack.[8] The Confederate line was hit in the front by VI Corps and in the flank by federal cavalry. It collapsed, and Ewell was among the southerners captured on the field.[9]

After Robert E. Lee’s surrender, the battery returned home. It was honorably discharged and mustered out June 23, 1865 at Syracuse, New York. The 1st New York Battery lost 1 officer and 12 enlisted men killed. 1 officer and 6 enlisted men died of wounds. Another 38 enlisted men died of disease or other causes. Andrew Cowan left the volunteer services as a brevet lieutenant colonel, this promotion dated April 9, 1865.[10]

Post war[edit]

After the war, Andrew Cowan married his second wife, Anna Gilbert, in New York state in 1876 and on October 24, 1876, she bore a son, Gilbert S. Cowan, in Louisville, Kentucky, where he had by then settled. He became a leather merchant and after a less than cordial welcome he eventually became locally prominent. His company sold retail. He also served on company boards, headed a printing company for the blind and was a park commissioner. Cowan also served on the committee that raised funds for the erection of the Statue of Liberty as the city’s representative.[11] In 1900, he was a member of a Kentucky delegation that visited the White House to discuss problems in the state with President William McKinley.[12]

Cowan also was active in veterans’ affairs. On July 3, 1887, Col Cowan took a leading part in the dedication of the monument to his battery in Gettysburg. He also gave to veteran’s of MG George Pickett’s division, the Pickett Division association, a sword that had fallen into his hands at the Battle of Gettysburg.[13] On September 9, 1895, Cowan gave a banquet for delegates to a convention of the Grand Army of the Republic.[14] Cowan was close with Confederate survivors in Kentucky, who named him an honorary member of their Orphan Brigade in 1912. In 1915, the colonel was the father of a proposal to hold a Confederate reunion in Washington.[15] Later than year, he gave an address at the dedicate of a statue of BG Alexander S. Webb, who had commanded the Philadelphia Brigade at Gettysburg, in the Gettysburg National Military Park.[16] When the Confederate reunion was held in 1917, Col Cowan and President Woodrow Wilson were among the participants. Cowan presented an American flag that was hung beside the Confederate banner[17] Col Cowan also served a term as president of the Society of the Army of the Potomac. Andrew Cowan died in Louisville on August 23, 1919 at the age of 78.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ New York Times, August 24, 1919, p. 22.
  2. ^ New York Times, December 5, 1861, p. 5.
  3. ^ "1st Independent, Battery, Light Artillery (Veteran), Civil War". New York Military Museum and Veterans Research Center
  4. ^ New York Times, December 5, 1861, p. 5.
  5. ^ New York in the War of the Rebellion, vol. 2, p. 1561, lists Cowan as promoted to captain on January 23, 1862; but Capt. Kennedy did not leave his captaincy until April 30 of that year.
  6. ^ Sears, Gettysburg, p. 445.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Report of Brevet Major Andrew Cowan, War of the Rebellion, Series I, vol. 46, pt. 1, p. 1011.
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ New York in the War of the Rebellion, vol. 2, p. 1561.
  11. ^ New York Times, July 11, 1883, p. 8.
  12. ^ New York Times, March 24, 1900, p. 3.
  13. ^ New York Times, July 4, 1887, p. 1.
  14. ^ New York Times, September 10, 1895, p. 1.
  15. ^ New York Times, October 4, 1915, p. 7.
  16. ^ New York Times, October 13, 1915, p. 7.
  17. ^ New York Times, June 6, 1917, p. 7.
  18. ^ New York Times, August 24, 1919, p. 22.
  • Murray, R. L., "Hurrah for the ould flag!": the true story of Captain Andrew Cowan and the First New York Independent Battery at Gettysburg, Wolcott, N.Y.: Benedum Books, 1998.
  • Phisterer, Frederick, New York in the War of the Rebellion, 6 vols., Albany, J.B. Lyon company, state printers, 1912.
  • Sears, Stephen W., Gettysburg, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003, ISBN 0-395-86761-4.