Bowden, the son of Lemuel J. Bowden, was born near Williamsburg, Virginia and attended the College of William and Mary. During the American Civil War he became a Republican. In May 1863 Bowden was the Unionist candidate for attorney general of the Restored government of Virginia and won election with 2,743 votes, thus becoming the youngest attorney general of Virginia up until that time at the age of twenty-two.
Bowden sought reelection in 1869 but was defeated by James Craig Taylor in the election held on July 6, 1869. Bowden resigned as attorney general effective August 1, 1869. Until Taylor took office on January 19, 1870, Charles Whittlesey was appointed in fill the vacancy. Not long after leaving office, Bowden moved to Washington, D.C., where he practiced law for more than twenty years. He was the author of Blunders in Educated Circles Corrected (1889). Bowden died in Washington, D.C., and was buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Williamsburg, Virginia.
- Obituary in Washington Post, July 8, 1893.
- Biography in John T. Kneebone et al., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998- ), 2:132-133. ISBN 0-88490-199-8