SUBMITTED By Mary Bowen Caputo; Edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter and Kobe M. Brown
John Wright Bowen was born in rural Duplin Country in 1846. According to official military records, Bowen enlisted in March of 1864 as a private who served in Company I of the 18th North Carolina Infantry. [See Note below.] Just a few weeks later, on May 12, 1864, he was captured during the battle at Spotsylvania Court House in Virginia: Bowen was only 18 years old at that time. Afterward, he was confined at Maryland’s prison camp at Point Lookout. On August 3rd, Bowen was transferred to the infamous POW camp in Elmira, New York. He survived the brutal conditions at Elmira, and since Bowen was clever and handy with his hands, he used scraps of metal and wood he found at the camp to make decorations and jewelry, which he traded with the guards for food. It helped to sustain him during that period. Bowen was released after the war and walked home to North Carolina.
After returning to Teachey’s Depot, which is now the town of Teachey in Duplin County, Bowen recalled to his family that he saw great poverty among the people of the countryside as he took the long walk back home. After the war, he settled in Pender County, married, and raised a family. He was highly active in the community, helping to establish the local Baptist Church in Burgaw. He was a successful farmer, a magistrate, and an inventor. He was said to have encouraged his children to attend and complete high school, and some of his sons graduated from Salemburg Boarding School or Buies Creek Academy (now Campbell University) and went on to become professional men. Bowen was noted for being frugal and kept detailed records of his income and expenses. He had a reputation for demanding work done well and an unwillingness to temper his hatred of the “Yankees.” He was my grandfather.
Note: After John Bowen died, his widow, Letha M. Bowen, stated in a pension claim request that Bowen enlisted in 1862, differing from what was documented in the military records.