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John Malachi Bowden Civil War memoirs

Identifier: ahc.MSS537f

Scope and Content

This collection contains copies of transcriptions of the memoirs of John Malachi Bowden as dictated to his son, John Wightman Bowden. He describes the atmosphere of his hometown during the debate over secession, noting the fervor with which those opposed to secession and war were condemned as cowards. Bowden recalls his experiences fighting several major battles of the Civil War including Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Yorktown, Spotsylvania Court House, Malvern Hall and Knoxville. The account of the Battle of Gettysburg details his involvement in charging a hill held by the Federals on July 3, 1863, and his regiment’s fight and retreat in the face of defeat on July 4, 1863. He notes that the battlefield was so confusing that many times he was fired upon by members of his own regiment. His description of the Battle of Petersburg details the shells that the Union army fired at the Confederates—canisters filled with grape-shot that exploded when a fuse was ignited. He also tells about the Union soldiers filling tunnels under the Confederate camp with explosives in order to provide opportunity for an attack. Bowden describes life in a Union prison camp stating that there he “attended a high school” and created a trading business. Through this business he was able to supplement the poor rations provided to prisoners by Union soldiers. Throughout the memoirs he repeatedly mentions the religious consciousness of soldiers during the war. He also continually states that although he believed secession was doomed to fail from the beginning, he strongly believed in the righteousness of the cause.


  • undated


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright law. (Title 17, U.S. Code) Permission for use must be cleared through the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center. Licensing agreement may be required.

Administrative/Biographical History

John Malachi Bowden (1840-1920) was born on June 28, 1840, in Meriwether County, Georgia. He was the fourth of 16 children born to Mary Anne and John Culpepper Bowden. He attended Collinsworth Institute before leaving early to enlist as a private in Company B, 2nd Regiment of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry, Army of Northern Virginia on August 26, 1861. He was captured by Union forces on September 28, 1864, at Fort Gilmore. He was held in Maryland at Point Lookout Prison for six months and was finally paroled on March 17, 1865. After the war he became a Methodist Minister and married Eliza Lemon Afiers on May 3, 1870. They had nine children. John Malachi Bowden lived in Thomson, Georgia until his wife’s death on April 14, 1911, whereupon he moved into his son’s home in an unidentified location in Georgia. He died on May 21, 1920.


1 item(s)



Existence and Location of Originals

The location of Bowden’s original memoirs or the original transcripts has not been determined.


America's Turning Point: Documenting the Civil War Experience in Georgia received support from a Digitizing Historical Records grant awarded to the Atlanta History Center, Georgia Historical Society, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Digital Library of Georgia by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Description Control

Collection reprocessed in 2009
John Malachi Bowden Civil War memoirs
Paul Crater
December 2011
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305