Saturday, June 18, 2011

A bit of a scoundrel?

One of my great-great grandfather's fellow sergeants in the 13th Tennessee Cavalry, USA, was a man by the name of Charles Bowman.

Only Charles Bowman was not his real name.

His real name was Giles W. Davis, and when he enlisted in the 13th Tennessee Cavalry on August 24, 1863, he had deserted from the 4th US Infantry a mere eight days before.

Why desert only to re-enlist under an assumed name? I do not know, although he is not the only soldier I have run across who did this, merely the only one who did so in such short order. Perhaps he had a falling out with a commanding officer, or 'irreconcilable differences' with a fellow soldier, but still wanted to do his duty.

According to his pension record, Giles W. Davis also served with the 18th Ohio Infantry, Company A - and sure enough, there was a Giles W. Davis in that regiment and company. This Davis enlisted on May 20, 1864 and died of wounds in January, 1865. How could this be? Charles Bowman survived the war and was never AWOL on his military record. How could he be in two places at once, and live to receive a pension?

Checking the 'miscellaneous' military records gives us the answer - he was on detached duty 'recruiting' until January 1865 - the same time that Giles W. Davis was 'killed'.

Unfortunately, at this time I do not have access to his full military records, but I am sure there is more to this tale. It's one of those times when I wished I lived near Washington, DC and could run to the National Archives at the drop of a hat.

In the meantime, this tale will stay on my back burner until I have more information available to me.


  1. Three regiments in one war? Methinks there is something nefarious afoot. My guess would be he was in it for the bounty.

    This was a fairly regular occurence especially in the north. Plus, this man started out as a U.S. Army regular and he would get no special recompense for doing his duty. There were many opportunities to enlist for $300 all over. It would be easy to get lost, figure out he was listed as dead or missing, and reenlist as someone else. Get the bounty and ditch again. Easy peasy.

    Of course, it would be difficult to confirm all his movements, but that's my take on it.

  2. Someone else in another forum also made that suggestion.

    It's a good idea, and may turn out to be the right one.

    I've been in touch with the Bowman family and he was buried under the name 'Charles Bowman' in Knoxville. The interesting part is him serving in two units simultaneously and still serving out his term of enlistment in the 13th TN Cav.