McGowin descendants hold memorial tribute to Confederate soldier

Published 1:19 am Saturday, November 3, 2012

Families often recognize and honor their ancestors from different periods of their heritage. Such was the case on Sun., Oct. 14, 2012, when Jacob Lewis McGowin was remembered and paid homage for his service in the Confederate Army during the War Between the States.

The memorial service was conducted at McGowin’s gravesite in the Old Mason Cemetery, which is located in the Dixie community of Escambia County. This area is within two miles of the Covington County line. The cemetery features a chain link fence and appears to be well maintained. There is also a nice pavilion adjacent to it. There are a number of headstones for members of the McGowin and Moore families as well as other citizens who have lived in the vicinity.

The service began with an opening procession and presentation of the colors by members of Company C., 15th Confederate Cavalry Reenactment Group. Some of the men traveled from points in Mississippi to participate in the program. Next a welcome and recognition was voiced by a descendant, Donald Keiron McGowin, of Birmingham. Keiron was the one who planned and organized the memorial for his great great grandfather. The invocation voiced by Capt. James Parmer, Co. C., 15th Confederate Cavalry followed.

Keiron then continued by leading the group in saluting the Confederate Flag: “I salute the Confederate Flag with affection, reverence and undying devotion to the cause for which it stands.” He then recognized 1st Sgt. Terry Bailey who is a member of the Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #11 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He is also Commander of the Southwest Alabama Brigade and a member of Company C., 15th Confederate Cavalry, which is also known as the Baldwin Rangers and portrays the history of Co. C. He outlined the significance of these heritage organizations and their role in assisting with the McGowin ceremony.

After the event, First Sgt. Bailey wrote a letter of appreciation to all those who attended and participated in the program. The following is a quote from his comments. “There were several moments in the ceremony that made it unique. The first to mention was the wreath that the family placed on the grave. It was made of pine boughs and cotton balls, both from the nearby fields and woods. We all felt that this truly represented the agricultural heritage of Escambia County.

Upon the unveiling of the marker and the folding of the flag that had been draped over it another special moment arrived in the service. Lt. Col. Robinson presented the Confederate Battle Flag to Keiron’s nine-year-old daughter, Emma. Emma is Cpl. McGowin’s great-great-great-granddaughter. This was a statement to the importance of passing our heritage of honor to the next generation. The libation ceremony of this service was the first time that we incorporated the poem, “We Drank from the Same Canteen,” into this portion of the ceremony. We all agreed that this was a good addition to an already touching portion of a memorial service. And again, as opposed to “Taps”, Lt. Col. Robinson played “Last Call,” which was the last bugle call of the day in a Confederate camp.”

Keiron’s father, John Douglas McGowin, presented a brief history of the McGowin family. Jacob Lewis McGowin, the gentleman being honored, was the son of James McGowin II (1807- ca 1874) and his first wife, Eliza Straughn McGowin. James McGowin II was the son of James McGowin I (ca 1770-1813) and Mary (Lewis) McGowin. Following James I’s death, his widow, Mary (Lewis) was married to Thomas “Tom” Floyd, and it was with him that she and one of her children moved to South Alabama where they settled in Conecuh County. James McGowin II was one of her children who made the move.

Jacob Lewis McGowin was the oldest son of James II and wife, Eliza Straughn. He was born and lived most of his life in the Dixie community where he was buried at his death in the Old Mason Cemetery. Of course, he was away during his service to the Confederate Army, and in later life he moved to Hattiesburg, Miss., where he died in 1899.

Jacob Lewis was first married to Rebecca Francis Moore, daughter of John S. Moore, a Methodist preacher from N.C. They had the following children: James L., b. 1860, m. 1881 Loula G. Roberson; Emma V., b. 1863, d. 1904, m. 1878 James Frank Douglas; Alice Eliza, b. 1864, m. 1881 Augustus C. Parker; Ida; and Ernest Lenwood, b. 1869, d. 1920, m. 1896 Lula Belle Graham.

Jacob Lewis was married second to Sarah “Sally” Douglas, and they reared the following children: William L., b. 1873, m. 1901 Agnes Padgett; John R., b. 1876, d. 1934, m. 1906 Ethel S. Moore; Jacob F., b. 1877, m. 1898 Mollie Clements; Walter G., b. 1882, d. 1966, m. 1908 Rebecka Harvey Armstrong; Maye Emaline, b. 1884, d. 1963, m. 1907 Hugh White; Infant, b.&d. 1887; Maggie Lou; David, b. 1888, d. 1897; and twin, Stacey, b. 1888.

Jacob Lewis was married third to Donnie Sowell in 1889. They had the following three children: Wallace, b. 1890, d. 1922, m. Helen Warner; Philip, b. 1895, d. 1896; and Ethel, b. 1896, m. 1934 Michael Alto. This meant Jacob Lewis fathered at least 16 children.

Returning to the memorial service for Jacob Lewis McGowin, a brief history of his Fifteenth Confederate Cavalry Regiment was presented by Keiron McGowin. His comments were as follows.

“For much more detail from official records see “Confederate Boots & Saddles – the 15th Confederate Cavalry” by Art Green

“Jacob Lewis McGowin enlisted in the 3rd Battalion Florida Cavalry in Conecuh County on January 13, 1862. He was promoted from the ranks as a NCO to 4th Corporal on September 1, 1863. The 15th Confederate Cavalry was then organized in early 1864 at Mobile, and it was composed of Alabama and Florida companies which had been on coastal defense duties for two or three years. Jacob’s Florida Company became Company I, 15th Confederate Cavalry, under Capt. W.B. Amos. Most of their duties appeared to entail going between the large camp at Pollard and the Mobile camps and down into the panhandle to watch for Yankee advances on Mobile via Pensacola and the Gulf.

“Placed under the command of Col. Henry Maury, the entire 15th remained in the vicinity of Mobile and Pensacola for most of 1864, except for a period in the fall when it was sent to Louisiana to play a roll in the fight at Tunica. It served successively in Jenifer’s, Reynolds’, Patton’s, McCulloch’s, and Clanton’s brigades, Maury’s army. It was early described as “full, well mounted and well-armed”, but by December, it was reported as poorly clad and scantily fed.”

Then in January 1865, its ranks were filled with citizens from Mobile and the surrounding area, armed with miscellaneous weapons but numbering 1200 men. By February, its numbers were reduced to 800, but its companies were almost always on detached duty, watching and checking for an enemy advance against Mobile. In April 1865, it was sent to establish a courier line to Demopolis, but before this was done, the regiment took part in a disastrous fight at Claiborne where it blew up the magazine and evacuated Choctaw Bluff on the 14th of the month. The greater part of the regiment disbanded, and the few who remained were paroled at Demopolis.

Col. Henry Maury was disabled by a wound just before the close of the war and the regiment was commanded by Lt. Col. Myers at Claiborne.”

Next, Pvt. Tom Robinson, Co. C. 15th Confederate Cavalry unveiled the headstone depicting CPL McGowin’s military service. After folding the flag, which had draped the marker, he presented it to Emma Elise McGowin, great great great granddaughter. An emotional libation ceremony was then conducted by Privates Stephen Ellison and Jessie Taylor of the 15th Confederate Cavalry. This included a reading of a poem and the two compatriots sharing a drink with their fallen comrade from a common canteen.

Next, Keiron’s wife, Dana, daughter, Emma, and aunt, Clementine McGowin Whitman, placed a wreath of pine boughs and open cotton bolls next to the headstone. This was followed by an artillery and musket salute and Pvt. Tom Robinson playing “Last Call” on his bugle. Capt. James Parmer voiced an invocation, and the colors were retired by Co. C, 15th Confederate Cavalry. Following the ceremony, refreshments were served at the pavilion, where there was much visiting and reminiscing.

Anyone with questions regarding this event or this review is encouraged to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or email: