As free as colored men were allowed to be in this.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

Lewis Bowen filed claim #8093 with the Southern Claims Commission.  He rented a place in Flea Hill township, Cumberland County.  He complained to a quartermaster that soldiers had taken everything he had.  The quartermaster replied, “Never mind old man you will get pay for it some time. We are oblige to forage on your country. We have no supplies.”  Soldiers from — he was told — an Ohio regiment, took his bacon, lard, corn, flour, rice, wheat, potatoes, peas, fodder and hay; ducks, turkeys and chickens.  They killed and carried off his ox, goats and hogs, and killed his cows and yearlings and left them in the field. Soldiers were part of Sherman’s army and were camped not over 100 yards from his house.

Robert H. Simmons, a 55 year-old merchant, lived about a half-mile from Bowen. “[T]he claimant being a col’d man he could not talk or take much interest in public matter though he was always a free man, or as free as col’d men were allowed to be in this.”

William Webb, 31, kept a bar and livery stables and had known Bowen more than 15 years.  “He and the claimant were born free bond and helpt out the confederate service as labour on fortifications principally by being employed boating on the Cape Fear river.”

Joseph McKay, 53, farmer, saw soldiers take goods off Lewis Bowen’s farm in March 1865.

Woodward Winn, 26, farmer, saw some things taken.  Witnesses included Bowen, “Perry, Berry, Joe, Wiliford.” He helped carry some of the bacon to the camp.

The 1850 census of the Eastern Division of Cumberland County shows: William Bowen, 57, with Lewis Bowen, 16, both laborers.