WKU’s Special Collections Library continues to acquire Civil War manuscripts that relate to Bowling Green. Among recent additions are five letters written by Lewis Gray Bowker, a wagon maker who enlisted with the 111th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
After seeing action near Covington, Kentucky, the 111th arrived in Bowling Green in mid-October, 1862 to protect the railroad line to Nashville. In a letter to his father, Bowker’s thoughts focused on home and what he was missing, including the birth of a child. “I hear from several sources and reliable ones too that we have a nice little girl,” he wrote. “She may be three years old before I see her again but I cannot think otherwise than that this terrible and unnatural rebellion will be closed before spring.”
A month later, Bowker wrote his wife Emily in a noticeably shakier hand. In hospital suffering from headache and fever, he encouraged her to keep replying to his letters even though “the Rebbles have … tore up the track between here and Louisville,” making mail delivery uncertain.
Like so many of his fellow soldiers who came through Bowling Green, Bowker died not of wounds but of disease in January, 1863, and a comrade sent his possessions home to Ohio. He wrote apologetically that the cold weather had made it difficult to wash and dress Bowker’s body properly, but gave assurances that his death had been peaceful.