The McDowell Monument

1 08 2007



The McDowell headquarters monument is situated just west of the Stone House at the intersection of the Sudley Springs Road and the Warrenton Turnpike.  That is, just about 800 miles west of that point, on the battlefield of Shiloh, at the intersection of the Hamburg-Purdy Road and route 142/22.  I took this photo during my June trip to Tennessee and Mississippi. 

Colonel John A. McDowell was a brigade commander in Brigadier General William T. Sherman’s division of Major General U. S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee during the Battle of Shiloh.  He was also a brother of the commander of the Union forces at the Battle of First Bull Run, Irvin McDowell. 

John McDowell’s command at Shiloh was comprised of the 40th IL, 46th OH, his own 6th IA, and the 6th IN Battery.  (McDowell had relieved the 6th IA’s Lieutenant Colonel and placed a captain in command of the regiment.)  Positioned on the far right (western) flank of Sherman’s line, McDowell’s brigade missed much of the heavier fighting experienced by Sherman’s other three brigades.  Consequently, McDowell does not get a lot of ink in the various Shiloh campaign studies. 

This list of officers of the regiment notes that John Adair McDowell was a resident of Keokuk, IA (he was born in Ohio), and was 39 when he became colonel of the regiment on June 20, 1861.  He resigned his commission on March 12, 1863.  Here’s a history of the regiment. 

John is a shadowy figure, due in part to the fact that, despite serving in brigade command, he was never made a general officer.  I found some mention of him in Sherman’s Civil War, a collection of W. T. Sherman correspondence edited by Brooks Simpson at Civil Warriors. 

On page 267, Sherman mentions that McDowell delivered a speech prior to the presentation of a saddle to the general.  On page 323 he writes to Grant in Nov. 1862 that he feels McDowell among others is fit for brigade command.  On pages 341-342 he establishes the familial relationship between John and Irvin in a December 14, 1862 letter to the latter (in which he expressed his support for the embattled Irvin, who was suffering under a cloud of suspicion following Second Bull Run): 

Your brother John A. McDowell has been with me nearly a year commanding one of my Brigades and I left him a few days since at College Hill near Oxford in command of as good a Brigade as is in our whole army.  He is a good kind hearted Gentleman, full of zeal for our cause and I parted with him with feelings of great kindness.  I have urged his name for promotion and I hope successfully.  We have often talked of you, and through him I have sent you many expressions of my personal regard for your high character as a Patriot and Soldier. 

 Other than noting the event in a March 13, 1863 letter to his wife, Sherman does not detail the circumstances of McDowell’s resignation.  Lieutenant Colonel and future general John M. Corse took command of the 6th IA. 

Sherman also mentions on two occasions Major Malcolm McDowell of Ohio, a paymaster in his command.  There was a Malcolm McDowell who was a signal officer on Irvin’s staff at First Bull Run, and Malcolm was involved in preferring charges against Colonel Thomas Worthington as described in Sherman’s letter to Thomas Ewing Sr. on January 16, 1863.  As John McDowell is mentioned in this same letter as having complained about Worthington, I don’t think it a stretch that this Malcolm is the same Malcolm who was with Irvin on July 21.  On page 76 of Historic Families of Kentucky you’ll see that Abram Irvine McDowell of Columbus, OH had three sons – Irvin, John and Malcolm – so I’m pretty confident the fellows I’ve mentioned above are the three brothers.  I’m positive Major Malcolm is not the fellow pictured here:     


This guy makes looking for info on Major Malcolm on the web a real pain, tempting one to acts of ultraviolence.  Not to worry, he’s just here to check the meter. 

If you have any more info on John or Malcolm, please let me know. 

I’ve been remiss in posting photos and tales of my visit to Shiloh, and I’ll try to make up for that in the months ahead, assuming I can find some sort of Bull Run connection.  Speaking of that, here’s a random headstone I ran across at the national cemetery in Corinth, MS:   







13 responses

2 08 2007
Eric Wittenberg


Here’s a tidbit for you on the McDowell brothers.

They were related to Dr. Ephraim McDowell of Kentucky–great nephews, I believe. Dr. McDowell performed the first ovarian surgery with anesthetic in the United States, and is quire renowned in medical circles. There is a handsome statue of Dr. McDowell in the rotunda of the Kentucky state capitol building.

If I remember the genealogy correctly, a sister of Abram McDowell’s uncle was married to a Kentuckian by the name of Duke.
Their son, James Keith Duke, uncle of Confederate cavalryman Basil W. Duke, had a daughter named Martha McDowell Duke, although she was known as Patsy to friends and family. Patsy Duke was a second cousin of the McDowell brothers.

Patsy Duke married her third cousin, John Buford, Jr., originally of Woodford County, Kentucky. They were married at her father’s home in Georgetown, Kentucky. At the time, John Buford was a captain in the U. S. Army. Of course, he went on to achieve a modicum of fame later in the Civil War before dying far too young of typhoid fever.

Thus, by marriage, John Buford and Irvin McDowell were related. During the Second Bull Run Campaign, Buford and his cavalry brigade were assigned to serve with McDowell’s corps. Small world, eh?



2 08 2007
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks, Eric. That’s what threads are all about!

Yes, one thing that becomes apparent rather quickly is that it was indeed a very small world back then, and an especially small military world. On the surface it appears that McDowell was randomly plucked from his relatively obscure staff position (I think his regular rank was still 1st Lt, though he was a brevetted major) to head up the expedition in Virginia. But the more I dig, the less likely that seems. Irvin’s grandpa was a mover and shaker Federalist in Kentucky, and his dad was mayor of Columbus. Considering the power weilded by Chase in those days, it becomes a little less surprising that McDowell, an Ohioan, was chosen. See also my post titled More Ohio Hmmms, as well as the intro to my bio sketch of Sherman.


3 09 2007

I am researching a possible link to Gen. Irvin McDowell, possibly an illegitimate descendant of his. He had a long marriage but no children between 1841 and 1863. The birth I am interested in would have been before his leaving for SF (about 1863). He left his bed in WVA with this new family he started and never saw them again I presume. Very interesting…the general.


3 02 2008
Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center « Bull Runnings

[…] to spend a few hot days stomping the battlefield of Shiloh.  (I wrote a little bit about it here.)  Our base of operations was in Corinth, MS.  Corinth saw more than its share of action during […]


28 07 2010
Susan Evelyn McDowell Cole

I am researching the possibility that I am closely related to General Irvin McDowell. I have the same rare neurological deficit called visual agnosia, which is the inability to recognize names and faces. I currently live in Phoenix, AZ, which has tons of stuff named for Irvin McDowell. Fort McDowell is named for him and is the result of a fight over water rights. Dams were built on the Salt River and Verde River, which collect snowfall and rainwater and portion them out to the city of Phoenix, which has seven inches of rainfall per year.

This was not a small feat of engineering. Phoenix is smack dab in the middle of the desert and is the fifth largest city in the United States. Irvin McDowell may not have been equipped to be a great general during the Civil War, but once he was assigned to the Pacific he managed the engineers who built the West. That is the mines, the dams, the railroads, streets and sewers. Today my brother John M. McDowell P.E. still works as a civil engineer.

The city of Scottsdale, AZ celebrates General Irvin McDowell’s birthday every year,

I was born in New Jersey, which of course was the first Scottish colony in the United States.


5 11 2012
Malachi Ethan Barnes

I am a descendant of the McDowells. I am British, my grandmother is an American and her mother was a McDowell.


5 11 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Outstanding, Malachi! Thanks for stopping by.


21 04 2014
Michael McDowell

I am a decedent of the McDowell’s as well. I do not have my genealogy book with me at this time, with my family tree, so I might leave out one or two people. I hope someone out there can help. First, Civil War General Ervin McDowell is my great (times 4 or 5) uncle. That means his brother John or Malcolm is my great (times 4 or 5) grandfather.

John or Malcolm McDowell had a son Haley, who had a son Eldon, who had a son Elwyn, who is my father. There may have been a son before Harley.

What I am looking for is, if John or Malcolm in my direct decedent. If anyone out there knows this tree, I would greatly appreciate it.


21 04 2014
Susan Evelyn McDowell Cole

When I did my genealogy I discovered that I was the descendent of General Irvin McDowell thru his illegitimate son John R. McDowell. John’ s mother was also a McDowell from the town of McDowell in VA. She moved to Ireland and had John R. on June 4, 1842. General McDowell provided support money for his son and saw him as frequently as possible. Frequently John
R. Would meet his father at the home of John Adair McDowell because of some friction that existed between his wife Helen Burden McDowell and the young John R. McDowell. It was not uncommon for McDowells to return to Ireland or Scotland in the 1800’s so you may have to do a search on there. You can also check McDowell House in Danville KY.


27 09 2016
Sheryll Lyn

Wondering if anyone has any idea of a connection with Rufus McDowell of Burgess, S.C.?

Liked by 1 person

27 09 2016
Harry Smeltzer

I’m not sure, Sheryl Lyn.


11 04 2019

What are the words on the star? I am doing a school project and i chose Irvin McDowell. I need to find stuff that may not be accurate about him, but it is on his monument/other.


11 04 2019
Harry Smeltzer

Cadence, it describes this monument as marking McDowell’s HQ at Shiloh. Keep in mind this is not a marker for Irvin, but for his brother. The most famous inaccuracy re: Irvin is that his gravestone in California shows his first name as Irwin.


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