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: