(1832 - 1862)
Home State: Massachusetts
Branch of Service: Infantry
Not quite 29, a farmer in Grafton, he enlisted and mustered as Sergeant, Company G, 15th Massachusetts Infantry on 12 July 1861. He was reported missing at Ball's Bluff, VA on 21 October 1861, having been captured there, and was exchanged to return to duty in February 1862.
On the Campaign
He was mortally wounded in the right leg in action at Antietam on 17 September 1862.
The rest of the War
He kept a diary of his experience at Antietam:
Sept. 17th - Wednesday. Battle. Oh horrid battle. What sights I have seen. I am wounded! And am afraid shall be again as shells fly past me every few seconds carrying away limbs from the trees ... Am in severe pain. How the shells fly. I do sincerely hope I shall not be wounded again.Jonathan died of complications from his wound and amputation on 1 October 1862.
Sept. 18th - Thursday. Misery. Acute, painful misery. How I suffered last night. It was the most painful of anything have experienced. My leg must be broken for I cannot help myself scarcely any. I remember talking and groaning all night. Many died in calling for help ... Sergt. Johnson, who lies on the other side of the log is calling for water. Carried off the field at 10 AM by the Rebs who show much kindness but devote much time to plundering dead bodies of our men ... Water very short. We suffer much.
Sept. 19th - Friday. Rained only a little. I had a rubber blanket and overcoat. Rebs retreat. Another painful night. Oh good God, a whole line of our skirmishers are coming ... There are lots of us lain out ... By and by our boys come along. What lots of the 15th. Captain comes down to get the names and has coffee furnished us. Twas the best cup I ever tasted. Dr. looks at my wounds and calls it a doubtful case. Get me on ambulance at 3 PM but do not get to the hospital [a field hospital on the Hoffman farm near Sharpsburg] till nearly dark. Plenty of water which gives us a chance to take down inflammation. Nurses worn out by fatigue. Placed on straw near the barn.
Sept. 20th - Saturday. Fearful it will rain. How cheerful the boys appear. Many must lose their arms or legs but they do not murmur ... Leg amputated about noon. What sensations -- used chloroform. Hope to have no bad effects. There are some dozen or more stumps near me. Placed in barn beside J. [James] Hughes.
Sept. 21st - Sunday. Very weak and sore ... Hot weather by day cool at night. Hard to get nurses. Men beg for water. People come in from all parts of the country. Stare at us but do not find time to do anything.
Sept. 22nd - Monday. Two men died last night ... How painful my stump is. I did not know was capable of enduring so much pain. How very meager are accommodations - no chamber pots & nobody to find or rig up one. How ludicrous for 2 score amputated men to help themselves with diarrhea.
Sept. 23rd - Tuesday. Oh what fearful long nights. What difficulties we have to contend ... Relief can hardly be found. I have at length got my limb dressed by volunteer surgeon. But never was so exhausted for want of refreshment.
Sept. 24th - Wednesday. [No entry]
Sept. 25th - Thursday. Such nights! Why they seem infinitely longer than days. The nervous pains are killing two or three every night. All sorts of groans and pleadings ... Many patients are leaving daily. Some have gone today to H. Ferry. I watch over J. Hughes nightly. Has had fever. Very cold last night & we are very short of clothing. Sundown just rec'd blankets.
Sept. 26th - Friday. Very cold last night. J Hughes had shakes again last night ... the cold weather may all come for the best, certainly maggots do not trouble so much and air is some purer. 4 PM J. Hughes died ... O there comes Mrs. Gray with refreshments. Such a treat ... I got tomatoes ... just what I wanted, Have since forgotten my stump first hemorrhage- it was very copious and tho I stoutly affirmed that I would not use Brandy, was now plainly told that if not should be dead in 3 days.
Sept. 27th - Saturday. Commence taking Brandy none too soon. Dr. tells me I am dangerously ill and must take his prescription in order to change condition of blood. He is earnest & too good a man. Mr. Sloan a kind hearted chaplain telegraphs for me. Suffer continuously from position in bed. Have to elevate my stump to prevent bleeding and be very still.
Sept. 28th - Sunday. Oh what lengths to the nights. The horrid smell from the mortifying limbs is nearly as bad as the whole we have to contend. Mrs. Lee and another lady are here daily dispensing cooked broths ... They seem to employ their whole time for us. Move outdoors in the PM. Excessively hot.
Sept. 29th - Monday. Slept little more comfortable last night. Got nice soups and nice light biscuit and tart also nice butter from Mrs. Lee. Also she gets me milk again this morning. How the quinine keeps me parched for water and so sleepy and foolish. Am much better off here than in barn. 10 AM my comrade died from the 18th Minn. Regt. I rec'd 4 letters from friends or home but am so boozy it takes the whole AM to read them. Mr. Dr. Kelsey dressed my stump admirably and am quite comfortable if the quinine does not choke me to death. It is far more quiet here but begins to rain.
References & notes
Service information from Commonwealth of Massachusetts,1 which has him as Jonathan P. Stowe, and Harnwell.2 Hospital detail from Nelson.3 The quotes above are from his diary, now in the Grafton Historical Society, transcribed to her blog in 2011 by Joan Gage. His picture from an online exhibit from the GHS. His gravesite is on Findagrave.
More on the Web
See an excellent presentation of Stow's story from John Banks on his Civil War blog.
07/26/1832; Grafton, MA
10/01/1862 Sharpsburg, MD; burial in Old Oak Street Burial Ground, Grafton, MA
1 Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Adjutant General, Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War, 8 Vols, Norwood (MA): Norwood Press, 1931-35, Vol. 2, pp. 182 - 183 [AotW citation 5846]
2 Harnwell, Susan, The 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War 1861 - 1864, Published 1997, first accessed 01 January 1999, <http://www.nextech.de/ma15mvi/>, Source page: /Roster/p107.htm#i1046 [AotW citation 23276]
3 Nelson, John H., As Grain Falls Before the Reaper: The Federal Hospital Sites and Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam, Hagerstown: John H. Nelson, 2004, pp. 13, 404 [AotW citation 23277]