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C.R. Lowell

C.R. Lowell

Federal (USA)


Charles Russell Lowell

(1835 - 1864)

Home State: Massachusetts

Education: Harvard, Class of 1854

Command Billet: Staff Officer

Branch of Service: Cavalry

Unit: Army of the Potomac

Before Antietam

Of a prominent Massachusetts line, he was Valedictorian of his class at Harvard, traveled overseas and ran an ironworks before the War. He obtained a commission as Captain in the 3rd US Cavalry on 14 May 1861 (to 6th Cav in August). On the Peninsula Campaign he commanded a squadron made up of Companies E and K, seeing action at WIlliamsburg and "Slatersville" before being assigned to General McClellan's staff in July 1862. He remained in that post as aide-de-camp until McClellan was relieved of command in November.

On the Campaign

At Antietam he carried orders to and was in action with Sedgwick's Division of the Second Corps in the disastrous combat in the West Woods on 17 September. " ...Meeting a portion of Sedgwick's division broken and retreating under the heavy fire, he threw his whole powers to rally it ... His horse was shot twice, his scabbard cut in two, and the overcoat on the saddle spoiled by a piercing bullet, but he came out unhurt." Afterward, he wrote his mother:

Sept. 19, 1862.

We had a severe fight day before yesterday--a good many officers on our side wounded because the men in some brigades behaved badly. Frank Palfrey is wounded, not seriously, --Paul Revere, slightly wounded, --Wendell Holmes shot through the neck, a narrow escape, but not dangerous now, --Hallowell badly hit in the arm, but he will save the limb, --Dr. Revere is killed, --also poor Wilder Dwight, --little Crowninshield (Frank's son) shot in the thigh, not serious, --Bob Shaw was struck in the neck by a spent ball, not hurt at all, --Bill Sedgwick very badly wounded. A good many others of my friends besides are wounded, but none I believe in whom you take an interest. None of General McClellan's aides were hit.

This is not a pleasant letter, Mother: we have gained a victory --a complete one, but not so decisive as could have been wished.

The rest of the War

Over the winter of 1862-63 he returned to Boston and helped raise the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, of which he was appointed Colonel in May 1863. He and his troopers served around Washington DC--active in opposition to Mosby and other raiders--into early 1864. By then, Colonel Lowell was commanding a cavalry Brigade. They joined the Army of the Potomac in the field beginning with the Wilderness Campaign May 1864.

In July he was in the Valley with Sheridan and fought there into the Autumn. In September he commanded the Reserve (Cavalry) Brigade of US and State regiments. He was mortally wounded in action at Cedar Creek and promoted Brigadier General on the same day (though he did not know of it), dying the next day.

References & notes

Basic military service dates from Heitman1, other personal and biographical details, the text of the letter quoted, and the photo above (c. 1863) are all from Emerson2.


01/02/1835; Boston, MA


10/20/1864; near Cedar Creek, VA; burial in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA


1   Heitman, Francis Bernard, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army 1789-1903, 2 volumes, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1903  [AotW citation 817]

2   Emerson, Edward Waldo, Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1907  [AotW citation 818]