Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Samuel McGowan: The Fifth Avenue Ghost

Brigadier General Samuel McGowan

       Samuel McGowan was born on October 9, 1819 in Laurens District, South Carolina. He graduated from South Carolina College and read law before being admitted to the bar. He was known for his speaking skills. Soon he was elected to the state legislature. He served in the Mexican War as a captain and was commended for his actions at the Battle of Chapultepec. Following the war, he returned to his law practice and rose to the rank of major general in the South Carolina militia.
       His first action occurred as he commanded a brigade at the bombardment of Fort Sumter. He served on Brigadier General Milledge Luke Bonham’s staff at the Battle of First Manassas. Following the fighting there, he was assigned to the 14th South Carolina Infantry where he rose to the rank of colonel. This regiment became a part of Maxcy Gregg’s South Carolina brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia. They saw heavy fighting during the Seven Days battle’s and McGowan was slightly wounded at Gaines’ Mill, though he never left the field.
       He would be severely wounded at Second Manassas. This would mean he missed the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg). He would be back in command of his regiment at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Maxcy Gregg was mortally wounded during this battle and McGowan was promoted over two senior colonels to command the brigade. His commission to brigadier general would rank from January 17, 1863. He wasn’t a strict disciplinarian, but was a confident commander.
 His first action as a brigadier general occurred at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Attacking a line of breastworks, his brigade was repulsed, but not before McGowan was struck below the knee by a bullet. He would be out of action until February of 1864, meaning he would miss Gettysburg. When he returned, he was forced to use a cane.
McGowan’s South Carolina brigade was broken at the Battle of the Wilderness. He reformed his men in the rear and led them back to the fight. At Spotsylvania, his brigade helped save the Confederate Army when the “Mule Shoe” was over ran. He was struck in the right arm by a bullet during this attack and would not return to duty until the brigade was in the trenches of Petersburg. He would surrender with his men at Appomattox.
       Following the war, he would eventually return to the state legislature and then serve as a judge on the state supreme court. He died in 1897 at the age of 77 and rests today in Long Cane Cemetery, Abbeville, South Carolina. 

Samuel McGowan

Grave of General McGowan

       Perhaps his time on earth didn’t exist there. I’m not a big believer in ghosts, but my buddy Jerry Smith is a strong believer. (He claims he saw one in a clothes basket once. I think it was trying on his dirty underwear.) In 1953, a series of séances were conducted on Fifth Street in New York City. The people conducting the séance were given some pretty accurate details about General McGowan (supposedly by his ghost) and his life after the war when he lived sometime in New York. These people wrote a book called The Fifth Avenue Ghost about these events. The problem I had with the book is the fact that McGowan claimed he was choked to death by the boyfriend of his mistress. Everything I have ever found on the death of McGowan states that he died in South Carolina. Nevertheless, it was interesting and a good read.

No comments:

Post a Comment