15th Mass. Private Roland E. Bowen, Captured at Gettysburg, Writes to a Friend from Belle Island Prison

Here is a very rare letter from Belle Island with its original envelope. The 15th Mass. at Gettysburg suffered a 60% loss with 38 men killed or mortally wounded and another 100 wounded. Roland Bowen was one of those captured and sent south to Richmond. The letter is written in pencil on both sides of a 5 x 8 inch sheet. In this letter Bowen mentions “I left at Staunton”… in other words, he escaped on the way to Richmond, but then “was retaken near Grab Bottom after scaling five ranges of mountains, a distance of 75 miles”. Quite an amazing feat. 

Here is the content of the letter: 

• Belle Island Nov. 18th. Friend Guild, I was captured at Gettysburg July 2nd. I expected to have been exchanged long before this and did not write. 

• I have no hopes of getting away from here at present. I have much to write when the proper time comes. My health is good. I come within a hair’s breath of going away with the last 500 but only 483 went, and I was one of the unfortunate 17. And then I expected to go every week for a long time, but alas there is an end to the exchange. 

• We are quartered in tents. Hope we may be removed into barracks during the winter months but don’t know. I drew a blanket, shirt, drawers, blouse & shoes. also some coffee & tobacco. And it is rumored that we are to have hard tack and salt horse. Thank God if it is so. 

• We have 6,000 prisoners on the Islands. I have not heard from home since last June. So write instantaneously or sooner, if possible.  

• I left at Staunton but was retaken near Grab Bottom after scaling five ranges of mountains, a distance of 75 miles. S’pose you heard of that. Answer without delay. My regards to all. R. E. Bowen  

• Prisoner of War, Belle Island. Richmond, Va. Via Fortress Monroe On front upside down: Put on the box Regmt, also Flag of Truce Boat. 

This letter is quite famous having appeared in several books. A wonderful piece for the 15th Mass. or Gettysburg collector. 

#PO115MA – Price $950 (Want all 3 Bowen letters? Special price $2,000)