South Mountain by Rick Reeve

South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"His place can hardly be filled....": Captain Wilson Cowell, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry

This is a photo of Captain Wilson Cowell of Co. B, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. Captain Cowell was killed in action leading the skirmishers that were covering the advance of the 2nd Wisconsin along the National Pike towards Turner's Gap.

Cowell was born April 12, 1827 the oldest of five children. In 1858, after working for his father, Cowell moved to La Cross, Wisconsin and founded the Katayan Bank. Becoming deeply involved with his new home, he was elected as mayor of La Cross in April 1861 but events on the national level would cause Cowell to instead enlisted on April 18, 1861, just having turned 34 years of age. Having served as a captain in a pre-war militia unit, Cowell was quickly given the rank of captain.  He would lead Company B in the fighting at First Bull Run, Groveton, Second Bull Run, and Chantilly before losing his life at South Mountain. He was extremely loved by the men of his company and a story that veterans later remember was during the First Battle of Bull Run when an artillery shell struck within his company. Cowell, calmly taking out his pipe and lighting it, sat in the spot where the shell struck stating that lightening does not strike twice in the same spot.

Cowell's remains would be transported back to his birthplace of Kittanning Cemetery in Kittanning, Pennsylvania.  A poem, entitled Tobacco Road, was written by a soldier in Company B following his death. A brief excerpt:

'Twas an evening in September,
When we charged famed "Turner's Pass,"
That we found our brave commander
Lying bleeding on the grass.

A comrade gently raised his head
To see if there was life;
But alas, the vital spark had fled
With his last words, "Oh, my wife!"

Before we ceased our cannonade
Into the South Mountain's door,
A wail went from the Iron Brigade,
Brave Colwell is no more.

Captain Cowell's final resting place


1.Unknown author. Wilson B. Cowell page  [accessed 4/17/12]

2. Ralph Sattefield. (Cowell Grave). [accessed 4/17/12]