Thursday, 21 March 2013

US Brigadier General James Bartholomew Gowen (1872 - 1958): Descended from Cork Gowens

Brigadier General James Bartholomew Gowen (1872-1958) was a decorated infantry officer who fought in Cuba, the Philippine insurrection and in Europe during the First World War.

His parents emigrated to America from County Cork.The following is an accurate biography compiled by the Grandson of Brigadier General James Bartholomew Gowen. Other biographies of General Gowen published on the internet (e.g. from RootsWeb and here)contain inaccuracies, which this version seeks to correct.


James Bartholomew Gowen was born in Brooklyn, NY on September 25, 1872. His parents were Michael Duggan Gowen, born in Lisheen (later absorbed into Ballyhooly), County Cork, Ire. His Mother, Elizabeth O’Connell was born in Ballymaclaurence, County Cork, Ire; both townlands are near Fermoy, County Cork. It is unknown if they were acquainted prior to their arrival in New York City.

James was their first child and was followed by sister Honora, who did not survive infancy, and Elizabeth and Katherine, both teachers in the New York Public School System.

Michael D. Gowen deceased on January 12, 1912 in Brooklyn, NY where his wife Elizabeth died ten years later on December 27, 1922.

Initially, James B. Gowen was an assistant cashier for the Parke Davis Company [once the world's largest pharmaceutical company, whose products included at that time 'medicinial' cocaine in various forms] from 1889 to 1894.


James B. Gowen was appointed to West Point from New York State in 1894 and was graduated from the Military Academy in 1898, according to “Who’s Who in America.”
West Point Class of 1894

General Gowen’s West Point Class was graduated two months early in April 1898 when Spain declared war. He related to his Grandson the story of how this early graduation unfolded.

The class was scheduled for a routine law lecture. When assembled, the class was advised that the lecture was cancelled and they were to prepare to graduate and receive their regimental assignments the next day.

He sailed immediately to join his regiment, the 16th Infantry, at Tampa Bay, FL. James B. Gowen was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the 16th Infantry Regiment on April 26, 1898 and sailed with it immediately to Cuba. This data is outlined in his obituary published in “The Assembly,” a publication of the U. S. Military Academy. Lt. James B. Gowen, fresh out of West Point, joined an infantry company commanded by a Civil War veteran. Gowen led his soldiers up San Juan Hill in July in the major battle of the Spanish American War. In this battle his West Point roommate was killed in action.

Soldiers of the 16th Infantry crouch under the fire of Spanish Mausers eminating from San Juan Hill. The San Juan River and "Bloody Ford" is to their front.
The 16th Infantry Regiment Before the San Juan River
Following this battle, Lt. Gowen participated in the siege of Santiago.

An unknown officer, of16th Infantry, Philippines, circa 1905.
An unknown officer of the 16th Infantry, 1905, Philippines
At the end of hostilities and after recovering from severe malaria, he sailed for the Philippines in 1899 and served there for three years with the 16th Infantry Regiment at the height of the insurrection.

James B. Gowen fought in the San Miguel De Mayumo campaign, and for many months his company was deep in the jungles of the Cagayan Valley, far from the headquarters and supply base at Aparri on the Coast.

When communications failed he led a small patrol across the mountains of Northern Luzon to Baguio City and thence to Manila where he was called in by Gen. Leonard Wood for a full report on the arduous 220 mile journey.

Along with his contemporaries, James B. Gowen was promoted to First Lieutenant on March 2, 1899. He was recommended for a Brevet Captaincy for gallantry in action at San Ildefonso in December 1899. He was appointed Military Governor in Neuva Viscava in 1900. A Roman Catholic, he was popular with the Filipinos.

By 1900, his fiancé since cadet days, Helene Lily Burlinson of New York City, despaired of his return to the United States. With the help of Sen. Chauncey M. Depew, who took the problem to Secretary of War Elihu Root, she obtained passage on the S. S. Logan, a transport bound for the Philippines. Duly chaperoned by a married sister who was to join her husband there, Helene reached Manila in January 1901. The couple was married immediately and established a home at Aparri. She was one of four Burlinson sisters who married Army officers.

Lt. Gowen was reassigned to the 10th Infantry Regiment and promoted to Captain on October 3, 1902, according to “List of Officers of the U. S. Army.” He remained with the 10th Infantry Regiment until the outbreak of World War I. He was stationed at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, IN from July 1908 until March 3, 1911. He was stationed at San Antonio, TX July 5, 1911.

In 1912 he was an honor graduate from the U. S. Army School of the Line. Just before World War I he was briefly stationed in Plattsburg, NY. In 1915 he graduated from the Army Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS.

Gowen served two tours in Panama – January 26, 1913 to December 2, 1914 and October 24, 1916 to January 11, 1917.

In World War I, Lt. Col. Gowen commanded the Officers’ Training Camp at Ft. Logan Roots, AR. On August 15, 1917 he was Chief of Staff of the 38th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby, MS. The Division went overseas to France. He later served with the 78th Division in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France. (The battle was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers, and was one of a series of Allied attacks known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which brought the war to an end.)

Later he was assigned to the headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force, where he was promoted to Colonel on February 9, 1918. There he was awarded the Purple Heart for Meritorious Service in World War I. He was also awarded the French Order of the Black Star. [Note: this was a West African colonian medal.]

After the war, Col. Gowen served as Executive Officer and as a student at the Army War College. He received the Meritorious Service Citation May 19, 1919 and the Panamanian Medal August 30, 1919. Col. Gowen was named President of the Infantry Board at the Infantry Training Center, Ft. Benning, GA from August 15, 1923 to June 30, 1925, where he later commanded the 29th Infantry Regiment July 1, 1925 through June 30, 1927. 

He was promoted to Brigadier General May 3, 1929 while serving as Chief of Staff of the Fifth Corps Area at Ft. Hays, OH. Later that year he served as the Commanding Officer of the First Field Artillery Brigade at Ft. Hoyle, MD.

In 1932 he was transferred to Hawaii. “Gen. Gowen and his wife of Schofield Barracks” were listed in the 1933 “Blue Book of Hawaii” where he commanded the 11th Field Artillery Brigade. He retired September 30, 1936 and lived in Arlington, VA.

Gen. Gowen died on August 10, 1958 in Walter Reed Hospital. The “New York Times” carried his photograph and obituary in its edition of August 11, 1958. His survivors were listed as follows: 

“Surviving are his widow, the former Helene Lily Burlinson, and six daughters:

Mrs. Haydon L. Boatner (Dorothy) of Ft. McNair, DC; Mrs. Richard C. Prather (Elizabeth) of Ft. Holabird, MD; Mrs. James M. Worthington (Kathleen) of Ft. Lewis, WA; Mrs. W. S. Rockwell (Mildred) of Savannah, GA; Mrs. Robert H. Sanders (Marjorie) of Falls Church, VA and Miss Helene Gowen of Schofield Barracks, HI. He also leaves fourteen Grandchildren and three Great Grandchildren.”

Brigadier General James Bartholomew Gowen was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife joined him there in 1970.



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