Ancestors at Antietam

It’s been 155 years since the Siege of Harper’s Ferry and the Battle at Antietam, the latter being the single worst battle of the Civil War.

My ancestors in Washington Co., MD were Elijah Bowers (1813-1882) and Margaret Avery (1820-1902).  Margaret Avery was another brick wall, until I recently discovered that her maiden name was Avey\Eavey, not Avery.  This was an important discovery relating to the Battle at Antietam.

William Bowers, Sr., my 3x great-grandfather and two of his brothers, Jacob and John, sons of Elijah and Margaret Bowers, were in the same Company and Regiment of Maryland Volunteers during the Civil War.

They were recruited into the 1st Regiment, Potomac Home Brigade, MD Volunteers. Part of that regiment was formed into Company H, 13th Regiment, Maryland Volunteers:

02- ImageImage from History and Roster of Maryland Volunteers, War of 1861-5, Vol. I

There is also a John F. Bowers listed. He may have been a cousin to William and his brothers.

Company H, 13th Regiment was one of the regiments sent to Harper’s Ferry, just prior to the Battle of Antietam.  On Sept. 15, 1862, over 12,000 Union soldiers surrendered to Stonewall Jackson’s troops during the Siege of Harper’s Ferry.

Two days later, on Sept. 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam began.

While I was doing research on the Battle at Antietam, I discovered the importance of the Avey family during this battle.

Margaret Avey\Eavey’s  father, Jacob Avey/Eavey had a farm just on the outskirts of Sharpsburg, at the Southeast corner of the city.

Here is an 1859 map showing the Avey/Eavey Farm property, on the south side of the Burnside Bridge Road:

03- ImageImage from the Library of Congress.

In 1977, the Avey/Eavey Farm (aka the Bowers Farm), had a historical site survey done by Paula Stoner Dickey for the Washington County Historical Sites Survey.

04- Image

Based on the Statement of Significance, it appears that my ancestor’s farm house and property was significantly close to the battlefield of the Battle at Antietam, and played an important part of the battle.

Here is a photograph taken in 1977 of the Avey/Eavey House:

05- ImageImage from the Historical Site Survey – photograph taken by Paula Stoner Dickey

Photograph of the Batten Out-Kitchen of the Avey/Eavey Farm House:

06- ImageImage from the Historical Site Survey – photograph taken by Paula Stoner Dickey

In 2008, Edie Wallace, historian, Paige Phifer, field technician and Paula S. Reed, (formerly Paula Stoner Dickey of the previous site survey), Ph.D., architectural historian, prepared a 225 page National Register of Historical Places form for submission.  In the document, the Avey/Eavey Farm was listed in the inventory of properties located within the Sharpsburg Historical District:

07- ImageNote the last column shows the State Inventory Number. From the National Register of Historical Places Registration Form – QA-II-723, Page 63.

Then next mention of the Avey/Eavey property in this document is this paragraph from the Statement of Significance:

“Following the September 17th battle, known still as the bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War, soldiers and residents of Sharpsburg faced a field covered with bodies, both dead and injured.  As quickly as possible, injured soldiers were removed to makeshift hospitals set up in nearly every available building and yard.  Local historian, John Nelson* documented all of the known locations of hospitals following the Antietam Battle using damage claims, diaries, Sanitary Commission records, and personal memoirs.  In Sharpsburg, Nelson noted the primary hospital sites at the Lutheran Church (through February 1863), the German Reformed Church, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (mistakenly called the Methodist Episcopal Church).  Private houses documented by Nelson include the home of John Philemon Smith (WA-II-706), the G. Findley Smith house (unknown), the Peter Morrow cabin (no longer standing), the Charles Clark house (unknown), the Jacob Avey house (WA-II-151), and the Adam Michael house (WA-II-705), where as many as 90 wounded men were located.”

From the National Register of Historical Places Registration Form – QA-II-723, Page 73.

*Noted Historian John H. Nelson sits on the Board of Directors of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, and has also compiled and published “As Grains Fall Before the Reaper” on a CD-ROM in 2004.  This was a monumental undertaking of research that took 8 years to complete. It is cited as one of the best and most detailed work relating to the casualties of the Battle at Antietam. Nelson has identified and documented 12,651 individual federal casualties using original hospital registers, individual claims for damages, newspaper accounts, regimental histories, and many other sources. In many cases, the nature of the soldier’s wound and treatment, or date of death is listed, even if death occurred months later. Also, there are complete descriptions of over 120 houses, mills, farms, stores, churches, hotels, and other sites that served as hospitals. Many of the accounts have never been published before.

In November of 1862, William, Jacob and John Bowers were paroled upon a POW exchange with the Confederacy.

The brothers were then re-assigned to the 1st Regiment of Maryland, Potomac Home Brigade (PHB), which then participated in the Battle of Gettysburg.  William was wounded in that conflict:

09- ImageImages from Fold3©

The 1st Regiment of Maryland, Potomac Home Brigade, has a monument in their honor at the Gettysburg Battlefield:

10- ImageImage courtesy of the Gettysburg Stone Sentinels website.

After the war, the majority of the Bowers family, headed by Elijah and Margaret Bowers went to Harrisburg, PA in 1871. William and his family followed later.  Elijah and Margaret’s sons, Jacob and John decided to stay at the Bowers farm.  Farming for the brothers in Sharpsburg was becoming unproductive in the years that followed. In 1878, Jacob was offered an opportunity by a man from Nebraska, who enticed Jacob to live on his farm there, which provided a furnished house and productive farming.  Jacob, feeling the call of the west took him up on his offer.  Jacob then tried to persuade his brother, John to go with him, but John decided he wanted to be with the rest of the family, so John went on to Harrisburg.


Forty seven years later, in 1925, two newspaper articles were published, one from Lincoln, NE and one from Harrisburg, PA, recounting the reunion of the brothers, Jacob and John Bowers, who had not seen each other since their departure from one another in 1878.

11- ImageFrom the Lincoln Star, Sunday, July 19, 1925 –©

12- ImageFrom the Harrisburg Telegraph, Thursday, August 6, 1925 –©

Different quotes from the articles:

“Jacob came to the station to meet his brother.  But they did not know one another. Each thought the years that had changed them had dealt more kindly with the other and each looked for the brother he had parted from forty-seven years ago.

Tears, unashamed, streamed down their faces when they met at last, the one, a very old man, the other bearing up under his few less years more straightly.”

Jacob was 88 years old and John was 80 years old.  John spent a week with Jacob, enjoying a family reunion picnic before going onto Iowa to visit other relatives, then going back to Harrisburg.

“Only a week, but as the twilight falls and the shadows draw closer, two old men will remember, and will be happy that one week was granted them to be together out of nearly half a century.”

Jacob passed away in 1929, and John followed in 1930.

What I’ve learned from this experience:

  • Ancestors with missing blocks of time, mysteries and puzzling records or events, can still have enough recorded information about them that brings new light to their lives


  • Even the smallest factor, like an extra letter in a last name, can bring down an entire brick wall


  • Never give up on trying to find out about elusive ancestors. You may be surprised what you can uncover as you gain more knowledge and experience, and gather new resources


  • Don’t be afraid or hesitate to contact those researchers or historians that have a wealth of knowledge surrounding the events of your ancestors


  • Always become familiar with historical events that occurred around your ancestors. There’s always a good chance they may have been involved more deeply than you think


My appreciation to Norman Gasbarro, Civil War Historian, for his insight and dedication.

Special thanks to Paula Stoner Reed for her devotion and tireless efforts to preserve the history of our ancestors and the preservation of battlefield sites. My contact with Paula garnered me an Avey\Eavey cousin as well.

Also, thanks to Cathy Meder-Dempsey for her support.

I would also like to take this time to give my wife, Cheryl, the awesome credit and appreciation she deserves for reviewing my work and inspiring me to share with others my discoveries that can help them with their ancestry research. Thank you Cheryl!

Brian S. Miller

8 thoughts on “Ancestors at Antietam

  1. I love reading about how others find the key to open the door in their brick walls. What a wonderful discovery. Who would have thought one little letter would make such a big difference. The bulleted points you make are right on! Lastly, thank you so much for the mention. Congratulations, Brian.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Thank you for the kind response. It is very possible that there is a relation there. I believe I did see in my research that one of the Bowers from this family went to Iowa. I will have to go back through my research to see where that is. Thanks again and I’ll be in touch!


      • Thank you. My Bowers family is related through my Earp family from Maryland, that also went to Harrisburg, PA. (Yes, that Earp family. Wyatt is my 8th cousin, so many times removed).


      • Hello, I’ve looked very hard at the entire family in Iowa, and just came up with dead ends. The story about the brother visiting relatives in Iowa may have been a case of him visiting his wife’s relatives.


    • I went back and I read from the History of Dauphin County, PA regarding my Bowers family, and they listed Elijah and Margaret’s son Jacob as living in Idagrove, Iowa. Census records and other records do not back this up. Jacob left MD for Nebraska. There were 3 more children born after 1850 I have to check on yet to see if they had moved to Iowa. Will let you know. Thanks!


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