CALVIN C. LOWE
from farmin' to fightin'
by Shirley Farris Jones
Calvin C. Lowe
was a peace loving man. But when the call for arms
came, he was more than ready to go. He was not a dashing, daring
cavalryman, he was not a doctor, a lawyer, nor was he a man of the
aristocratic south. He did not own a plantation. He
was a farmer. As his father had been. And his father before
him. Calvin Lowe was just an ordinary soldier, who was willing to
leave his family and his farm to fight for the Cause that he believed
to be right!
Lowe’s were among some of the earliest settlers in Rutherford
County, settling before 1810 in the Big Springs Community, near
Murfreesboro, Tennessee. There is even a road named for
them to this day. Calvin’s grandfather, Charles F.
Lowe and his wife, Mary Sutton Lowe, were the beginning of the Lowe
family in Tennessee, when they, along with Charles’ brother,
Walter, and his wife who was Mary’s sister, relocated to this
area from Maryland. Charley Lowe was the father of eleven
children, the eldest of whom was William M. Lowe. Col. Bill, as
he was known, was born August 20, 1797. He married Rhoda Plummer
in 1818, and they had four sons – the third born was Calvin, who
entered this world on December 17, 1824. Calvin married Minerva
Kelton on January 27, 1848 and they quickly settled down to farming and
raising a family. Between 1850 and 186l, they were the parents of
eight children, four boys and four girls. Life changed
drastically in July of 186l when Calvin joined his brother, William
Sutton Lowe, and volunteered for one year’s service in the
Confederacy. At the time of his enlistment, he was 36
years old, 5’10” high, fair complexion, blue eyes, and
light hair. On August 23, 186l he is shown on the Company
Muster-in roll at Camp Trousdale as a “2 Sgt.”, Co. L, 23rd
Tennessee Infantry. This was shown as the Company of Capt. Wm. S.
Lowe, his brother.
When Calvin left
Rutherford County in August of 186l, he, along with many other
Tennessee boys, was sent to Camp Trousdale near Nashville for
training. This must have been quite a shock to a 36-year-old
farmer and family man! In October the Regiment moved to
Bowling Green, Kentucky, where it became a part of Brigadier General
Simon B. Buckner’s Division, Colonel John C. Brown’s
Brigade, which was composed of the 3rd, 18th, and 23rd Tennessee
Infantry Regiments. In January of 1862, it was reported in Major
General William J. Hardee’s Division, Colonel Patrick R.
Cleburne’s Brigade, which was composed of the 15th Arkansas, 6th
Mississippi, 23rd, 24th, and 35th Tennessee Infantry Regiments.
Following the surrender of Fort Donelson on February 16, this Brigade
would provide the rear guard for the southward exodus of the
Confederate army. On February 23, back home in
Murfreesboro, the 1st Arkansas would replace the 15th Arkansas and the
Watson Louisiana Battery was added. April 1862 found them at
During the first day’s bloody battle, Cleburne’s Brigade
composed the extreme right of the Confederate line, and on the morning
of April 6, 1862 as the men moved forward to face the enemy, a small
stream and the swampy area around it proved to be a major
obstacle. Shiloh Branch, overflowing its banks and making the
surrounding undergrowth and tangled vines a marshy area unable to be
crossed, forced the men to divide and go around. Three
Tennessee Regiments, along with the 1st Arkansas went left, while the
6th Mississippi and the 23rd Tennessee, including Patrick R. Cleburne
and Calvin C. Lowe, went right. So, in effect, two thirds of
Cleburne’s command was cut off by the swamp, and when Cleburne
and the 6th Mississippi and 23rd Tennessee encountered the enemy, there
were fewer than 1,000 men to make the attack. But attack they
did! And it was these two regiments who were ordered forward by
Cleburne, but unfortunately for them, the Federals were holding the
high ground behind improvised breastworks, and they had to charge
unprotected across an open field. Although the charge
seemed to go well at first, it was soon repulsed by the largely
superior Federal force. Cleburne ordered the men to reform and
charge again. But courage and sheer will couldn’t do the
job. The Confederates were badly cut up, and of the 6th
Mississippi and 23rd Tennessee, there were only about 200
survivors. Calvin Lowe was lucky, being among the injured,
although struck down by a cannon ball. He was sent to the
hospital at Corinth, Mississippi where he remained until his
discharge. On the 13th day of May 1862 Calvin Lowe was paid
a total of $112.01 for this experience. It broke down
as follows: for the pay period of December 31, 1861 to May 10,
1862, being 4 months and 10 days, at $17.00 per month, a total of
$73.66; for pay for traveling from Corinth, Mississippi to
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a distance of 175 miles at 10 cents per mile,
he received $17.50, and for clothing NOT drawn, he got another $20.85;
making the grand total of $112.01. So, Calvin went home.
And he didn’t go home empty handed!
Back to the farm, spring planting, and his
family. The good things in life. Murfreesboro was under
Federal occupation, but would soon have about a six month reprieve
beginning with Forrest’s Raid on July 13, 1862 and extending
through the Battle of Stones River, or Murfreesboro, December
31-January 3, 1863. During this year after his
discharge, Calvin’s life would again change dramatically.
March of 1863, just prior to the beginning of
the Tullahoma Campaign, Calvin was at home, minding his own business,
still recuperating from his wounds at Shiloh, when a few Yankees
dropped in uninvited and unexpected. Feeding an army takes
a lot of food, and the Federal soldiers were going farther and farther
out into the countryside each day, searching for livestock, corn,
vegetables, looking for supplies, or anything else they could steal,
when they came to the Lowe farm. The chickens Minerva
Lowe had raised must have looked rather tasty to these men of an Ohio
unit and they decided to take them. She decided otherwise, but
they did not respect her objections. They stabbed her – in
the stomach – in her seventh month of pregnancy. She died
April 14, 1863. The baby girl, whom they named Martha, was
born prematurely and only lived three days. Calvin was
arrested, brought to the Courthouse, and held prisoner until he
reluctantly took “The Oath.” In his application for
Civil War pension, he states “that he didn’t know
what had become of his family, his eight children ranging in age from
12 to 2, and he had to get home to see about them.”
Calvin Lowe would outlive two more wives, and
father three more children. The first child born to his
second wife was Jack Lowe, great-grandfather of the writer.
Luckily neither of these two women would suffer the same fate as his
first wife. According to his Application for Civil
War Pension, he contended that as a result of his service to the
Confederacy, he suffered from rheumatism and stomach trouble, from
which he never recovered.
On November 7, 1901, Calvin was reunited with
many of the men he had soldiered with when he attended the dedication
ceremonies of a monument to honor Confederate dead on the Courthouse
lawn of the town square in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This was the
same Courthouse where he had been held prisoner by the Federal Army
forty years prior. And the same Courthouse lawn where
one hundred years later on November 10, 2001, the writer of this story,
his own great-great-granddaughter, would have the privilege to
participate in the rededication ceremonies of this same Confederate
Calvin Lowe was 84 years old when he
died on February 22, 1908, at his home, on the farm where he was born,
on the land that he loved and defended; and that is where he rests in
“Application for Civil War Pension” – Calvin C. Lowe, April 5, 1902.
Company Muster Rolls for C.C. Lowe. August 23, 1861; October
– December 1861; May 1862; Discharge of May 13, 1862.
Lowe Family Bible Records. In possession of Shirley Farris Jones. Murfreesboro, TN.
Pittard, Mabel. A HISTORY OF RUTHERFORD COUNTY. Memphis State University Press, 1984.
Sword, Wiley. SHILOH: BLOODY APRIL. Morningside Press Reprint, 2001.
TENNESSEANS IN THE CIVIL WAR, Part l, Civil War Centennial Commission, Nashville, TN, 1964.