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Civil War and Reconstruction
Civil War Soldiers' Stories
Gus Bowles Goes to War

William A. "Gus" Bowles was 91 years old when the Federal Writer's Project interviewed him. He was a veteran of the Confederate Army during the Civil War and a pioneer settler in Uvalde, Texas. He was born in Mississippi and moved with his family to Texas in 1849. When the Civil War broke out, his father enlisted and went off to war. Why did Gus want to join the fighting? What was military life like from Gus's point of view? What does Gus say about the end of the war?

View the entire interview with Gus Bowles from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

"When the Civil War broke out, my father went to fight. He bought a little place out of Belton and moved us into the country. It was land for cultivation and as I was about 13 years old, it was up to me to keep things going. My father had been gone a long time when some Confederate soldiers camped near our place one day. They had stopped to eat dinner and I went down there where they were to talk to them. They talked about the war til they got me in the notion of going and I went back to the house and told my mother that I was going to the war . She began trying to keep me from going and talking and begging me not to go, but I told her that I would go down to where my father was and I would try to got in the same regiment with him.

"He was stationed at Houston on Buffalo Bayou and man in Colonel Gillispie's regiment. I walked sixteen miles to get to a train and went on down to Houston and then I walked on down to camp, about two miles. My father was sure surprised to see me and asked me what I was doing there. I told him I was afraid that the war would break before I got to go. Well, he knew I was too young so he went and talked to the colonel. He introduced me and the colonel said he would like to get me to go back home but if I wouldn't go, I could stay there with my father because he couldn't sign me up on account of my age. My father had been down there for a long time, so he talked to the colonel about letting me stay there in his place while he went home. I could take his place till he got back. The colonel agreed and they gave me a suit of clothes and a gun and he says, 'Now, I'll tell you, you are going to find this pretty hard for you have to go up to Houston and guard prisoners two hours two or three times a week.' I said I could stand that all right.

"I was there two or three months and had to go on guard very week, two or three times and I was getting pretty tired of it. We lived on starvation rations. They give us these here old hard-tack crackers and bacon; no coffee. We had to drink water. They couldn't get coffee for the northern people had it all tied up. The only may we could got a cup of coffee was when we would be on guard. Then we'd go to the coffee house where they served coffee and get a cup.

"I had never wrote to my father to come back, so I stayed there till we got word that Lee's army had surrendered. When we got word that he had surrendered, our colonel said, 'Well, the war is about over.' One day we heard a cannon firing down at Galveston and the colonel and General Magruder said, 'That's Yankees firing on Galveston now and we've got to get in line of battle and prepare to get 'em when they come.' That was the first time I ever was in line of battle and I could look up and down the line and see the guns glistening in the sun and the generals riding up and down in front of the lines giving orders -- oh my! I wished I was back home then. They thought the Yankees would come on up to Houston on the train. Along in the evening, we were standing there on that prairie and we seen the train coming and heard the whiltle. The officers said, 'Well, they're coming; we'll have to fight them!' We got ready and had our guns all ready to fire. When that train come in sight, you never saw so many men in your life. They were all over it. When they got in sight, [they began?] waving their hats and handkerchiefs and cheering and the officers called to us and said the war was over because that was our men on their way home. We all started home that same evening. Our general told us that since the soldier's were going to take Houston, we might as well go on in and get what we could too. They hit that town and went into every store and took everything they wanted. All of those private stores were looted. So I decided I would go in and get me a big gun."
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View the entire interview with Gus Bowles from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.