Stephen Lampman Lowing was born January 15, 1817 in East Gainesville (probably Wyoming County), New York, the son of Isaac (1794-1876?) and Lavina (Lampman, b. 1796?).
Isaac and Lavina were married around 1814, possibly in New York. According to family history he was poor most of his life, and, at the age of 13 Stephen, the second oldest, went to live with his uncle James, who was childless and had a made a fortune lumbering in Canada.
James was a very devout Presbyterian and decided that Stephen would someday become a minister, and he set the boy to memorizing passages from the Bible every night. Stephen rebelled at his uncle’s arbitrary manner and at the age of 17 he moved back home. Due to his family’s impoverished circumstances and a desire to make his own way in the world, in 1836 he left his boyhood home in Genesee County, New York and headed west for Michigan, “for the purpose,” he wrote in 1886,.”of seeking my fortune; and like many others of that day supposed it was to be found in the far West, and with that purpose in view I found my way to [the] Grand River, by the way known as the Shiawassee trail.”
According to a family historian, Stephen left New York in the summer of 1836 and walked to Michigan, arriving first in Chicago the walking up the lakeshore to Grand Haven. Stephen himself said that he “arrived in Grandville, Kent County about the first of October of that year, where I engaged as a laborer, in a saw mill then owned by Brown & Britten, but operated by Hiram Jenison as their foreman.”
Hearing that the Indians’ titles to the land on the Grand River further up from Grand Haven had been extinguished, Stephen staked out a claim for some 80 acres on the south side of the river from Sand Creek, and built a cabin for himself. He returned to Grand Haven where he worked in the winter of 1837-38 at the William Hathaway’s mill, and on December 31, 1837, Lowing wrote, Ottawa County was organized. “And owing to the fact that the lands on the south side of the river had been purchased and were held by speculators, the immigration was largely turned to the north side of the river, and settlements were formed rapidly along the river.”
In the spring of 1838 he returned to New York where he attended Bethany Academy for two terms, and preached in East Gainesville and Bethany for two years.
In January of 1840 Stephen married Ruth Madison, and their daughter Martha was born in March of 1841.
In late summer Stephen and his family and his brother Holden headed westward for Michigan via Buffalo and a long boat trip around the lakes to Grand Haven where they boarded a Grand River steamer, the Hummingbird, for the last leg of the journey to Sand Creek. His wife found the Michigan climate quite disagreeable and was reportedly ill most of the time with “the ague” (possibly malaria).
Stephen’s father joined them in 1842, and by late 1843 virtually all of the Lowing family had moved to the Sand Creek area. Stephen and Ruth’s third child was born in December of 1847, and sometime in 1848, Ruth, chronically ill, returned to her family’s home in New York. Soon afterwards she and Stephen were divorced.
Lowing married his second wife, Rhoda Brooks, in 1851. She turned out to be a drug addict and reportedly abused his children, and he divorced her; she died in the poorhouse in 1870.
Stephen turned his attention to the lumber business and spent most of the first winter cutting and drawing logs to the river. But the 1840s saw very little money in raw timber so Stephen shifted his emphasis to sawmilling and in 1843 built his first mill hoping to sell boards to settlers for their cabins. He was admitted to the bar as a lawyer in 1843 by examination, but his main efforts continued to be focused on logging and he built a larger mill in 1846 and in 1850 he built a third mill. By this time he had some 30 to 40 men working for him. He thus built a lumber camp near the river, consisting of a boarding house, a store in which he put a post office and he became the first postmaster of Georgetown, serving from 1850 to 1854. He also built a jail, several cabins and other large buildings.
One observer described Lowing as “Large, tall and angular in form, awkward in motion, melancholy in looks, intellectually a possessor of the humor of the frontier Yankee, and the logic of a profound scholar, he bore a striking resemblance to the lamented Abraham Lincoln.” And that “When he arrived upon the river, he was a radical temperance man from principle, with a robust constitution and an excellent mind, consequently he found little difficulty in establishing a business reputation with the lumbermen operating at that time.” In the early history of life and lumbering on the Grand River, “the law was seldom appealed to except as an excuse for using force. As a rule the man with the most energy and muscle gathered in the persimmons. In short, legal points were not infrequently decided with fists and clubs.”
While perhaps apocryphal, a local newspaper repeated a story told by Andrew J. Emlaw of Grand Haven, which gives some insight into the character if not the reputation of Stephen Lowing and the times in which he lived. It was a story of how Lowing “won a big case according to the code of that day.”
In 1852 [said Emlaw] Lowing entered into a contract with two brothers, at Spring Lake, to deliver them a raft of logs cut from his own land; they to advance money from time to time to defray the expenses of cutting. The brothers failed to advance the money, and when the raft reached Spring Lake, instead of delivering it to them, Lowing sold it to T. W. & N. H. White, also Spring Lake saw-mill men. Before Lowing had delivered the raft, the brothers put a writ of attachment in the hands of a constable name[d] Samuel Stevens. Lowing heard of it, and secured a writ of replevin and placed it in the hands of another constable named Ward Boyce. A gang of men came with Stevens, armed with his writ of attachment, to take possession of the raft, and as they boarded it were met by the Lowing men and Boyce with the writ of replevin. Boyce commenced to read it to Stevens, but he would not listen. Hy Tripp, one of Lowing's big lieutenant's, took Stevens by the throat and compelled him to listen. This secured legal possession of the raft to Lowing again. The brothers then reprieved the raft from Boyce through the County sheriff. Lowing then secured a writ against the sheriff and put it in the hands of the coroner. The sheriff reprieved from Boyce and the brothers' men undertook to take possession of the raft. Lowing was on hand with the coroner and his writ and reprieved from the sheriff. While the coroner was proceeding according to law, with all the dignity becoming his high and important officer, Lowing soundly thrashed both of the brothers and kicked one or two of their backers into the river. For a week the crew at White's mill was under instructions to turn out day or night at three blasts of the whistle, while Lowing did picket duty at the raft. Early one morning the brothers and two men named Green quietly boarded the raft. Lowing discovered them, and ran out upon the logs, kicked one of the Greens, who was untying a line, into the river, took a brother in each hand and started for shore, only stopping occasionally long enough to bump their heads together. Green crawled out and struck at Lowing with a pike-pole. The pole broke in the air and he went into the river again. Lowing won a complete victory and the four beaten men started for home, promising they would never molest the raft again. However, a few nights later the two determined brothers, one of the Greens and John Shields boarded the raft with a yawl. They had just made their line fast when Lowing put in an appearance with an ox gad about 8 feet in length. They all jumped into the yawl, but the rope held it just a convenient distance to allow Lowing's gad full swing, and he thrashed them until they dropped under the seats and begged for mercy. They promised that they would never return, and they never did.
The Grand Rapids Democrat also told of how a “few years later, Mr. Lowing bought a mill located opposite Sand Creek, built by a firm that had failed -- and put some additional boilers in it. A Chicago man who had not received his pay for the original boilers came along and demanded them. Lowing told him that if the boilers were his he could take them, but as he was running night and day, it would be impossible for him to blow off the ones he had put in and as they were all connected the Chicago man would have to take out his boilers with a full head of steam on. The Chicago man did not take them.”
Stephen was not confined to the use of force, real or implied, but could use his wits as well. The Democrat told the story of how “ when 50 years of age he was admitted to practice as an attorney on account of an eloquent plea in a case of his own, and for more than ten years stood at the head of the Ottawa County bar. He often turned the shortcomings for which his lack of early education was responsible to good account before a jury. His language in court was once criticized by J. C. FitzGerald, and not without good reason. He made no answer at the time, but when he commenced addressing the jury, with great solemnity and apparent candor informed them that he could not be held responsible for the neglect of Mr. FitzGerald's early education, and thus lack of knowledge to comprehend his language. This statement had the desired effect.”
Lowing served as sheriff of Ottawa County for four years prior to the war, and by 1860 he was working aas a “petitfoger” and living in Georgetown, Ottawa County with two of his sons and his daughter Martha and her husband George Hubbard (who would also enlist in Company I). He owned some $10,000 worth of real estate.
“An exceptionally strong and vigorous man” when the war broke out, Stephen was 43 years old and living in Georgetown when he enlisted as First Lieutenant in Company I, commissioned May 13, 1861. (His nephew Clarence Lowing would enlist in Company E in 1864.)
Stephen was promoted to Captain on October 28, 1861, replacing Captain George Weatherwax who had resigned on October 19. During his term of service he wrote regularly to his brother-in-law, Franklin Bosworth, who was apparently charged with looking after Stephen’s business and personal interests in Georgetown. On June 30, 1861, Lowing wrote home from Georgetown Heights that his
hopes are greater of gaining my health than it would be had I not been affected by the change. I have been too poor to leave the camp ground and have seen little to write about. I have learned some things. At the beat of the boiler, at daylight, get up, call the roll, and see that you are all here. who are not away. In about ten minutes, at the beat of the drum, out and drill. Shoulder arms, counter march, file left. March, halt. Right. Drop. Present arms, shoulder arms, order arms, shoulder arms, right shoulder, shift arms, arms at will, shoulder arms, right face, file left, march, halt, front, right address, charge bayonet, shoulder arms, guard against cavalry, shoulder arms, rear rank, open, order march, rear rank, close order, march left, four double quick time - march - halt front - right address, two ranks right face, march, halt, break rank, march. This, and the like is our amusement before breakfast. At 7 mount guard. At 8 attend to the sick. At 9 drill and go through the same and like amusements as before breakfast. Our breakfast though, each man gets 6 oz. bread, 6 oz. meat, a pint cup of coffee. For dinner the same, for supper the same. Our lodging a little blanket which about half covers us and on the ground. This is the romance of martial life. . . . In regard to the War. I am rather of the opinion that some compromise will take place. I do not think General Scott wishes to push it to the extremity. We are near ready, and as able to march forward as we are to remain stationary. They say we are not drilled yet, but neither are the rebels. We might have taken our full number of prisoners before this time by attacking parties as well as harassing ourselves to death with so much guard mounting and parading. These big officers keep caged in Washington week after week at government expense and 50,000 men to watch them. The whole pile of them are a curse to the country. This was is not got up for fighting but for the purpose of making officers of old favorites. If we do come to war, many a poor fellow will be sacrificed to the folly and ignorance of the mushroom generals. It is said these generals fight well, so can our whole company fight. They can fight, but could not command at all. All the hopes I have is in the men, when the generals have left the field. Everything goes by the blunders as yet.
On August 6, 1861, he wrote from the Third Michigan camp at Hunter’s Farm, which was located
two miles down the Potomac, opposite the Navy Yard. Have a fair view of the Capitol. Good weather. Everything pleasant and we are ready to start back to Bull's Run. In regard to the last defeat, I am satisfied that drunkenness was the whole cause of the disaster. The weather was extremely hot. Men and officers had eaten nothing form a very early hour. And at one or two o'clock in the afternoon is about the time men generally get drunk. Many offices had a basket of liquor and a waiter to carry it around. If they would have a Court of Inquiry you would find the men had no officers and none was there to give orders. Nobody gave them the order, and yet everybody heard the order. To hear the officers talk today shows that they have no clear idea of what took place. Old Leffingwell had command of our train of baggage and provisions wagons. Now his command retreated before night taking with them our dinner which we had not eaten, and every mouthful of provisions. We saw at a glance that our next meal was in Washington. Now Leffingwell is so drunk half his time that he does not know himself from a hole in the ground.
He was still at Hunter’s Farm when he wrote on August 20, 1861, that it was reported the Regiment would
remove our quarters tomorrow morning. No one knows where, but I suspect about one mile to the point from here and think preparations to defending a fortification of Earth Works. We do not really believe we will be attacked here, owing to the expiration of the month's enlistments. We are short of men. The South are making a tremendous effort in traveling 35 miles to Bull Run. We did not see a man or negro able to bear arms, all being in the Southern army. They keep a host of negroes entrenching and some of them have run away and come to us, say, their masters put them in the front of the fight. At least they made some use of them. But if they attack us here it will be a long siege. The South will entrench himself every foot of the way and they are doing it now and are within about five miles of us. They can bring two men in the field against our one, owing to peculiar advantage of roads, but when they get here the tables turn, but the fact is, and we need not deny it, our officers are the damndest set of fools and drunkards ever God let get together. If God intended to defeat the Northern army he could not employ better means than the putting such a body of men at the head of the army. If the men could get away, there is not one that would even go into another battle under these officers. I expect nothing but defeat to follow. The first time the officers ran and left their men, the next time the men will start first and not let the officers fool them again. Good officers might have led them to Richmond and they would not have mistrusted they were defeated. But I am tired of Bull Run, and suppose you are too, and will write no more about it.
From Fort Richardson on September 17, 1861, he wrote that “We have just gotten orders to advance on the enemy.
We have waited for them until we have our own companies complete and now we are ready and will give them battle, if they do not give us one. All parties are ready and a bloody day is at hand unless it all fizzles out as it did at Bull Run. But I do not think it will be so. The enemy is flushed at victory at Bull Run, and as they will not run we are in a bend of the river and have no way of retreat except one narrow bridge, over a mile long, and that would break down with half of the form that would get on it in a panic. It is clear to us that the whole force of the enemy is here and unless they can defeat us, we will defeat them with a tremendous effect. If they do succeed in defeating us the great section will be captured. As to the results, I have great fears. The fact is our officers being many of them Democrats and are as hostile to the Administration as ever the enemy were, and see to aiding them of intensive plans, and then lay the disgrace to the Administration and claim to have defended the South hereafter. My opinion is that the Democrats near here need watching more than at present. I believe poaching is rampant in every department. It is easy for a lukewarm general to misunderstand the commands given him and thus open a large gap in our ranks. Besides our officers will be drunk by 2 P.M. This one thing will provoke retreats and everything will be lukewarm. I don't believe the army is sufficiently purged yet, but that we shall soon know.
On November 9, 1861, he wrote from Fort Lyon that “Our matters here are all going right with our Regiment and company. Stephen G. Champlin is colonel and makes a good one but our camp is disagreeable enough. Our tents are poor, but we will get new ones on Monday when I hope we will be more comfortable.” And on November 27, he wrote that
besides my usual task of a company commander, I am detailed on special duty every afternoon on the fort we are building. Add to that the duties of a Judge Advocate of the Regiment to which I am appointed and you have some idea that I am busy. It is useless for me to attempt to give you any idea of the amount of my labors. Enough for me to say I am falling away to a 190 pounds, about 50 more than when I left there. . . . I think we will not remain here much longer, but where we will go is more than I know. Our company are all well and doing well. Lieutenant Brennan is a first rate officer and so is Benjamin Tate. Company I is all right. I am informed that Capt. Weatherwax has conveyed the impression that it was my fault he resigned. Now I can hardly think that he has done so, but if he has, I would like to know it, that I may disprove it now in the time of it. He knows better and knows that I can assign the reason and prove them.
We are all getting the hang of the soldier's life and are better satisfied. Colonel Champlin was a friend of mine at home, and is no less so here. There is a number of lawyers in the Regiment and in selecting me is a mark of distinction that I am proud of. In the meantime, I am not ambitious to be a warrior. To command Co. I through the war and bring them home again, is the height of my ambition. Great changes have taken place, six months ago, I entered the Regiment a perfect greenhorn, and now I believe I stand at the head of the Regiment on tactics. If you were not my friend you would say I was egotistical but not so. I know that at the time of getting up this company, my friends as well as myself were anxious to the result. And because I could not take my place at once, my ill-wishers declaimed it a failure. I am anxious therefore to remove all doubts on the minds of my friends.
It is not every good fellow that can make a military man, and yet no fault of his, and that was the difficulty with Captain Weatherwax. As good a fellow as I ever wish to mess with, and as poor a captain. He was as good a captain as McConnell was colonel. They fought each other, and killed each other's chances; and both left the Regiment together, and for the same reason, leaving many friends behind them. Both are brave to a fault, but neither could learn the tactics.
Stephen was apparently an strong supporter of the Abolition movement. According to William Drake of Company A, although Drake disliked Abolitionists as cowardly and unwilling to fight for their beliefs, he considered Lowing “an exception to the general rule. It is refreshing to find one of them that will fight. He is a brave officer, and wide-awake to his business.”
On January 5, 1862 he wrote from Camp Michigan that “I am getting on the best terms with General Richardson and am building him a house, and also Colonel Champlin one.” On February 5, 1862, General Richardson commended Lowing for his conduct in a reconnaissance he commanded along the Occoquan River. Under the heading of “Brigade Order No. 6,”
The general commanding the Brigade considers it his duty, and takes this opportunity to convey to the troops under his command his good opinion of their conduct as soldiers in the late affairs in which the two detachments, one of the 3rd Mich volunteers commanded by Captain Lowing of Co. I of that Regiment and the other of the 37th New York Volunteers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Burke, were engaged with superior forces on the ‘Occoquan River’. The daring attacks and fearless reconnaissance of Captain Lowing and his detachment of the 3rd Mich. Volunteers in front of superior forces of the enemy, deserve, and the general commanding this Brigade hopes will obtain the just commendation of all those who take any interest in the patriotism and discipline of the American Soldier. The general would again remind the same 3rd Michigan Company that he has not forgotten that company together with the Second Michigan performed gallant service last summer in the most considerable campaign which has yet taken place against the enemy, and from being the first troops actually engaged against the enemy, not only showed the highest discipline and skill in the attack of the 18th of July at Blackburn's Ford but also exhibited a coolness and orderliness in covering the retreat to Washington on the 21st of July which has rendered these Regiments an honor to the country.
Charles Church of Company G wrote home in February of 1862 of the recent reconnaissance to Occoquan village led by Lowing. “Our Regiment started on the 1st of Feb. Stayed out 3 days. It was very stormy, rain and snow. Captain [Lowing] of company [I] went out and made a reconnaissance. He went to the Occoquan River where he saw a squad of Secesh drilling, in the village of Occoquan about 40 rods over on the other side of the river. He watched three movements a few minutes when they looked up and saw our men and run Bull Run style and that drew the attention of a lot of the devils that were quartered in the houses and they come out as bold as lions.”
On March 27, 1862, Lowing wrote to a friend from Old Point Comfort, Virginia, near Fortress Monroe.
A commander of a company, being well posted in tactics and military discipline has much to do in caring for his company. He has neither Sunday, day, night or hour that he can call his own. And many have been obliged to leave the service, as unequal to the task. Our company has labored under far greater difficulties than companies in general, and much more than any other Co. in the Regiment with whom we have kept pace. It is well known that our company was the only one in the Regiment that had not some form of military organization previous to enrolling in this Regiment. Except the Muskegon Rangers and they were organized under the command of three old military officers who had seen service in other wars and under the fostering care of Muskegon citizens and drilled three weeks before our company commenced its organization of entire raw material of both officers and men without one pennies' aid from any one. We came in at the eleventh hour, the butt of the Regiment; the Regimental and a large part of the line officers opposed to us in politics and jealous of us while the administration both state and general were so anxious to conciliate the Democratic Party as to become unmindful of Republicans.
Notwithstanding we determined that Ottawa Co. should have a company in the field, one that should represent her, and one that she should not blush to own. Although like "Old Ottawa" toiling under many difficulties at first, we are found to stand inferior to none in the service. We have already gained a high position which has not been accomplished with out much toil. But our hearts are cheered to know that our efforts have been approved of at last, by our fellow citizens of Ottawa County.
We have some cause of complaints for on the 28th of October last, the office of Second Lieutenant became vacant and a man from the 5th Regiment was transferred to our company, commissioned and then placed on the general's staff without our knowledge or consent. This throwing the work of three men on two of us, for less pay by $100 per month, than the other companies have, and because we were here discharging our duties to our country and the powers that did it were in Michigan, and we had no one to urge our legal rights we have had to submit to it and are still submitting to the abuse.
The Democrats have the appointing power in this Regiment, and the Governor in his blind anxiety to conciliate them is neglecting his friends. But no object will destroy our Patriotism. We are bound to succeed. The great questions of the day are discussed here in the army as well as elsewhere, and it is surprising to see the different effects that the same facts as presented to the eyes of our northern men have upon them. Strong Democrats have become Emancipationists, and strong emancipationists have become opposers of Emancipation. The cause is in the men and not the institution of slavery, for no man here can say that his worst expectation in regard to slavery and its blighting effects have not been more than realized. You cannot mingle here with the inhabitants for a day without meeting with some life illustration of some of Ms. H. B. Stowe's pictures of domestic slavery and you will find they are not over drawn. You meet the negro at every point, his language is readily incorporated in the best families. His songs are the past times, and their blood courses through the veins of a very large portion of the present generation and fearfully so in the rising generation.
The White Race is divided into two casts, the Aristocrats and the White Trash. The Aristocrats are the ones that owns the slave and has mortgaged his father's patrimony for twice its value. The White Trash is far the most numerous class, and no where to lay their heads, and are inferior to slaves who as a general thing have their homes. The negro has found his way into the army and even into Co. I in the form of servants. The officers of Co I have been bitten by the negromania. We must have a nigger to carry our baggage. “Well, Sam came, Sam loaded our baggage on his back, Sam marched, but Sam did not halt, and is marching yet as far as we know.”
The negro sits in Congress daily and tempers all our debates. Our most ordinary legislation wears the impress of his Black Majesty before it becomes a law. And so long as he remains a slave in any one of these United States, just so long will his wooly pate pervade every department of our nation.
The Democrat Party in their anxiety to expel him, will drag him forth from his hiding place every day and one every occasion to give him a more Public Expulsion. The Ark of Liberty, of Emancipation of free labor is moving and “Woe to the man or Party of men that shall put forth their hands to stay it.”
On May 3, 1862, he wrote Franklin from a camp near Yorktown, that “Stephen Scales [of Company I] died on the 1st of May of typhoid fever.
My own health is poor but I am able to keep around and in command of my Co. Our duties are very arduous. In addition to our duties as soldiers we have taken to lumbering. There stood an old sawmill just outside the enemy's defenses, directly under fire of their cannons. The enemy had used this mill all winter sawing timber to mount their cannons, guns, barracks, etc. When the siege was determined, it was found that lumber and timber would be necessary for the same purpose on our part. The mill was partially destroyed. A part of a Maine Regiment was detailed to repair it, and work it, but after several days effort, they could make no lumber. In fact, I think they dare not raise the steam for fear of the enemies guns. Volunteers were called for, our colonel designated me and Company I. We succeeded and are cutting logs using beef cattle to draw logs, sawing the lumber as fast as we want it. The only thing peculiar is that it is perfectly in range of their guns. They are firing at it and the balls and shells fall on every side of it, and not a man hurt. Yesterday the shells fell thick and fast, so fast we could hardly count them, falling into the yard, and exploding, throwing fragments in amongst fifty men, all falling on the ground, and strange to say, every man arose unhurt. One struck within four feet of Mr. Tracy of Nunica who was moving logs on the yard, but did not explode and he was unhurt. There is not a company in the army that has stood as much fire and yet not a man hurt. Men have been killed one mile to the rear of us. we are getting hardened to danger. Last night a part of our company were dancing cotillions at the sound of a violin played by Jack Meeks, while shells were playing on our position. . . .”
And two weeks later he wrote from Camp Cumberland on the Pamunkey River, that
My health is so poor that I think seriously of resigning as soon as the approaching battle is decided. At least if decided favorable to us. I am clearly of the opinion that the two battles, this one at Richmond and one at Corinth, will decide the fate of the rebellion and I am of the opinion that the fate of both the places is already decided in our favor. So far as Richmond is concerned it appears that Yorktown, Norfolk, Suffolk, Williamsburg and West Point are the national defense of Richmond. These places in our hands it would seem that Richmond must fall. A few days will tell. I think I will come home in July. In the meantime encourage the boys to put in all the crops they can. Aaron P. Camp of Allendale died on the 12th inst (May) at the hospital at Yorktown; the same place Stephen Scales died at. He had been engaged in the hospital as a nurse for sometime and died of fever which is worse than the enemy bullets.
He added a note to “Sister Mary,” that “The Pamunkey River lays before me on one side and before me on the other lays our camp and wagon trains.
It's a level plain and as far as the eye can see, nothing but men, horses and the implements of war is visible. The weather is fine today, and our men are more cheerful. I am hardly able to get out of my tent, so you will have to make great allowances for disconnections in subject and sentences. I will not attempt a description of a battlefield. I could not do justice to it, if I should, but enough to say that the Lovers of the Horribles would be fully satiated. We are amongst the first to visit the field in the morning for the purpose of renewing the fight, but the enemy had enough of Michigan rifles and had taken to flight. The field was mostly in a slashing of timber and the dead lay on all sides. The ground was alternately occupied by the enemy and by our troops, so that the dead lay side by side. In one instance a Michigan and an Alabamian thrust a bayonet through each other. Both lay dead, still grasping his bayonet. Many had not died suddenly and evidently their last acts were acts of devotions. The Catholic died with a cross in his hands and some with a string of beads. While another had undone his knapsack and taken out his Testament, and died with it grasped in his hands frequently opened to some promise. Others again had letters from home, from Mother, sisters, from wives, as though loath to part with the last messages from loved ones at home. Even in death, the sufferings of these poor fellows as they lay there bleeding, dying in a cold rainstorm through the night, many of them half under water, may be faintly imagined but can never be told. I cannot comment more nor well longer of the subject. I am so unwell. Lieut. Brennan and Tate are being kind to me and Do all they can to make my duties light. George makes a very good Orderly Sergeant. All are doing everything they can for me, but my health still fails. Colonel Champlin is also very feeble. This war cannot end too soon for my good. The enemy is ten miles this side of Richmond and ten or twelve miles from us on one road and three miles on another road. We march to meet them in the morning. I think they will will back and no battle will be fought this side of the city except skirmishings which is going on all the time. I am able to say that our men are perfect tigers in a fight, but most the officers are worse than useless. Mutinies still prevails to an alarming extent and old dotage and men of limited sense does the rest.”
Stephen was wounded severely in both legs on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia, and subsequently absent sick on leave for 30 days from July 12, 1862, although the Eagle of June 18, reported that Lowing, along with Colonel Champlin and Lieutenants Dodge and Brennan had arrived in Grand Rapids the day before. “They were received,” wrote the paper, “by the Mayor and Common Council, the Firemen and Grand Rapids Grays, and a large concourse of our citizens, who escorted them to their stopping places. Their feeble appearance excited the warm sympathies of every beholder for these gallant men who have suffered so much in defense of the government. Their noble deeds of daring excite the pride of every Michigander, and when this satanic war is over and history records the deeds of valor performed by Northern arms, the names of the Michigan Volunteers will adorn its brightest pages, and first upon the record will stand in letters of gold the brave deeds of the noble Third.”
Although one source reported in early July of 1862 that Stephen hoped to rejoin the regiment soon, it was not to be, at least not yet. Stephen was absent recruiting in Michigan from June 21, 1862, through January of 1863. In late August the Grand Haven News reported that Captain Lowing was in Lamont, Ottawa County, speaking about the war.
The good citizens of Lamont and vicinity, assembled at the Congregational church, at that place, filling it to overflowing, on Saturday evening last, to listen to a recital of war themes, by Capt. Stephen Lowing, who is on his legs again and at work for his country. For two hours he held the meeting enwrapped in the deepest interest while he reviewed the war and recounted the brave deeds, hair-breadth escapes, and well achieved victories of the gallant Michigan Third, from the skedaddle of Bull Run, to the withdrawal of our forces from Richmond to Williamsburg. Capt. L. has improved greatly in health, his wound is healing rapidly and he anticipates soon to lay aside the crutch for the sword, and again lead his gallant company to victory. He is recruiting for the “3d” generally, and particularly for company “I.” He wants some 30 men. Now is a most excellent opportunity for any one desirous of becoming identified with the gallant “3d” to do so. Geo. Parks, Esq., is recruiting officer at Grand Haven, and John Rice, Esq., at Lamont.
By mid-fall of the year Stephen was in Detroit. He wrote Franklin from Detroit Barracks on October 4, 1862. “I am very pleasantly situated here and shall remain for the present. The order for drafting is out and published. I hope old Ottawa will be on hand. The County has to raise 164 more men. Georgetown does not get credit for raising company I, except in an approving concern. I am rapidly recovering the use of my limb and I am encouraged. I use but one crutch and can get along about the house some without that. My quarters are comfortable and associated gentlemanly a good boarding house etc. So you see I am all right.”
He was Captain of Company E in February of 1863, while still recruiting in Michigan. In a letter written on February 17, 1863, to Lieutenant Colonel Smith in Detroit, he described his predicament as a recruiting officer.
I want to call your attention [ wrote Lowing] to the changes that have taken place with me. You will recollect that by your order I was to resume recruiting in Ottawa County and at the time I informed you of my intention to raise a Battery, which met with your approval. I received written authority to raise the Battery from Colonel George Grey of the Sixth Cavalry who had (as he stated) received authority from the War Department approved by Gov Blair. The Adjutant General also recognized my authority to raise the Battery.” But soon afterwards Lowing learned “that by an arrangement between the Governor and Colonel Grey made within three days after I received my authority from Colonel Grey, the Battery was to be abandoned and not raised at all. Gov Blair ordered me to turn over my men to some other [Captain] which is creating great difficulty. Of course the Battery is at an end. What now am I still on recruiting service until further orders?
Stephen then went on to describe another problem. “I found a private of the 21st Infantry here on a discharge” and “with his gun and belt on I took them from him and hold them subject to some order.” Then there were two paroled prisoners-of-war. “I went after them yesterday found one sick and” decided “to let them both remain for a few days until he recovers.” And then there were the various problem with deserters and bounty jumpers, and the administrative problems of getting transportation passes on the Detroit & Milwaukee railroad for the deserters he did find in order to forward the men back to their Regiments. He said he did not believe he was needed in Michigan but wanted to be back with his Regiment. “I should ask to return to my Regiment but there is only 130 men for duty and only 3 [?] officers to command them. I am not needed there.’ he had considered the possibly of resigning but the governor’s office “requested that I should not do so at present saying that about 30 of the old Regiments would be filled up” and that “recruiting would soon be resumed with vigor.”
Nevertheless, Lowing remained detached on recruiting service from February through July and he returned to the Regiment from recruiting service in August. On October 8, 1863, he wrote from a camp near Culpeper, Virginia,
These Regiments are contemplating reenlisting for three years or during the war. In that case they will return to Michigan to reorganize and fill up. If we do so we will be home soon. Probably for the winter. This point is undetermined. My health is unusually good and as yet my leg has not troubled me. I am gaining in flesh, weighing 190 pounds. I have for some days been engaged on a court-martial, and am the Judge Advocate, which increases my work but not my pay. . . . Two nights ago we had an opiate for the purpose of quieting us to sleep in the form of an order, informing us that Stewart's [sic] cavalry was within a few miles of us, and nothing between us but a slender picket line. Today, orders are coming and going at a rapid rate, and we are ordered to form a line of battle, and nothing can be heard or seen of an enemy. The bugle sounds to fall in. A punishment is to be inflicted on a sharpshooter. One of Berdan's. He has been court-martialed for disobeying orders and is to be drummed out of camp etc. These court martials are severe things. I have six cases to try. Five where the death sentence is the result of guilty, and one case hearing. The case hearing is nothing, but when we come to try a man for his life, and myself to act as Judge Advocate, prosecuting on the part of the people, and then aiding the prisoners in his defense, and again counseling court, puts upon me a terrible duty, and calls for honest practice into which I have been a stranger. But God helping me, I will deal fairly with these men.
One of the greatest curiosities to us is how you can stay at home when soldiers live so well. And now to prove you know nothing of the comforts of life when compared with a soldier, I am inclined to attempt a description of our mode of living. In the first place George Hubbard and I are messing together. Our tent is six foot square on the ground, running to a point 7 feet high. This comprises cellar, kitchen, parlor, dining hall, and bed chamber. Our bedding, one blanket each. One laid on poles, the other over us. Our culinary apparatus, one frying pan, and one tin cup. Today, we are enabled to get some soft bread, and that pile of jet black stuff constitutes our pastry. We have a choice in meats. Today we may draw a piece of that belly pork that is there in that pile, and the only fault we have with it is that when it was alive it must have been a facsimile of those you and father got up in Ada many years ago.
Or we may draw from that pile of beef whose only fault is that it would have not been here, it it had not got too poor to draw its breath of life any longer. So you see our outfit is complete and we demonstrate Longfellow's
“Man wants but little here below,
Nor yet that little long.”
The life of Patriarchs has been lauded from time immemorial and principally for their wants and light cares. But they did not want less than we have, or care less of danger or consequences than this army.
So you see how simple it is of you fellows at home to build large houses, barns, get beds, dishes, and in fact encumber yourselves with cartloads of useless commodities, so that you could not move for days, while we in two minutes, have our whole kit strapped on our backs and are off at double quick, and laugh at you old fogies.
On November 1, 1863, he wrote from near Bealton Station, Virginia, “I have been very busy since I arrived here.
Having had so long a time at home. The other officers have put a fully share of duty on me, besides I had to learn some things new, and many things over again that I once knew. My health is good but my limb injures my marching. I shall not be able to stand hard marching and will have to go into the Invalid Corps or resign. . . . We have some expected to return home this Fall to recruit, but I now think we will not come at all. . . . This army has done some very hard marching and done some good fighting this Fall, but I am satisfied that all attempts to advance this Fall are worse than useless. We can go about as fast and far and put out men to guard, though about every mile we advance weakens us, and if we spin our lines too fine, the rebels can flank us. Cut off our rear, tear up our track, and compel us to fall back for want of supplies. This large army is unwieldy in an enemy country. A smaller and getter appointed army is much better. We should have more mounted men. These large armies are an experiment and I am of the opinion that they are not the thing to travel over on enemy country with.
I believe that our operations should be confined to the places accessible by water as long as there is such a place in the hands of the enemy, and never attempt a line, one or two hundreds miles by railroad until compelled to do so.
What a world this is! How large and comprehensive and yet in what a small space it may be represented. This camp is a very fair representation of all the world. Here you find men of every color, shade, clime and tongue, and all the different interests are here manifested. As you look over them you will see every man acting some part, and each seems to act as though on his shoulders rests all the welfare of the nation. Old gray heads are here, and striplings are seen mounting horses and riding for their lives for a mile or so, and then return without any object or business, only to make up the ‘General Hurly Burly.’ To the casual observer it would appear that something awful was going on. Orderlies are riding for their lives with packages of ominous looking papers, delivering to the commanders of Regiments, Brigades or Divisions. And when opened the whole thing does not amount to enough to pay for the sheet of paper. Get a look into the inside of this whole array and you will exclaim "How empty." What a farce. Is it possible that such a show and expense are all moonshine, and the dear people pays. The fact is Patriotism dies within us, and honestly blushes (within us) at the deception. But the men are honest, but are disgusted with the manner the war is conducted.
I was the Judge Advocate and the first one that ever got up paper sufficient to condemn a man to be shot, and I never want to do it again. Many have been sentenced to death but the papers have been set aside by the reviewing officer for informality, but not in the case I tried. I have about 30 more cases to try of the same nature, but have been on the march of late and not able to attend to it. I hope I shan't get to attend to it.
From near Brandy Station he wrote on November 22, 1863, “I should have written to you before, but the fact is I have been on a court martial since the 29th day of September last, and all times when the Regiment stops long enough our court martial convenes.
My duties are being “arduous” as I have to prepare all cases for trial. Try them and write up all the proceedings and send them up to headquarters for review. . . . I find myself in a difficulty. I am unable to stand a long march. My legs become very much inflamed and painful, but again when we are in camp, or on easy marches I am all right. Now if I thought I had much more marching to do, I would go into the Invalid Corps. Then I would have to go in for three years; on the other hand with the Regiment, I would be discharged when the Regiment is discharged. Or I suppose that I could manage to get my resignation accepted when I should leave the Regiment for the Invalid Corps. What had I better do?. . . We are again under marching orders which means attempt to cross the Rapidan. You will not wonder when I tell you that the army dread the movement very much. Had we moved along when we pushed the enemy from this place we would have been willing to have tried to cross the river. The enemy was on retreat and we were victorious and fifteen days earlier in the season. Now the enemy has had fifteen days to reinforce and strengthen their defenses. And we are no stronger. The season is later. Several attempts have been made to cross the river in which we have been defeated each time, and suffered each time from bad weather. The same thing is to be tried again at this late season of the year , although we were here two months ago, with a larger army than we have today, and yet we did not attempt it then. I have fear for the result, but I hope for the best. . . . Amongst other things I should like to know who went from Georgetown on the draft, and who are to go, and fill the next quota of 15 for Georgetown. We did think some of coming home to reenlist but at present it would not help Georgetown much if we did for about all that enlisted from Georgetown are promoted, discharged, or dead, and would not reenlist. But I do not think we will reenlist at all now, it has got so late and our time is so near out.
In December, however, he was back in Michigan on detached service from December 29, 1863. By February 16, 1864, he was back with the Regiment in camp at Brandy Station, Virginia, when he wrote to Michigan Governor Austin Blair seeking promotion to Major. Lieutenant Colonel E. S. Pierce had just resigned and it was rumored that Major Moses Houghton would replace him, thus leaving vacant the post of Major. Lowing, who claimed to be the senior captain in the regiment felt he should be promoted. Lowing told the governor that
Major Hoton [Houghton] is the next in line and ought to be promoted if he asks for it. I am the Senior Captain of the regiment and, I think, of the state. My commissioning the date of Oct. 28th 1861. I was severely wounded at Fair Oaks [May 31, 1862] and many younger officers were promoted to higher rank while I was disabled. As soon as I recovered I presented recommendations [from General Hiram Berry among others] which you considered satisfying at this time and promised me that I should be remembered at the earliest opportunity. That opportunity now presents itself. I am calling your attention to these facts rather than procure further recommendations, unless you desire further recommendations.
I [also] mention however that I came to Michigan in command of the detachment of the 3rd Mich inf and enlisted one hundred and thirty-four men in thirty days which is more than the 1st regiment did and more than the 5th did except they took in a company already enlisted.
The application I make is to be commissioned Major of the 3rd if Major Hoton [Houghton] is promoted and to that of Lt. Col. . . .
Hoping that the efforts I have made to serve my country in the field and in reenlisting this regiment and recruiting the same will meet your approbation and be rewarded by granting my request.
From Camp Bullock, near Brandy Station, he wrote Franklin on February 21, 1864, that he he was “on another court martial. I had not been here two days but became Judge Advocate of a court martial.” He resigned his commission on April 9, 1864, at Brandy Station, Virginia, and he explained in detail his reasons for resigning in a letter to the War Department dated March 29, 1864.
I joined this Regiment at its organization, and have been with it in all its engagements, until the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, on the 31st day of May 1862, when I was severely wounded with a gun shot through the thigh, which disabled me for marching for a year after. I was detailed on recruiting service in the State of Michigan in May last , I tendered my resignation, which was disapproved, and I was referred to the Invalid Corps, with the intimation that the Government still required the services of officers disabled for Field Service, and who were yet able to do Garrison Duty. Preferring not to join that Corps, I was permitted to rejoin my Regiment in September last, and accompanied them in their Fall campaign, frequently in great pain and suffering, to such a degree that I was compelled to apply for a position in the Invalid Corps, to avoid duty I was unable to perform. A notice of my appointment reached me in Michigan in January last, too late to enable me to appear before the Board for examination. I returned with my Regiment in February, and accompanied it on the march to James City [Virginia], and find that the Winter has made no improvement in my ability to march. The Invalid Corps is still open to me, but I desire that my resignation be accepted unconditionally, as I don't wish to receive any gratuity from the Government, or become a sinecure, believing the Invalid Corps to be a Humane Institution for the wounded, disabled and destitute, and not for those still able to provide for themselves.
Thus, he rejected any offer to join the Veteran's Reserve Corps, believing that while he was still rather fit he remained unable to march with any endurance.
Stephen returned to Ottawa County and devoted most of his energies to the practice of law but failing hearing caused him to retire some seven or eight years before his death.
He became Prosecuting Attorney of Ottawa County in 1868 and moved to the County seat in Grand Haven in 1868, where he continued his practice of law in Grand Haven until January 24, 1884, when, owing to his deafness, he resigned from the law and moved to his farm in Allendale where he was living in 1884, 1888 and 1890.
He received a pension no. 209,819, dated May of 1884, and drawing $20.00 per month for a wounded right thigh.
He married his third wife, Lydia Church Wheeler (d. 1889), but they, too, reportedly quarreled frequently and were divorced.
Finally, in 1870 he married Ohio native Emily Markham (1851-1936), who was 34 years younger than Stephen, and they subsequently had two daughters: Myrtie (b. 1873) and Emily (b. 1875). Stephen had two sons and a daughter by his first wife Ruth: Luke (1843-1922), Oscar (b. 1847) and Martha (b. 1841).
Stephen was injured by a bull while farming in 1889 and never fully recovered from his wounds.
He died of dropsy on November 4, 1891, in Allendale Township and was buried in Georgetown cemetery. He left a landed estate valued at $60,000 at his death.