The Bowen Family

Lee Co., VA / Hancock Co., TN

Reuben Bowen

Much of what we know about Reuben Bowen comes from his application for a pension for his service to Virginia during the Revolutionary War.  See the Bowen Revolutionary War Records for transcripts of the actual records.

Reuben Bowen was born in 1856 in Lunenburg County, Virginia on the Herron River.  He was the son of Ephraim Bowen and possibly Ann.  Rueben Bowen was living in Albemarle County, Virginia in 1775 when he enlisted for service in the Revolutionary War.  In his pension, Reuben Bowen states he joined the 5th Regiment.  From an analysis of his description of his service, it appears he could have been initially a member of

the Independent Company of Albemarle which was part of the Buckingham District Battalion.  Lieutenant John Marks of the Independent Company of Albemarle joined the 2nd Regiment in late 1775. 

or the Culpeper Minutemen. 

The recruits remained in Charlottesville for 10 to 15 days before marching to Williamsburg and then to Hampton, Virginia.  In a way, Reuben Bowen could be referred to as the Forrest Gump of the Revolutionary War.  He was in the right place at the right time as he participated in many key battles during the war including Great Bridge, Fort Sullivan, Brandywine,

On October 26, 1775, the patriots rushed to Hampton using horses that were borrowed from the citizens of Williamsburg.  They rode all night through heavy rain, covering about 36 miles in less than 12 hours.  When British Captain Squire started barraging the houses and streets with his cannons, he thought the patriots would give up.  Instead, the local militia and Culpeper Minutemen hid and fired at the British vessels.  Captain Squire was forced to withdraw and lost one of his ships, the Hawke, in the process.  This ended the Battle of Hampton and the first shooting engagement between Governor Dunmore and the American patriots.  The British suffered several casualties but the militia did not have a single one.

The British knew that they could not survive without supplies that came through Great Bridge.  The British hastily built Fort Murray on an island north of the Elizabeth River.  The Virginians arrived at Great Bridge on December 2, 1775 and constructed breastworks across the southern end of a causeway.  Colonel William Woodford brought the Second Virginia Regiment, which included the Minutemen of Culpeper County, and 200 men from Fauquier and Orange Counties, which included Reuben Bowen.

As the Americans waited for reinforcements from North Carolina, the British decided to take the initiative and attack Colonel Woodford's position.  In the breastwork, Lieutenant Edward Travis could see the British advance guard coming through the dense smoke from burning buildings.  They were followed the Grenadier Company led by Captain Charles Fordyce.   Behind Captain Fordyce came Captain Leslie with over 300 Tories and former slaves.

Due to the narrow causeway, the British could only advance six abreast.  Captain Fordyce initiated the charge upon the Virginian's defenses.  Lieutenant Travis ordered his men to hold their fire until the enemy was within 50 yards.  The command to open fire was given and Captain Fordyce went down, being shot by no less than 14 bullets.  Twelve Grenadiers fell dead in the volley, with nineteen wounded.  While the British wounded were being gathered, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Stevens, of the Culpeper Minutemen, led Reuben Bowen and 100 riflemen on a dash to exploit Captain Leslie's compromised position.  The sharpshooters began picking off the enemy on the bridge. The Battle of Great Bridge lasted about 30 minutes.  It is estimated that the British lost 102 men, either killed or wounded.  The Virginians had only one wounded.  After The British abandoned the fort on the evening of December 9, 1775.  This battle, although brief, was the first decisive battle fought in the South. 

On May 8, Charles Lee in Virginia received word that the British fleet and army had arrived on the coast at Cape Fear and had joined with Clinton.  Lee claimed to have important business in Virginia and sent Brigadier General John Armstrong with Virginia forces to the southward with the direction that "Charleston must be defended with the utmost obstinacy." 

During this time the British continued to attack sites along the rivers of North Carolina.  On May 12, General Lee departed Williamsburg at daybreak with 1300 militia from Virginia, as well as a Battalion of Riflemen, which included Reuben Bowen.  General Lee arrived at Halifax, North Carolina on the 20th.  Lee was slow to move because he saw no real advantage for the British to remain in North Carolina.  Regardless he planned to march to New Bern, NC as soon as the Virginia riflemen arrived.  On May 25, Lee reached Tarboro, NC where he met two officers from South Carolina who wanted to recruit in Virginia.  By the time Lee arrived in New Bern on May 27, he understood that Charleston, SC was a likely target of the British.  General Lee sent word that the Britiish fleet had left North Carolina, and that he would be in Charleston as speedily as possible with several Continental Regiments.  From Little River, SC, on the road to Charleston, Lee wrote a letter to John Hancock that 2,000 men should be dispatched from Pennsylvania and Maryland.  Before reaching Charleston, Major General Charles Lee arrived at Haddrell's Point around June 7.  He was accompanied by Brigadier General Robert Howe of North Carolina and other officers.

General Charles Lee departed Charleston in September 1776

"Victory on Sullivan's Island"  By David Lee Russell

In August 1776, General Lee, Moultrie and Howe moved southward to Savannah.  Lee wrote General Armstrong to forward the 147 sick men from Colonel Muhlenberg's Regiment to Williamsburg when they recovered.  Lee later returned to Charleston and departed there on September 9, 1776 to rejoin General Washington's army.  On his way back to New York, Lee ignored the serious situation and events of Washington's army at Harlem Heights and White Plains and instead stopped in Philadelphia.


He was afterward in the battle of Brandywine in Sept. 1777 and shortly afterward at the instance of Gen Washington became one of his life guards and continued as such until the latter part of the summer of 1778 when he received a discharge from Gen. Washington.     Shortly after his term expired he was drafted in the militia for eighteen months under Capt. John Hudson in the 9th Regiment in Albemarle County and continued doing duty in Virginia and Maryland.    

His discharges were left with his father and burned in his father's house in Albemarle in 1782.

On 10 June 1787 Reuben Bowen married Sarah R. Hicks in Albemarle County.  She was the daughter of


After the War, Captain John Marks married Lucy Meriwether, widow of William Lewis.  She was the mother of Meriwether Lewis (Lewis & Clark Expedition). 

From Internet - After being discharged as a private, he enlisted in the 9th Virginia Militia for 18 months where he was listed as in the Cornet Of Dragoons in 1780.
Cornet, Continental Dragoons = The officer of a cavalry troop.
One Cornet served in each troop. Some had regimental functions similar to the lieutenants. This rank is similar although not the same as ensign in the infantry as dragoon cornets were armed junior officers. Some Cornets advanced to Lieutenant and higher.
Bowen, Reuben (Va). Cornet of a Company Virginia Dragoons in 1780.

Reuben Bowen was in Southwest Virginia as early as 16 May 1810, for on that date he was taxed on 1 white tithe and 2 horses (William Brian's List), in Lee County.  James Hicks, Jane Hicks, John Hicks, and Samuel Hix appeared on the same list.  It is possible that these were relatives of Sarah R. (Hicks) Bowen.  After Scott County was formed, Reuben appeared on the tax lists in that county, along with his son Jesse, from 1815 through 1824 and later. 

In 1824 James Bowen first appeared on the list, having just married the previous year.  Reuben was listed on the 1830 census of Lee County.  In 1832 he was residing in Hawkins Co., Tenn.  His widow was living in Lee Co., Va. in 1844, when she filed a declaration for widow's pension.  The parents of Jesse Bowen are named in the record of his second marriage, recorded in Scott Co., Va. 

On 1 Mar 1834 Reuben Bowen and "his son James", both of Lee County, purchased 100 acres on Wallens Creek, or along the foot of Wallens Ridge on the South side, from Allen H. Milam and Atha his wife, for $70 (Deed Book 6, p. 537).  Reuben Bowen made a deed to Obadiah Ferguson and his son Reuben Ferguson for this same tract of land for $1.00, 23 Apr 1839 (Deed Book 8, p. 162). Obadiah Ferguson was born 1750-60 and married Elizabeth Martin, daughter of Sarah, 9 Sept 1786 in Franklin Co., Va.  Because of the consideration in the deed (only $1.00) and since Reuben Ferguson was apparently named after Reuben Bowen, there was probably some relationship between the two families.  "Strange to say, my grandfather has two children still living, and neither of them remember the name of their grandfather. One of them does remember, however, that his grandfather only had three children, and that one of them drifted into South Carolina and was never heard from."

[Alfred Thomas Bowen, Knoxville, Tenn.; letter to Mrs. W. E. Gunn, Middlesboro, Ky., 10 Sep 1917]

Revolutionary War Soldier Pension App. 5851 states he was born Lunenburg, Va. on the Herron River and resided in the state of Va. and Tn., but had lived in Lee Co., Va. shortly before that.

Dorman, John Frederick, "Abstracted and Compiled, Virginia Revolutionary
Pension Applications," Washington, D.C. 1963, vol. 8,
pp. 80-81:

Bowen (Boin), Reuben (Sarah).  W5852
    28 Nov. 1832. Hawkins Co., Tenn.  Reuben (X) Boin (sometimes spelled Boing) of said county, aged 76, declares he enlisted in 1775 with Capt. John Dewitt for three years in the 5th Virginia Regiment under Capt. John Marks and Maj. McElhany.  He resided in Albemarle Co., Va., and enlisted in Charlottesville.  They remained ten or fifteen days and then the recruits were marched to Williamsburg and then to Hampton.  The latter end of October they arrived there after marching all night.  The enemy were firing upon the town from their shipping.  They forced the enemy to retire after receiving a brisk fire from our troops.  The enemy lost some men and a small vessel was captured.  They then marched to Norfolk to defend that place and were under Col. Stephens, although Col. Woodford  took command when the battle took place at Great Bridge, were Col. Fordyce, one of the enemy, was killed.  The American commander raised some breastworks on the north side of Elizabeth River not far from the British fort and after a few days the British attempted to storm the work about 9 December, and in marching up under a galling fire Fordyce was killed.  The enemy proceeded to Norfolk and after some time burned a great part of the town, and it becoming sickly, he was marched to Baltimore and Philadelphia where they joined Gen. Washington.  He marched back to Baltimore and then to Charleston.  He was on duty at Fort Moultrie when the battle took place in the latter part of June 1776.  He was afterward in the battle of Brandywine in Sept. 1777 and shortly afterward at the instance of Gen Washington became one of his life guards and continued as such until the latter part of the summer of 1778 when he received a discharge from Gen. Washington.
    Shortly after his term expired he was drafted in the milita for eighteen months under Capt. John Hudson in the 9th Regiment in Albemarle County and continued doing duty in Virginia and Maryland.
    His discharges were left with his father and burned in his father's house in Albemarle in 1782.
    He was born in Lunenburg County on Meherrin River 17 June 1744.  Lee Co., Va. Mrs. Sarah (X) Bowen of said county, aged 81, declares she is widow of Reuben Bowen who was a pensioner.  She was married 10 June 1787 and he died 17 May 1839.
    Marriage return, Albemarle Co., Va., 1788:  Reuben Bowen to Sarah R. Hicks, married by me Wm. Woods.
    Reuben Boin of Hawkins Co., Tenn., private in the company of Capt, Dewitt in the regiment of Col. Marks in the Virginia Line for two years, was placed on the Jonesborough, Tenn., pension roll at $80 per annum under the Act of 1832.  Certificate 7563 was issued 3 Mary 1833.
    Sarah Bowen of Lee Co., Va., widow of Reuben Bowen who died 17 May 1839, private in the Virginia line for two years, was placed on the Richmond, Va., pension roll at $80 per annum. Certificates 8908 under the Act of 1838 and 6447 under the Act of 1843 were issued 30 Nov. 1844.

[Note:  The lower part of this record gives Reuben's date of birth as 17 June 1744, but the upper part states he was age 76 in 1832 which would place his date of birth at about 1756. Perhaps the explanation for this confusion can be found in the information below which contains a very similar date.]

(According to Mark and Mariah's webpage, Reuben's widow applied again from Lee City, Va. on Jun. 17, 1844. W5862

1835 Tennessee pension Rolls
Reuben Boin
Hawkins County
Virginia Line
$80.00 Annual Allowance
$240.00 Amount Received
May 2, 1833 Pension Started
Age 78