Working with the public, I often come across family stories that simply are not true - I could not count the times that the "my ancestor held General Lee’s horse at Appomattox" story has come up. And after a little research, we find out that this ancestor finished out the war at Elmira, or Point Lookout, or was in the Army of Tennessee, and was not in a position to have Traveller or anyone else’s horse at Appomattox. But sometimes, I get a story that does have interesting possibilities.
When working on the book about the Thirty-seventh North Carolina, I got an email from a descendant, stating that his ancestor, Thomas Lowery, had told Jackson on the night of May 2, "I wouldn’t go in there now. It’s too dark, and your men may take you for the enemy and shoot you." My first response was, Yeah right! How many men from Lane’s brigade would not have claimed they had uttered those words after the events that would soon transpire?
Wanting to use the story in the book, I did some research. James Thomas Lowery was born on May 10, 1843, in Union County, North Carolina. He was a farmer and enlisted in the North Carolina Defenders on September 16, 1861. He was mustered in as a private. The North Carolina Defenders became Company H, Thirty-seventh North Carolina Troops, on November 20, 1861. Lowery was captured at the battle of Hanover Court House, Virginia, on May 27, 1862. He was exchanged on August 5, 1862, and returned to duty by November 1, 1862.
On the night of May 2, 1863, Lowery’s Company D was in the position of the second company, or the company on the far left side of the regiment. (The first company is on the far right, and the third company is in the center. Confusing, huh?). They were in position on the Orange Plank Road. The rest of the regiment was to their right. Lowery was acting second sergeant that day. So, he was the last man in line, standing on the Orange Plank Road, or very near it. The rest of the regiment was to his right. So, as Stonewall Jackson rode down the Plank Road on his reconnaissance, then there was no better person to say to Jackson "I wouldn’t go in there now. It’s too dark, and your men may take you for the enemy and shoot you." So, while we can’t verify that the family story is absolutely true, it is a real possibility.
Lowery was wounded the next day and did not return to duty until September of that year; in November, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. He was with his regiment for the rest of the war, surrendering at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. He died on February 18, 1901, and was buried in the Mt. Olive Church Cemetery, Anson County, North Carolina.
Something that I notice while typing this - Lowery celebrated his twentieth birthday on the day that Jackson died - May 10, an eerie coincidence.