A Boy Lieutenant

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Bowley, F.S. A Boy Lieutenant. Illustrated by M.H. Lipman. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1906. Out of print.

Young Bowley, inspired to go to war by returning heroes, lands a commission in a colored regiment. He leads his black troops into battle in the Wilderness campaigns and witnesses the battle of the Crater. He is then taken prisoner at Petersburg and ends the war freed on parole.

Bowley was indeed an officer in a Negro regiment, but this account of his service is told in standard juvenile-fiction form. Much of it is taken up with Bowley's anxiety over his initial examinations as he applies for his commission. His opinion of black troops is not very high; one sequence recounts how a "jet-black" private named Joe Wright insisted, despite the resistance of "a bright, intelligent mulatto" sergeant named Scott, in believing in ghosts, leading to a panic when a pack-mule ran through the company and was believed to be a malign spirit. Reunited with his men after his parole, Bowley is genuinely glad to see them, however, and his narrative overall is unassuming and low-key. Bowley died in 1903, and this book was probably seen through the press by his son Delavan Bowley, who was active in veterans'-family organizations.


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