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Cowin family papers

Identifier: MSS-0364

Scope and Contents

This collection contains papers of various members of the Cowin family of Greene County, Alabama. Most of the materials are photocopies of the diary and essays written by John H. Cowin of Green County, Alabama. The usual diary style begins on page 151 and covers events from April 22 through November 13, 1861. The diary is preceded by approximately 80 pages of essays, satires and poetry written in the same hand as the diary; several are signed J. H. Cowin. There is also a photocopy of a smaller diary, also written by John H. Cowin from January 1–31, 1863. The inner cover reads “Journal continued. John H. Cowin, Co. “D” 5th Ala. Reg. Rodes’ Brigade, D. H. Hill’s Division, Jackson’s Corps.”

There are also photocopies of miscellaneous documents, newspaper clippings and a photocopy of the Covenant of the League of Nations. The documents include Alabama property tax statements for Martha A. Cowin in 1875 and 1877, as well as a railway pass for Southern Railway Company dated September 11, 1909. The newspaper clippings are mainly articles about Woodrow Wilson as he left the office of the presidency in 1921.

The collection also includes a Presidential Pardon signed on September 12, 1865, by President Andrew Johnson for Samuel Cowin (John H. Cowin's father), as well as two Oaths of Allegiance. The Oaths were apparently administered at the same time but are witnessed by two different Federal officers.

There is also a tintype of an unidentified child.

Also included are letters from G. W. Ethridge to his wife Mary, from June to September of 1862. The Ethridges are connected to the Cowin family in later generations.

The collection also includes are a University of Alabama scrapbooks, group photograph of the Kappa Alpha fraternity, and snapshots of Clarke Ellis "Bo" Watkins, all from the early 1940s.


  • 1861–1921


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Biographical / Historical

John H. Cowin, eldest son of Samuel and Martha A. Cowin, was born on 28 April 1839, in Greensboro, Green County, Alabama. He attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, in the early 1850s. In the fall of 1858, he enrolled as a student of medicine at the University of Virginia, and then Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he graduated with his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1860.

He returned home to Greensboro to open his practice, which flourished until the spring of 1861, when he enlisted as a private in the Greensboro Guards, which became part of Company D of the 5th Alabama Infantry. HIs first enlistment was for 12 months, but he immediately reenlisted for the duration of the war. Cowin served for more than two years, participating in almost all the battles in which his regiment was engaged. On the last day of the battle of Chancellorsville, 6 May 1863, he fell in a redoubt which the 5th and 26th Alabama Infantries had taken. He bled to death as his friends were carrying him from the field. According to one source, Cowin's last words to his friends were, "I am sinking very fast, I think. If I die, tell my father that I fell near the colors and in discharge of my duty." Afterwards, the Company unanimously voted to award Cowin the badge of honor for gallantry.


0.2 Linear Feet (photocopies)

Language of Materials



Photocopies of the diary and essays written by John H. Cowin of Green County, Alabama covering events from 22 April through 13 November 1861 as well as a smaller diary for the month of January 1863. There is also a presidential pardon and oaths of allegiance certificates for Samuel Cowin, as well as photocopies of miscellaneous documents including Alabama tax statements from 1875 and 1877 and newspaper clippings, and a Civil War era Smith and Wesson Model 2 Army revolver. Also in the collection are a University of Alabama scrapbooks, group photograph of the Kappa Alpha fraternity, and snapshots of Clarke Ellis "Bo" Watkins, all from the early 1940s.


Gift of Ronald F. Cartee and Cyntia Cartee, 1990; additional gift by Amy J. Watkins, 2015, 2019

Processed by

Martha Bace, 2008; updated 2013; updated June 2015; updated June 2019
Guide to the Cowin Family papers
February 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266