Peter Fletcher Howell (1842-1924)

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 32 – Peter Fletcher Howell (1842-1924)

By Don Taylor
Peter Fletcher Howell
Thanks to Robert Capel via Flickr

There is a kind of look in his eye that says he has seen too much – To much killing for sure. The Civil War was a horrific event – So much killing, so much carnage. A lot of fought here and there, but Peter Fletcher Howell was part of the 61st Infantry Regiment Virginia that saw action throughout the war. Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Savannah were all major battles. In my research, I found that one of the more horrific family stories was most likely true. Peter was there; and sadly to say, yes, his regiment did what the family stories told.

Bio – Peter Fletcher Howell (1842-1924)

Peter Fletcher Howell was born 2 June 1942, the fourth child of Peter M and Caroline M. A. Pankey Howell in Buckingham County, Virginia. 

When he was young, five or six, his family moved from Virginia to North Carolina, first to Murfreesboro, then Raleigh, Kitty Hawk, Wilmington, New Burn, then finally to Halifax County. His father, Peter M, was a preacher, a fire and brimstone Baptist preacher that preached wherever he could. When Peter M found a congregation, to they moved which is why they moved so much in the early years. Finally, when Peter F. was about eight his father found a steady congregation and appears to have stayed in Halifax County throughout most of Peter F.’s youth.

In 1860, Peter F was living with his parents and an older brother, Phillip C Howell. Peter was working as a farm laborer.[i] With war breaking out, it appears that Peter didn’t want to wait to join up with the slowly forming regiments in North Carolina. Peter went the sixty miles north to Sussex County Virginia and enlisted on 23 Oct 1861. Peter must have been a great soldier because he was promoted to fourth Sergeant on 22 May 1862. He then transferred to Company G, Virginia 61st Infantry Regiment on 8 Aug 1862.

On July 15, 1864, he was promoted to full second Sargent probably during the time of the great losses that the regiment was experiencing at the Siege of Parkersburg. On July 30th, the Union blew up a mine creating a huge crater. To make a long story short, the Union (stupidly) went into the crater to attack the Confederates and instead became the target A black company of union troops was sent to reinforce the first troops who went into the crater. . Confederate Brig. Gen. William Mahone later called the event a “turkey shoot.” According to a Wikipedia article, many black soldiers were killed by Confederate bayonets and musket fire even after surrendering. In addition, many more black soldiers were killed by Union soldiers who feared reprisals from the Confederates.[ii]

The Richmond Daily Dispatch reported that Sargent Peter Howell was at The Crater and captured on of the Union flags, which clearly places him there. [iii]

Family legend told the story that Peter was part of a group that was on the edge of a pit (crater) firing down on the Union soldiers below in a “turkey shoot.” He was also told to bayonet the Black soldiers if he wanted to get a furlough to go home for a couple days. It was a horrific day; one of the many that Peter Fletcher Howell saw.

Peter was promoted to Full first Sergeant on 15 Feb 1865 and mustered out on 9 April 1865 at Appomattox, VA. 

There is some oral tradition that indicated that Peter was the only one of six boys who lived through the Civil War in that family. I know of his brother Philip C and his brother Lorenzo but I have no knowledge of their lives after 1860. There is also a six year gap between Peter and his sister Elizabeth suggesting there might be another child or two that I don’t know about.

After the war, Peter married Susan R. Vincent (sometime Vinson) on 10 December 1866. Wasting no time, their first child, Anna Lee Howell was born 10 month later.

Children of Peter Fletcher Howell and Susan R. Vincent Howell

Anna Lee Howell – 8 Oct 1867
John D. Howell – abt 1873*
Augusta E Howell – abt 1875
Martha F Howell – abt 1877
James Dallas Howell – 2 Sep 1879
David Bushrod Howell – 3 Oct 1881
G. C. Howell – Feb 1884

Marker SGT Peter F Howell
Courtesy: Find a Grave

With such a large gap between Anna and John, I suspect there may have been children born during those years that I haven’t learned about

In 1880, Peter is in Faucetts as a farmer and in 1900 he appears again as a watchman living in a rented house in Conocondy. In 1910, he is working as an engineer at a sawmill and living in Weldon. His wife of 43 years, Susan, died on 1 March 1910

He continued living in Weldon until his death on 27 October 1924. He is buried in Cedarwood Cemetery in Weldon.

Further Actions:

Continue research into Peter F. Howell’s military (CSA) service. 
Research Peter Howell’s siblings and their lives.
Research for other potential children of Peter F. Howell.

List of Greats
1.    Peter Fletcher Howell
2.     Peter M. Howell


Confederate Soldier Records - Fold3

[i] 1860; Census Place: Western District, Halifax, North Carolina; Roll: M653_899; Page: 471; Image: 323; Family History Library Film: 803899. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1860usfedcenancestry&h=41288528&indiv=try.

[iii] Tuff University, Perseus Hopper, Richmond Daily Dispatch: August 3, 1864. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2006.05.1135%3Aarticle%3D3.

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