(10-09-1819 - 08-09-1897)
Born in the Crosshill section of Laurens District, South Carolina,
he was the son of Irish immigrants. His father, who became a prosperous farmer, fulfilled
his ambition to send his sons to college. Samuel attended the school of Thomas Lewis Lesly
and graduated from South Carolina College in 1841. He then went to Abbeville where he
studied law under T. C. Perrin and was admitted to the bar in 1842. He soon was Perrin's
partner and became recognized as a popular politician and advocate.
McGowan served for thirteen years as a member of
the South Carolina House of Representatives. His civil career was interrupted by the
Mexican War. In 1846 he entered the Palmetto Regiment as a private, rose to the rank of
Captain, Staff, and for a time served as a volunteer aide-de-camp to Brigadier-General
John A. Quitman whose division stormed the Belen Gate. McGowan was complimented for
gallantry in action near Mexico City.
McGowan was elected a Major-General of the South
Carolina Militia and in 1861 commanded a brigade that captured Fort Sumter in April of
that year. He then volunteered for service, acting as aide-de-camp to Brigadier-General
Milledge Bonham at First Manassas.
In 1862 he was commissioned as Colonel, 14th
South Carolina Infantry, attached to Maxcy Gregg's brigade. As part of A. P. Hill's Light
Division, Gregg's brigade fought valiantly in the Seven Days' Campaign of June 25-July 1.
At Gaines' Mill, on June 27, McGowan was wounded but remained with his regiment. Hill
cited McGowan and the 14th for its performances at Gaines' Mill and Frayser's Farm.
At Second Manassas, August 29-30, Gregg's brigade
held the left of Stonewall Jackson's line. McGowan led his regiment in a counterattack
that stabilized Gregg's line. He was severely wounded and missed the Sharpsburg Campaign.
After the death at Fredericksburg of General
Gregg, McGowan was promoted over two senior colonels to Brigadier-General, to rank from
January 17, 1863, and took command of the brigade until the surrender at Appomattox. He
was wounded in the lower leg at Chancellorsville and again at Spotsylvania during the
bloody combat at Mule Shoe.
In many of the bloodiest battles in Virginia he
displayed extraordinary bravery. Warner writes:
"McGowan's career and reputation were not
excelled by those of any other brigade commander in the Army of Northern Virginia. When
not disabled by one or another of the four wounds which he sustained during the war, he
participated with great gallantry in every engagement of the army from the Seven Days to
Appomattox, where he was paroled."
At the close of the War, McGowan returned to
Abbeville and was a member of the state convention of 1865 and elected to Congress that
year, only to be denied a seat by the Republican majority. He was a leader against the
carpetbaggers and was again elected to the State Legislature in 1878, and in 1879 was
elected an Associate Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, a post he held until
1893 when he was defeated for re-election by the efforts of "Pitchfork Ben"
Tillman, Democratic boss of the state whom he had antagonized by casting the deciding vote
in a Supreme Court decision declaring the proposed liquor dispensary unconstitutional.
McGowan died at his home in Abbeville and is
buried in upper Long Cane cemetery.