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McGowan, John - Capt


He Commanded the First Union Vessel Fired Upon by the Rebels.

ELIZABETH, N. J., Jan. 19.---Captain John McGowan, U. S. N., age 86 years, died last night at 1071 Elizabeth avenue. He went to sea in 1819 as mate of the ship Henry, of Philadelphia, and was appointed a lieutenant in the Revenue Marine service by President Jackson in 1831. He was transferred to the navy in 1841 and was lieutenant of the ship Forward, on duty at Vera Cruz and on the Rio Grande. He participated in the attack on Alvarado under Commodore Conner and other important engagements in the Mexican war.

He commanded the famous steamship "Star of the West," which was chartered to take soldiers to the relief of Fort Sumter. The vessel had neither armament nor protection from the batteries, and was under no orders to go under fire. As she entered Charleston harbor January 9, 1861, the shore battery of the rebels opened fire. Captain McGowan kept on and signalled[sic] for encouragement from Fort Sumter, but none was given.

To lie under the guns of Fort Moultrie and be sunk was suicidal, and the Star of the West was turned back to save the lives of the crew, which act of Captain McGowan's the government approved. The fact that open hostilities had not been declared was General Anderson's reason for not returning the fire. Thus Captain McGowan received the first shots fired in two rebellion. He was engaged in service throughout the war. He retired in 1882, after 53 years service.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA 20 Jan 1891

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