Charles Russell Lowell (1835-1864)

Civil War Colonel & American Businessman

A Civil War hero, Charles Russell Lowell was born in Boston on January 2, 1835.

A descendant of generations of New Englanders, Lowell was educated at Boston Latin and Boston English Schools and graduated from Harvard in 1854, at the age of 19. After a brief job with a merchant’s counting house, Lowell pursued his interest in metallurgy with the Ames Iron Works in Chicopee, Massachusetts. He quickly advanced to a more esteemed position with the Cooper Hewitt rolling mills in New Jersey.

An historic photograph of a young couple, seated, and reading a book.
Josephine Shaw and Charles Russell Lowell

Lowell developed problems with his lungs and was directed away from working with iron. As his health continued to fail, he was urged by family and friends to travel to Europe in 1856. His health improved and he returned home two years later. In 1860 he went back to work in metallurgy, working for the Mount Savage Ironworks in Maryland.

After the first shots of the Civil War fired, Lowell joined the Massachusetts troops. He was a Captain in the Third Regiment U.S. Cavalry. Lowell was a distinguished cavalryman, serving as an aide to General McClellan. After accepting the commission of Colonel of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry, he returned to Boston where he became engaged to Josephine Shaw. They married in 1863 and had a daughter. His wife became a social reformer, and his brother-in-law, Robert Gould Shaw, served as Colonel in the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Lowell’s regiment in Virginia worked to defend Washington from guerilla  leader John Singleton Mosby. This meant that Lowell and his troops were constantly on the move, seeing action every day for weeks at a time. Lowell was hit twice during the battle of Cedar Creek in 1864. The bullets collapsed Lowell’s lung but did not draw blood, so he continued to fight. He was hit again, and died after issuing his final orders, saying goodbye to his family, and receiving the distinction of Brigadier General.

A gravestone with two swords carved into the top

His body was returned for burial in his family lot at Mount Auburn, where he is buried with his wife, daughter, and family. 

Charles Russell Lowell’s grave can be found at Lot 323 Fountain Avenue.


Adapted from the research of Friends member Helen Hannon, as published in Mount Auburn’s January Birthday: Charles Russell Lowell, 2003.