Walter Bowie decided he would kidnap the governor of Maryland , Augustus Bradford, and hold him as ransom for captured friends. He managed to persuade Colonel Mosby to loan him several battle-hardened rangers for the mission. Bowie and his contingent rode from Upperville Va. to a crossing near Mathias Point in King George County .
There they encountered a problem. There were no boats there to ferry his men and their horses across the river. Bowie slipped across the river under darkness to case things out. There he discovered that a contingent of the 8th Illinois Calvary was stationed at the courthouse in nearby Port Tobacco. The next night he and seven of his most reliable rangers snuck across the river and spent an evening drinking with blockade-runners and assorted riffraff at Brawner's Hotel. Sometime after midnight , Bowie and his men slipped over to the courthouse, quickly subdued the snoozing soldiers, snatched their horses and disappeared into the night.
The rangers rode fast until daybreak and then sought refuge from prowling Yankee troops. According to one account, they hid out at the home of Dr. Samual A. Mudd, a known sympathizer who would later see infamy as the man who set John Wilkes Booth's broken leg.
By early morning the next day, Bowie and his men arrived at Eglington unscathed. They stocked up on provisions and rested briefly. Wat's brother Brune, who had been wounded in the Confederate army, and was apparently home on “French leave”, was added to the raiders' party. Not wishing to shine unwanted attention on the family estate, the group did not stay overnight, but bivouacked near Hardesty's store near the intersection of Annapolis Road and Church Road .
From there, Bowie traveled by back roads to Annapolis and somehow managed to get close enough to Bradford to discover, not surprisingly, that he was too heavily guarded to be kidnapped. Forced to abandon their mission, Walter and his men headed back to Virginia . Deciding the way they had come was too risky, they headed west with the intent of crossing the Potomac near Rockville .
Wat and his men decided to “requisition” what they could as they made their way through the Maryland countryside. Their route toward White's Ford and back to Virginia took them near the small town of Sandy Spring . On the evening of October 6 th they determined to pay a late-night visit to the Bently and Gilpin General Store. Quakers owned the store and the Rangers expected little resistance or trouble. This turned out to be a miscalculation.
The good people of Sandy Spring were fed up with the constant raids and scavenging conducted by troops and partisans on both sides. (Just two months earlier, remnants of Confederate General Jubal Early's cavalry had stormed through the area in an abortive march on Washington .) At this point, even Quakers had taken up arms to protect their property.
So it was that while the raiders easily overwhelmed the shop owners who lived next door to the store, they soon found themselves pursued by a group of local citizens, Quakers included. The townsfolk also sent word to Rockville to alert the Union garrison.
The posse of about 15 citizens caught up with Bowie and his men on the morning of October 7 about three miles north of Rockville , where they had stopped to rest and graze their horses.
Bowie saw his pursuers advancing through the trees. Ever brazen, he straddled his horse, took reins in hand and attacked them head-on. Riding at a gallop, he was slammed off his horse by a shotgun blast to the face; the blow delivered by a local carriage maker named William Ent who had taken refuge behind a tree. Bowie was the only casualty of what became known locally as the “Battle of Ricketts Run.”
(The site of the skirmish may be found off Somerville Road near the Metro tracks, next to the McDonalds.)
The remaining rangers drove off the citizen-posse and removed their injured leader to a nearby farmhouse. Brune stayed with his brother while the other raiders hightailed it back to Virginia . Walter Bowie died shortly thereafter.
Brune was captured by union troops and a detachment was sent in pursuit of the other raiders, but they escaped over the Potomac near the mouth of the Monocacy.
(The Quakers involved in the incident were brought before a church counsel and charged with “impudence” for their un-Quaker like actions, but were allowed to remain in the church.)
Wat's body was returned to Eglington on October 8. He was laid to rest at Willow Grove , a family property directly across Annapolis Road from Holy Trinity Church . Bowie 's mother Adeline was so distraught she never uttered another word. She died three months later.
In recent years, Bowie 's remains, and those of his immediate family were removed from their resting place at Willow Grove to make way for a housing development. They were re-interred at a plot in the shade near the rear of the Holy Trinity cemetery. There to remain undisturbed and unnoticed 140 years after Walter Bowie's fateful last adventure.
Appointment in Samara -- The Strange Death of Walter Bowie, James O. Hall, North and South (periodical), February 1998
Prince George 's County: Over 300 years of History
PG County Tricentennial Commission , 1996
Marylanders in the Confederacy, Daniel D. Hartzler , Willow Bend Books, 1986
Across the Years in Prince George 's County, Effie Gwynn Bowie, Garrett and Massie, 1947