Son of George L. Bowen and Esther M. Waters.
On 30 Jul 1861 Roland mustered into service with the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, being credited to the quota of Millbury, Massachusetts. He was a wood turner by trade and 24 years, 25 days old.
On 22 Jun 1864 Roland was taken prisoner at Petersburg, Prince George County, Virginia. A month later he escaped from prison and entered Union lines, and on 3 Aug 1864. Then he ended military service with the 15th Massachusetts Infantry.
On 21 Dec 1865 Roland, 28, married Mary F. Cole, 20, daughter of Albert B. and Sophia (Barns) Cole, at Millbury, Massachusetts, in a first marriage for both. They had two children.
He was included in Alvan Simonds'
recounting of the 1864 prison escape in "Fitchburg in the War of the Rebellion," by Henry A. Willis, p. 220.
He died on 21 Jan 1883 at Millbury, Massachusetts.
From "The Worcester Daily Spy," 22 Jan 1883, in part:
His Death at Millbury -- an interesting story of his army life.
Roland Edwin Bowen, for many years postmaster at Millbury, died Sunday, in his 46th year, from consumption.
The news will be received with a feeling of deepest regret and sadness throughout the entire town and among his large circle of friends elsewhere.
Stricken with the fatal disease some years ago he has gradually failed.....
He was appointed postmaster soon after the close of the war, and has held the position without opposition a period of 16 years, during which the business of the office has constantly increased, and the requirements of the position have always been discharged with a rare degree of efficiency, which has won the cordial approval of the public and department.
He took an active part in the last rebellion, enlisting in company B of the 15th regiment, and for three years, with the exception of the time passed in the hands of the enemy, shared in the fortunes of that memorable organization.....
He was present at Ball's Bluff, and with hundreds of others was driven over the bluffs to the river bank, he succeding in concealing himself beneith the bank, where he remained until night, when, under cover of the darkness, being an expert swimmer, he succeeded in crossing the Potomac in safety, minus most of his clothing and weapons.
He was able to save his watch, and has carried it ever since.
He was twice captured, first at the battle of Gettysburg. After being held for a short time, he, with several others, made an escape, but were retaken after being on the road several days, and returned to the prison quarters and held until exchanged.
He was taken again soon after, and again made his escape, this time while being marched with a large number of other prisoners to Andersonville.
One fellow prisoner, Alvan A. Simonds, now of Dayton, Ohio, escaped with him. They contrived to slip into the woods without being noticed by the guard, and fled.
Then began a journey through the mountains which nothing but the love of liberty would induce any to attempt.
The story of their wanderings and adventures has already been writen by Mr. Simonds and published...."
His personal letters were published as "From Ball's Bluff to Gettysburg...and Beyond: The Civil War Letters of Private Roland E. Bowen, 15th Massachusetts Infantry 1861-1864," Greg Coco, Editor, Thomas Publications, 1994.