Pinckney D. Bowles was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina, to a wealthy plantation family. He was educated at the South Carolina Military Academy, now known as The Citadel, in Charleston, South Carolina and at the University of Virginia. He studied law under Samuel McGowan at Abbeville, South Carolina. In 1859, Bowles moved to Alabama to practice law in Conecuh County.
In 1860, Bowles entered state militia service as the colonel of the 28th Alabama Militia. He also served as first lieutenant in the local Conecuh Guards, and was later promoted to its captain after the Civil War began. He and his men were sent to Florida, and then on to Virginia, there to join what became the Army of Northern Virginia.
On May 2, 1861, while stationed in Yorktown, Virginia, Bowles was re-elected as a captain in the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. He fought in the Seven Days Battles in June and July 1862 around Richmond, Virginia, a series of battles that resulted in a significant setback for Union troops attempting to capture the capital of the Confederacy. In August 1862, shortly before the Second Battle of Bull Run, or the Battle of Second Manassas, Bowles was promoted to major. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel shortly after the Maryland Campaign, and days later to colonel.
He was married, during the Civil War, at Sparta, Alabama, on February 24, 1863, to Alice Irene, daughter of Judge N. F. and Anna C. Stearns.
Bowles led the 4th Alabama at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, much of the Gettysburg Campaign, and during the Overland Campaign of 1864. In the last months of the war, he led a brigade of five regiments. He was finally commissioned as a brigadier general on April 2, 1865.
After the end of the war, Bowles returned home to practice law in Sparta, before moving to Evergreen, Alabama, when the county seat moved locations. For ten years, he served as the county prosecutor before devoting himself full time to private practice. His business flourished, and Bowles became one of the leading lawyers in southern Alabama.
He was active in the Episcopalian Church, the Democratic Party and the Freemasons. He served as a probate judge from 1887 until 1898.
Bowles died in Tampa, Florida, and is buried in the Old Historical Cemetery in Evergreen, Alabama.
- Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- Evans, Clement, Confederate Military History.
- Farquhar, Thomas M., The History of the Bowles Family, Containing an Accurate Historical Lineage. Self-published, 1907.
- Riley, Benjamin Franklin, History of Conecuh County, Alabama: Embracing a Detailed Record of Events, Columbus, Georgia: Thos. Gilbert, printer, 1881.
- Riley, p. 208.
- Evans, p. 393.
- Farquhar, p. 246.
- Riley, p. 210.
- Evans, p. 294.
- Farquhar, 247.
- Eicher, p. 590.
- Bowles, Pinckney D., "Battle of the Wilderness," Philadelphia Weekly Times, October 4, 1884.