Story about William Matthew's great-grandfather taken from Confederate Military History, edited by Gen. Clement A. Evans, Atlanta, Confederate Publishing Co., 1899, Volume V, page 412:
Brig. Gen. Samuel McGowan was born of Scotch-Irish parentage near Cross Hill in Laurens County on Oct. 9, 1819. He graduated from South Carolina College in 1841, studied law with T. C. Perrin in 1842, was admitted to the Bar in the fall of 1842 and embarked upon the practice of law at Abbeville.
He answered the call of his country in 1846 and started for the Mexican War as a private in the Palmetto Regiment. He was soon appointed to the General Quartermaster's Staff with the rank of captain, serving during the war first on the staff of General Quitman and afterward with Generals Worth and Twiggs. As volunteer aide to General Quitman at the storming of Chapultepec and the capture of Garita de Belem, he was distinguished for gallantry.
After his return to South Carolina in 1848 he continued with much success the practice of his profession, and sat twelve years in the lower house of the State Legislature; but also retained his connection with military matters, becoming Major General in the State Militia. Upon the secession of South Carolina he was commissioned Brigadier General in the State army and assigned to command of one of the four brigades first formed and in that capacity assisted General Beauregard during the reduction of Fort Sumter. Upon the transfer of the troops to the Confederate service he joined General Bonham in Virginia and served as a volunteer aide at the battles of Blackburn Ford and First Manassas.
Then, returning to South Carolina, he was elected lieutenant colonel of the Fourteenth Regiment and in the spring of 1862 while in service on the coast, was promoted to colonel. Soon afterward, with Gregg's Brigade, he began a distinguished career in the Army of Northern Virginia. He was wounded at Cold Harbor where he led his regiment in several daring charges, retrieved the ground lost by another brigade at Frayser's Farm, and continued on duty in spite of his injury until after Malvern Hill. For his gallantry in these battles he was recommended by General Gregg for promotion.
After fighting at Cedar Run he was wounded at Second Manassas, and for some time disabled, but he rejoined his regiment after the battle of Sharpsburg and commanded it at Fredericksburg. There General Gregg was killed, and in January 1863, Colonel McGowan was promoted Brigadier General and became Gregg's successor in command of the gallant brigade. In this capacity he served until the end of the war, receiving several wounds, the most severe of which befell him at Chancellorsville and during the fight at bloody angle at Spotsylvania Courthouse.
After the surrender at Appomattox he returned to his home and resumed the "profession from which he had twice been diverted by war." He was elected to Congress in 1865, but was not permitted to take his seat, made a thorough canvass of the State as an elector at-large on the Democratic Presidential ticket in 1876; in 1878 he was elected to the Legislature, and in 1879 he was elected associate justice of the Supreme Court. In the latter office he won lasting honor and distinction as he had upon the field of battle. His death occurred Aug. 9, 1897.