Remembering Civil War Heroes Who Served Their Country This Memorial Day
Background: This is part of the Brown line that originated in Maryland and Pennsylvania. This family has ties to the Webster’s and Harlan’s of Lancaster County.
This family line has many branches that continued their journey West, some as far as California.
The soldiers mentioned in this post are not the only family members who served, nor are they the only family members who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I will continue to recognize and post about the heroes in my family, as information becomes available and time permits.
Sgt. Webster, Capt. Howard, Pvt. Francis Fell, Sgt. Wilmer and Capt. Albert Webster Brown
The names listed above are five brothers who stepped forward and served their country during the Civil War, of these five only Albert would live to old age. This post is dedicated to their memory and to their sacrifices.
Elwood and Hannah Webster Brown
Elwood Brown was born in Harford County Maryland on December 27, 1808, to Josiah and Margaret (Weeks) Brown. His father died when he was a young boy and he went to live with an uncle, in Pennsylvania. He would marry Hannah Webster, the daughter of George and Sarah (Conard) Webster, on March 17, 1830 at the Bart Friends Meeting House, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The young couple then moved to Cecil County, Maryland, where their first child and only daughter, Emma Webster Brown, was born on April 8, 1832.
The family moved back to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and would add 7 sons to their large family before heading West to Iowa.
Elwood and Hannah were Hicksite Quakers they were steadfast in their beliefs and both were actively involved in the anti-slavery movement, including the Underground Railroad.
Those who conducted the underground railways underwent the greatest hardships and dangers, and dire was the vengeance heaped upon them when discovered. –Excerpt from article published in the San Francisco Call, upon Hannah’s death, in 1891.
In about 1855 the family moved to Blackhawk County, then on to Guthrie County, Iowa. By the early 1860s their oldest son Albert along with younger brother Wilmer had left home, to seek their fortune, in California.
Soon the war broke out, three of their sons and their son-in-law, volunteered for the Union Army, in Guthrie County, Iowa. Albert and Wilmer joined the ranks, in Santa Cruz, California; Albert receiving an officer’s commission and command of a company.
Their sister, Emma Webster (Brown), whose husband George Washington Harlan, served alongside her brothers, would later write of the time:
“Soon the war times came, ushering in new and all-engrossing topics. Never, can any of us forget those thrilling days when our country called for our loved ones to go. The first company of men was soon organized from all parts of the county. . Company C, of the 4th Iowa was destined to perform a brilliant part in the history of the war. When this company was organized, the ladies of Guthrie Center sent forth an invitation to other ladies from other parts of the county to meet at the county seat and prepare a uniform for our boys. The mothers, wives, daughters, and sweethearts Hocked from all parts of the county, and a uniform was soon improvised of grey flannel shirts, white pants with blue stripes, and black glazed caps. How proud we were of our white-panted heroes, so soon to meet the bloody realities of terrible battles.” –Emma W. (Brown) Harlan, History of Guthrie and Adair Counties Iowa
Two of the Brown Brothers would not return to Iowa alive, one killed in action and one died en route back to Iowa. Howard and Wilmer’s lives would be cut short as a direct result of their service to their country. Prior to her death in 1891, Hannah Webster Brown, buried four of her five sons who served.
The Brown Brothers in Service to Their Country
Francis Fell Brown (March 25, 1843 – April 6, 1863)
Brown, Francis F. Age 18. Residence Guthrie Center, nativity Pennsylvania. Enlisted Aug. 26., 1862. Discharged Feb. 17, 1863, Young’s Point, La. — Company C, Iowa 4th Infantry Regiment — (Source) Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers in the War of the Rebellion: 1st-8th regiments, Infantry (E. H. English, state printer, 1908 – Iowa)
Little is known of Francis’ journey back to Iowa, it appears that he was mustered out, less than a year after his enlistment, due to illness. the following statement appears in his father’s biography:
Frank died from disease contracted in the service, while on his way home. — (source) History of Guthrie and Adair Counties, Iowa – Springfield, Ill: Continental Hist. Co., 1884
The exact location of death is unknown. However, his body was returned to the family and he was buried at Springdale Cemetery, in Cedar County, Iowa. A proper marker was ordered from Veterans Affairs, by a Mrs. Howard Phelps on March 18, 1929 and placed on his grave. Thank you Mrs. Phelps for taking the time to recognize Francis and commemorate his service.
Francis Fell Brown was the first casualty in the family of Brown brothers.
Webster Brown (March 12, 1841 – March 21, 1865)
Brown, Webster. (Veteran.) Age 20. Residence Guthrie Center, nativity Pennsylvania. Enlisted Dec. 16, 1861. Mustered Dec. 22, 1861. Promoted Fourth Sergeant Nov. 30, 1863; First Sergeant Dec. 16, 1864. Re-enlisted and Re-mustered Jan. 25, 1865. Killed in battle March 21, 1865, Bentonville, N. C. — Company C, Iowa 4th Infantry Regiment — (Source) Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers in the War of the Rebellion: 1st-8th regiments, Infantry (E. H. English, state printer, 1908 – Iowa)
Following is an excerpt from the San Francisco Call, February 12, 1891 edition:
…it remained to Webster to gloriously lay down his life in the midst of battle. He had gone into the war as a private, but with the determination to win the laurels of victory or die in the attempt. Stalwart of form and handsome, he made a dashing soldier, and proudly his mother and sister bade him good-by as he shouldered his musket and marched away.
IN THE THICKEST OF STRIFE
From the first he was cast into the thickest of the strife, but always managed to communicate with the old home, telling of his hopes and achievements. Soon he no longer wrote as a private; he had stepped forward and another stripe was added to his sleeve. It was just after these happy tidings had reached his mother that a New York paper announced the terrible battle of Bentonville, between Johnson’s forces and the Army of Tennessee. Captain Campbell remained to tell the story of Webster’s bravery. As Orderly Sergeant of Company C, Fourth Iowa Infantry, he had dashed into the thickest of the fight, only to fall helpless with his companions beneath the merciless fire of the rebel artillery…
To date the final resting place of Webster is unknown, is he still on the battlefield, where he fell, or was he given a proper burial in a National Cemetery? What is known is that there is no plaque, or marker to memorialize his service and the price he paid for our freedom.
Wilmer Brown (April 8, 1840 – May 26, 1874)
Brown, Wilmer – Enlisted in Company L, California 2nd Cavalry Regiment on 23 Sep 1861. Promoted to Full Qtr Master Serg on 17 Jul 1863. Mustered out on 14 Oct 1864 at San Francisco, CA. Promoted to Full Comm Sergeant on 02 Sep 1865. Enlisted in Company H, California 2nd Cavalry Regiment on 06 Apr 1865. Promoted to Full Private on 06 Apr 1865. Mustered out on 06 Apr 1866 at Camp Union, CA. — (Source) Register of California Men in the War of the Rebellion 1861 to 1867.
Wilmer was severely wounded at the Battle of Spanish Fork Canon in April of 1863. Following is an excerpt from the Santa Cruz newspaper, which mentions his injuries:
Wilmer Brown was badly wounded through the left side and arm at Spanish Fork, but has now recovered, yet his arm does not feel quite right, perhaps one of the cords is cut. –(Source) Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel, October 3, 1863
After Wilmer mustered out of the Army in 1866, he relocated to Hamilton, White Pine County, Nevada and appears to have been somewhat successful there. He is said to have served a term in the Nevada Legislature. It is unknown if he continued to suffer side effects from the wounds he received in 1863. It is also possible he had contracted TB, or another similar disease, while in service to his country. In the last years of his short life he was plagued with a chronic lung condition.
Wilmer came back to Santa Cruz, in the Spring of 1874 and died but a few weeks later; less than 10 years after serving his country.
His obituary appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on May 30, 1874:
Death of Wilmer Brown
Mr. Wilmer Brown, a younger brother of Capt. Albert Brown, died in San Francisco on Tuesday last, aged 34 years. He was at the time a resident of Santa Cruz, but for some years made his home in Nevada. He was a young man of brilliant promise and amiable qualities. He occupied a seat in the Nevada Legislature during one session of that body. He had been in declining health for a long time, suffering from an acute bronchial affliction. A few weeks ago he returned to Santa Cruz on a visit to his brother and in the hope that this climate would offer him some relief. He subsequently returned to San Francisco, where he died from hemorrhage of the lungs. On Wednesday his body was brought here by his brother, and the funeral took place yesterday from the residence of Mr. R.C. Kirby. The Rev. Mr. Willey officiated. The deceased served as soldier in the ranks of the Union Army during the war, and the few ex soldiers having their home in Santa Cruz testified their respect for their deceased comrade by following the remains to the grave. — (Source) Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel, May 30, 1874
(Note: The Santa Cruz Public Library website has a lot of information on Civil War Soldiers, from the area, including a copy of this article)
Wilmer is buried at Santa Cruz Memorial Park, Santa Cruz County, California. His final resting place is marked and he rests beside his mother.
Howard Brown (July 9, 1836 – 1875)
Brown, Howard. Age 25. Nativity Pennsylvania. Enlisted July 6, 1861, as Fifth Corporal. Mustered Aug. 17, 1861. Promoted Fourth Sergeant Sept. 1, 1861; First Lieutenant March 1, 1862; Captain May 1, 1862. Resigned March 8, 1863. — Company D, Iowa 4th Infantry Regiment — (Source)Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers in the War of the Rebellion: 1st-8th regiments, Infantry (E. H. English, state printer, 1908 – Iowa)
Howard’s story is perhaps the saddest and most tragic of all the brothers. Howard had a young family, a promising career and several accounts refer to him being a highly intelligent motivated individual. While in Iowa he practiced law and then became a County Judge in Guthrie County.
He rose through the military ranks rather quickly receiving a Captain’s commission in 1862. Sometime between May of 1862 and March of 1863, he suffered a career ending head injury, from which he would never fully recover. There is reference to his injury in the February 12, 1891 article from the San Francisco Call:
“Howard, the next in age, joined the army in the East, but an injury to his head obliged him to seek discharge, and subsequently caused his death.”
The remainder of Howard’s life would be series of ups and downs, he was institutionalized at the “Iowa Hospital for the Insane,” in 1870. It is unknown if his illness was caused by the injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or a combination of both.
Before the war broke out Howard had married, Thryza Collins, the daughter of Henry M. and Nancy (Roe) Collins. The 1870 census shows them living in Beaver Township, Guthrie County, Iowa, with Thryza’s mother, step-father, along with their daughters Josephine and Effie Mary.
In March of 1875, Howard and his young family, including a third daughter, Iva Lenore, were living in Jefferson Township, Howard County, Kansas. Howard’s occupation is listed on the state census as Attorney at Law.
According to Thyrza’s biography Howard died in Kansas:
“…Here in 1859 Thyrza Collins was married to Howard Brown. In the spring of 1860 the young couple moved to Fairfield, Iowa, and in that year she heard Abraham Lincoln speak in the beginning of the most fateful presidential campaign of our history. Later her husband campaigned for Lincoln, and in 1861 he volunteered for the Union Army, rising to the rank of captain. During the war Mrs. Brown returned to her Mother’s home. In 1875 Captain Brown died in southern Kansas, leaving his young widow with three children. –Latah Legacy, Vol. 34 No. 2, April 2006
The exact date of Howard’s death is not known and his final resting place is a mystery. My research points to either Cedar Vale, or Jefferson, Kansas. His wife filed for a widow’s pension in 1877; she was living in Latah County, Idaho, at the time of the filing.
I would like to find Howard’s final resting place and ensure there is a proper marker, for him.