John Clay Brown

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John Clay Brown

Born: 1841.

Died: Unknown.

Buried: Unknown.


Height: 5 feet, 6 inches.

Eyes: Blue.

Hair: Auburn.

Complexion: Light.

Enlisted: April 18, 1861 at Brooklyn, NY to serve 3 years (20 years of age)

Mustered In: May 23, 1861 as Private.

Company: D

Promoted: Corporal on July 14, 1862.

Promoted: Sergeant on July 1, 1863.

Wounded: July 1, 1863 in the left wrist at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Captured:July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Returned: To Company, no date given.

Reenlisted: As a Veteran, February 12, 1864.

Transferred: June 2, 1864 to Company A, Fifth New York Veteran Infantry.

Captured: June 2, 1864 at Bethesda Church, Virginia.

Captured in a rifle pit trying to stem a confederate advance.
The nearby Regimental Colors escaped capture.
Sergeant Brown was a prisoner for the second time in his military service.

Transferred as Prisoner of War: June 8, 1864 to Andersonville Prison, Georgia.

Paroled: December 13, 1864 at Charleston, South Carolina.

Mustered In: May 17, 1865 as 1st Lieutenant, Fifth New York Veteran Infantry.

Mustered Out: August 21, 1865 at Hart's Island, New York.

A letter written by John C. Brown, (at that time a Private), to his sister, Mary Emma Chalmers on March 24, 1862. Provided by Tom Clemens, the descendant of Sergeant Brown's girlfriend.
  • (Discusses the regiment's return to the Bull Run Battlefield.)

    Virginia March 24th, 1862

    Dear Sister,

    Having great confidence in your abilitys (sic) of endurance I even now dare to address you at this late hour. You wrote me long ago and although some time in coming, notwithstanding, I determined to answer it immediately. But dear Sister, you know, or at least believe me, your well known brother. That I had a good chance I would have wrote before, but enough of this, Nuff cid. You are aware that we left our old camp last week proceeded to Fair Fax(sic), a distance of fourteen miles in a heavy rain and mud ankle-deep, excuse me? Well half way Enos and I fell out and after a rest of twenty minutes we again trudge on, soon however unable to walk further, I took off my boots and put on my shoes. This was when I arrived in Fair Fax, at which place I rested a few minutes and as I gazed upon the fifty earthworks erected by the rebels I though(t) (sic) Did they think the Army of the Potomac would halt before that? They could not have thought that, it was but a feint to keep us back to allow them more time. Well we pressed on and halted three mile this side of Centreville, at which place we formed Brigade again, stacked arms, loaded, and then after having a cup of hot coffee I laid down, wet, tired and sick, after offering a prayer to God to take care of my friends, the army and myself, and slept sweetly I might say. Well next morning we awoke to find that the rebels had left and in their retreat had blown up both of the large bridges at Bull Run and also Cobb Run(Cub Run). Well after being there the third day we all donned our red pants and marched to Centrevill, there we stacked arms and the Gen. gave us leave to visit the old battleground. It was a long walk, eight miles, but as we want to see the old field where we fought and some of us fell, it did not seem so far. Well we arrived there about one oclock, and a tear would come as I would notice one, two, yes ten of our boys unburned, not even allowed the common rites of man. We could tell them by the red pants and above all not one had a head on, oh the rebels will feel the effect of our sorrow when we meet then again. How soon that ;eeting will take place I do not know be we hope the sooner the better. The next day we sent a sqaud of men to bury them and mark the spot also where they lay.

    We left Centreville Saturday morning and returned to Alexandria in a drenching rain. I never seen such a storm on shore before, if it ever rained, it rained that day. Well as regards to myself, I was sick, worn out, tired and hungry, my feet were all blistered and much swollen. Well we arrived in Alexandria at eight oclock in the evening and worse than all, my knapsack was in the wagon and the wagon was many miles from me. Well as in the month before the knapsack straps having cut in my shoulders, which are not very fat, so this time I got rid of it. Well the Gen. would have made us encamped out on the flooded fields but our Col. knew it would be death to some of us, he got us in a factory, powder, right down in all the mess and slime, babtized(sic) through and through by Virginia's sacred rains, sic~ and without anything to eat but hard crackers. Well a friend, or I might say a stranger, shared his underclothing with me and then offering a prayer to God for all my folks and friends, and reminding him of our bleeding country and how I bled for it, I went to sleep and slept till the bright and beautiful Sun from the East shone in my barred window. I then got up thanking God for such a good shelter during that stormy night, the next morning went in a large fish yard and built a fire and was in a good way of having breakfast, when the Capt. sent for me and we all went and had a good breakfast. After that the cars came along and rode singing to our old encampment, Upton's Hill, where we arrived Sunday afternoon at three oclock having been away just a week. Tuesday we received orders to get ready for marching again and left there and proceeded to Alexandria. We are encamped four miles this side of Alexandria. We are encamped on the brow of a Butiful(sic) hill. There are four hills and four regiments in this brigade, Augers, so you see it must be a butiful(sic) sight, not in day so much as night time each rent has got its campfire before so you can imagine how grand a sight, hundreds of lights all over the hills. I am now under my little tent and looking down upon the companies of soldiers drilling. The,-?.un is out in all its glory for once in five days. Yesterday was the sabbath and a party of us went to Alexandria and went into a little Church and heard part of the sermon. The text was - on this rock I will build my church, it does me much good. It caused me to have a feeling of much homesickness at the tine, seeing all the young men and girls dressed up and attending divine services, it made me think when Mary and I went. We had on our red pants and little blue jackets , I assure you we was(sic) quite attractive to all. Sarah is as affectionate as ever and longs for my return, I hope it is not far distant. We are waiting our turn to embark on the same steamer that you and I have often seen in the East River. They are on the Potomac. I can stand on this hill and see it in the distance, where they are bound I do not know. The divisions are all embarking as fast as they can be taken, some eighty-thousand soldiers.

    Mary, I hope you are well and doing well. I often think of you and all the folks and of my sabbath school. I long to see them again and hear their voices singing prayers to God. What a blessed work teaching those little minds the way to everlasting life. They, the teachers, are doing as great a work as I, they are training their minds for heaven and I one of the wandering flock, defending my country, defending them and their parents from harm and danger, for I am sure if - the rebels could gain the day they would hesitate at nothing. They would, as they have done already, break the laws of God and man, but the race is nearly run, they have but a few short to live and so have some of us, but if we are I feel it will be a glorious fate, but for them they will die in ignominity(sic) and shame, a disgrace to God and their country. My best respects to Andrew, I trust he will forgive me for not answering his letters, and my respects to Isabell. I hope they are both well, and to yours and mine friends, for we are all of one body, the great Church of God, remember me to all my dear friends and they must not think I have forgotten them because I have not written them. Your letter pleased me very much, it told me how strong friendship this can become.

    Soon we are to meet the enemy, how soon I do not know, but sooner or later I am ready to meet them again. It is wrong according to the rules for engaged people to write to young folks but no one can object in my writing to so dear a friend as you. My love to your Mother, I trust she does not think hard of me in not writing before, I am the same man I was then, thou that I (illegible word) can (illegible word) now.

    My respects to your father, and now dear sister, should I fall you have my likeness, when you look upon that think of me who wanted to do what was right; and now as the hour is fast approaching for me to go on guard I must unwillingly withdraw from so sweet a conversation. Write to me if you will, it will get to me no matter where I am.

    Your Affectionate Friend,
    John C. Brown

  • Sources: The History of the Fighting Fourteenth by Tevis & Marquis.
    We Came to Fight - History of the Fifth New York Veteran Infantry by Patrick Schroeder.
  • Sgt. Brown's descendant, Tom Clemens.

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