The Crooked Lake Review

Spring 2005

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Penn Yan's

Morris Brown, Jr., is a Hero


Wayne Mahood

Part II

In Part I, Morris Brown, Jr., following his father's urging, answered the call for volunteers for the Union army in August 1862, as had his older brother, Smith Brown, earlier. Within a month, Morris and the 126th New York Infantry, in which he had been mustered, were captured at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and spent two months as prisoners of war. Upon their release, Morris quickly rose through the ranks to command Company A. At the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, Captain Morris Brown, Jr. led his small company in the capture of approximately fifty Confederate soldiers and a regimental flag, for which he would be honored posthumously with the Medal of Honor. The narrative resumes after the Battle of Gettysburg.

After Gettysburg Morris had no time to write anything until mid July, because the Army of the Potomac, "short of rations and barefooted," was "making forced marches." Their quarry, General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, had successfully retreated across the Potomac after Army of the Potomac commander General George G. Meade had concluded that the Confederates were still too dangerous for his tired troops to attack before they crossed.

Pumped up over his heroism at Gettysburg, Captain Brown spoke for many when he protested Meade's decision:

Camp near Harpers Ferry
July 16th 1863

My Dear Parents

...Every man almost in the army of the Potomac was willing yea eager to attack Lee on the 13th of July; & every man would have fought like a tiger if the word "forward" had only been given. It is incomprehensible to every subordinate officer why Meade did not attack Lee when everything seemed - just as it turned out - to indicate that the rebel army would have been compelled to surrender, or have been utterly routed.... I believe if the attack had been made it would have been the ending up of the war. Perhaps though there is some good reason for not advancing which we know not of.

Ere this, of course you have heard all about the battle of Gettysburg. It was a terrible fight & I dont wish to get in another unless necessary....

...I haven't had anything to eat to day save a small piece of ham without any bread. Pretty rough but I can go it yet a while. Never was better in my life. None of those old head-aches which used to bother me so much, trouble me now.

I am ragged & dirty & look as bad as any little rag-muffin you can pick upon in the streets of Penn Yan. Will write again in a day or two.


But he could not keep his promise to write, for the Army of the Potomac was forging its way south. Mid September the Union army crossed the Rappahannock River for the third time in the war. But once across, Brown and others enjoyed a much needed rest. They had marched over 500 miles since leaving Centreville, Virginia, the end of June. They had bloodied themselves at Gettysburg, had endured oppressive heat and drenching rains, had eaten poorly, were reduced to the barest essentials and were dead tired.

Morris Brown's letters home offer a glimpse of life near the Rapidan River, which narrowly separated the armies.

Camp near Rapidan Station
Sept. 22d/63

[To Smith Brown, excerpted]

Here we are yet. not moved since I last wrote you. can bet a big fight is in the future & that not far off. We cannot move forward one hundred rods without exchanging shots with the rebs Our line is very close to theirs—so close that we exchanged papers with them yesterday when we were on picket.

Our whole Brigade goes out on picket now every third day—General & all...

Love to all

Your aff. brother


Then in an excerpted letter to his mother Morris offers an unusual experience with two Confederate pickets.

Camp near the Rapidan
Oct. 5th 1863

...Picket duty is quite interesting here. We are so close to the rebs that we are talking & blackguarding each other continually. The other night I could hear one swearing away because he did'nt have any shoes, blankets, or overcoat said he was [of] a good notion to desert. Another one told him not to talk so loudly or the Yanks would hear him. he said he did'nt care a damn for he would go over to there the next day anyhow.

The next morning he saw me eating my breakfast & yelled out & asked me what I had to eat. I told him & asked him to come over & eat breakfast with me. he said he would do it if I would let him go back, which I agreed to. Down on the ground went his gun & over he came, & oh! you ought to have seen him eat & drink coffee. We talked & chatted quite a while when he concluded he would go back & away he went. The next day another fellow after making the same bargain came over & after seeing how much we had to eat in comparison with theirs concluded not to go back & went out on the "outpost" & told his comrads [sic.] to go to hell with their confederacy he was'nt going to fight for 'em any longer. Him I sent to Head Quarters. We frequently exchange papers...

Write often Morris

Six days later, Morris focused on what he expected to be a long campaign.

Camp near Bealton
Sunday evening

Oct. 11th /63

[To Smith Brown?]

Here we are, having left Culpepper [sic.] at 3 a.m. to day. Terrible march. The whole army is moving. Five different & distinct columns were on the road at once. We hear all sorts of rumors. One is Lee is again on his way into Pennsylvania. Another that he is making for Washington via Falmouth &c.

Of course we dont know yet what is up & cant tell for several days.

....Be sure & bring me that sole leather square valise. Fill it full of cake & Chestnuts. Bring me three pds of Emmons best chewing tobacco. I will write again soon.


The five different columns on the road portended renewed fighting. The Army of the Potomac's brief repose had been forced on General Meade when he had to send the Eleventh and Twelfth corps to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland the third week of September after its defeat at Chickamauga in Tennessee. Taking advantage of the reduced strength of Meade's army, General Lee launched a flank attack on October 9, sending Generals Richard Ewell's and A. P. Hill's corps across the Rapidan River.

The October Virginia Campaign had begun.

At 6:30 a.m. on October 13, 1864, after a bone-weary, thirty-six mile trek, the Second Corps, commanded by General Gouverneur K. Warren in place of the wounded Hancock, ordered the division of Generals John Caldwell and Alexander Hays to cross Cedar Run, just southeast of where the battles of Bull Run were fought. As they moved through the heavy fog, shells landed among Hays's surprised troops, killing eleven and wounding twelve. One shell alone killed seven men. Warren faced a terrible dilemma: "Attacked thus on every side, with my command separated by a considerable halt was to face annihilation, and to move as prescribed" was equally perilous.

The Union troops faced an enemy of unknown strength. The 126th New York was ordered to "Find out who is in those woods." It was a harrowing experience for company commanders, including Captain Brown, who were forced to rely on their wits to meet the attack. Brown offers a vivid account in an excerpt from his letter home:

Centreville Va.
Oct. 15th/63

My dear Parents:

Here we are again at old Centreville after our long & fatiguing march from the Rapidan...

Our Division carried the retreat. Yesterday morning about day break, having marched about a mile we were attacked by the enemy in force. Our Regt. was sent out as skirmishers & you can bet we had a "right smart" of a fight, but we drove them out of the woods in front of us, from which the 125th N.Y.V. was driven like so many sheep. A whole regiment of rebel cavalry charged on the right of our line where my company was but I "rallied on the right"—charged "bayonets" & broke their regiment in two parts—one part going to our rear when it was captured & the other repulsed. We (my Co. A) captured Col. Ruffian [Ruffin] (ex U.S. Senator from North Carolina) with his Adjt. & several enlisted men besides killing eight or ten enlisted men together with several horses.

You can bet my dear parents my company "did themselves up proud..." Gen. Hays remarked...The 126th have done nobly....This mornings work has covered them with glory..."

...Well this was'nt the end of our fighting yesterday by any means. The fight above mentioned happened at a little place called Auburn a little distance northeast from the railroad between Warrenton & Warrenton Junction.

This was only the start of Brown's combat that day. Before 9:30 a.m., with the road clear, the Second Corps struck out again. General Lee, acutely aware of the extended Union advance—and its vulnerability—advanced Major General A. P. Hill's Corps toward Bristoe Station. The goal was to destroy the Army of the Potomac piecemeal. Spotting General Sykes's Fifth Corps waiting to ford a swift moving stream, Hill mistakenly assumed that he had overtaken the rear of the long Army of the Potomac train and attacked the unsuspecting Union troops.

Both sides now wildly raced toward the raised railroad embankment at Bristoe Station, which offered the winners of the race a strong entrenchment.

Let's pick up from where Morris left off:

...After driving the rebels away from our front [at Auburn early in the morning] we marched out to Catletts Station... When within about a mile of Bristoe Station heavy firing commenced directly in our front. Well we hurried on & just as we came opposite the Station or a few rods south of it the rebs opened on our column, from the woods across the track.

Soon came the order "By the left flank, double quick, march" & away we went for the rail road which was directly toward the enemy & of all the showers of bullets that ever I passed through this was the worst.....The distance from where we started, to the track, was about thirty rods, across a plain with not a bush on it. Here we suffered severely. But we reached the track & got into the cut before the rebs had formed their line sufficiently to charge on us from the woods about twenty rods off.

Huddled up around it like so many sheep. Bang! Bang went the canister & spherical case into this crowd, —when they scattered for the woods & their whole line with them. We sent out our skirmishers immediately after them & captured that whole house full of rebs together with a great many others who gave themselves up voluntarily.

...By & by they formed & came out again but we repulsed them again. this ended the infantry fighting but the artillery kept up an incessant firing till dark.

We took (I mean our division) some three or four hundred prisoners with five pieces of artillery & killed some two or three hundred more. "Big thing!"

About nine oclock we started for Centreville—everything being done without a word being spoken by anyone for the prisoners reported Lee close to us with his whole force, & it was necessary for us to get out of that before morning or we would be overwhelmed with numbers. We could see the "sky lit up" for a long distance with their camp fires & by this the prisoners reports were confirmed.

We encamped...about four oclock this morning having accomplished one of the best, & hardest days work since I entered the service... Morris

Though praised by General Meade, Hays's men had paid dearly. Morris's company alone lost three killed, six wounded, leaving his company barely half of its usual complement of 100.

Five days later Captain Brown and his heroic regiment were bivouacked back at Bristoe Station, but there are no letters from him until December after an aborted campaign following the battles of Auburn and Bristoe. For now the Army of the Potomac was settled down in what was called "winter quarters."

The pause allowed Brown to enjoy a furlough, ostensibly to recruit new troops for the Second Corps. The editor of the Yates County Courier reported Captain Morris Brown, was "looking extremely well" when he visited the editor in Penn Yan mid January 1864 and again briefly in February.

When Morris returned in March a major army organization was occurring, beginning at the top, with the promotion of Ulysses S. Grant, the hero of the Western troops, to command the Union Army. Also the Army of the Potomac was reduced to three corps, retaining the Second, Fifth and Sixth corps. (The First Corps was incorporated into the Second, while the Third Corps was split between the Second and Fifth corps.) And there was an extra sense of urgency in camp, exacerbated for Morris by newly returned Lt. Colonel William Baird, who had recommended someone else to be the regimental major.

In Camp
April 7th 1864

...If [military committeeman Darius] Ogden has not gone to Albany [to see Governor Horatio Seymour] yet start him off immediately. If he succeeds, I will pay him well... Have him tell the Gov. [that] Baird recommended Munson simply because he is from Geneva & not through any military motives whatever. I wont be under Munson. No sir! If [Captain Winfield] Scott or [Captain Charles] Richardson got it I would not care so much; but I cannot & will not remain in this Regt. if Munson is placed over me. ...At any rate ...start [Ogden and Sunderlin] off to Albany, for I would rather spend that much money & be satisfied, than always to be thinking that perhaps I might have secured the commission by a little more work than otherwise would be accomplished or expended.

What do you think of my going into a darkey Regt? Answer definitely.

Your Aff son Morris

With impending battle, Brown's sense of urgency was justified. On April 9, General Grant informed Army of the Potomac commander Meade of his plans to move "all the armies...toward one common center." Grant had already directed Major General Nathaniel Banks to prepare to take Mobile, Alabama. General William T. Sherman was to oppose Confederate General Johnston and capture Georgia. General Franz Sigel was to control the Upper Shenandoah Valley, while General Burnside's IX Corps was directed to reinforce Meade, along with naval operations on the James River. Then, the clincher: "Lee's army will be your objective point. Wherever Lee goes, there you will be also." [Italics added.]

Yet, four days later, when nothing had happened, Morris again wrote home.

In Camp Wednesday 13th April 1864

...If Munson is made Major I intend to go before the board in Washington to be examined for a Field Officers commission in a darkey Regiment & if I fail then I am bound to resign...You see how I am situated. I have only six or eight men left in my command (the rest have been taken for a Provost Guard at Corps Head Qrs.) and I am unwilling to remain here & only command from five to ten men, or to expose my life leading that number of men into battle.

...Write me just exactly what you think of the matter providing it comes to a resignation. I can gain no more honor by remaining here with these few men, than I already have, & as for staying just for the pay I cant do it. Any young man who has any snap whatever can get in some kind of business which will be permanent, and I might as well commence now, as to wait until our regiment is mustered out [Aug. 1865].

...Have a petition signed by the prominent democrats of Yates County if you think it will do any good. It will be safe to tell the Gov. that Munson bought Bairds recommendation, and that he is a bitter republican... Morris

He was at it again two weeks later, and his tone was even more strident:

Camp of 126th Regt. N.Y.Vols. 3d Brig. 1st Div. 2d A. C. April 21st 1864

...I think it very singular pa does not write me about ...what the Gov. said when Ogden visited him &c, &c—who the prominent candidates are and all about it. Now I want to know all about these things....I want [Ogden] to go to Albany again .... It will certainly be too bad if any such man as Capt. Munson is made Major of this Regt. When that is done, then there is no doubt in my mind but the 126th Regt has seen its best days.

Neither of them Baird or Munson have character or stamina enough to sustain the reputation of a setting hen... Nothing in this world, next to entering Richmond, would please me as much as to be able to go back to Geneva with this Regt when its three years are up, & it is mustered out of the service. Wouldn't that be a proud day? I am confident that I have done my duty, as well as I know how...Capt. Scott and I are the only two Capts in the Regt who have not spent more or less of their time absent in Genl Hosptl or home on sick leave. I would a great deal rather he would be made Major [than Munson]...although I so thoroughly despise him.

I think mother you have a wrong idea about these colored troops. You know there is no one who more heartily despises a darkey than I do that is a worthless, shiftless, good for nothing nigger. But then you take a Regt. of them and properly drill and discipline them & if you dont have a good Regt. its your own fault. I have sent in my application for examination, & am posting [studying?] up hard & if I can get a Major commission I will take it....A salary from eighteen hundred to twenty five hundred is not to be sneezed at. The officers who go into Colored Regts are as far as I have any knowledge the very best officers in the army...

Try hard! Work fast! Do your duty!

Write often
Your aff. son Morris.

This is the unexpurgated Morris Brown. He would accept another's promotion only if merited, even if he despised the man, as in the case of Company C's Captain Winfield Scott. And, like many of his comrades, Brown was a unionist, not an abolitionist. His use of the offensive, but commonplace, term "nigger" underscores his feelings. Yet, he had such confidence in his leadership that he was convinced he could make an African American regiment as successful as any.

Brown's next letter, again excerpted, reveals not only the building tension but recognition of his mortality.

Camp near Stevensburg
Sunday morning May 1st 1864

My dearest sister Jennie
...I almost wish it would rain here, for every day of fine weather brings us nearer to the terrible battle which must be fought here in Virginia ere many days passed around. You can bet I aint "spiling for a fight" as I used to be....I have seen enough. The more battles a person gets in, the more he dreads the next. The only wonder to me now is, how anyone escapes unharmed. ...I dont believe this army was ever in as good a fighting condition as at present or it will be when we advance.

If Genl Lee has an army large enough to engage us this side of the defenses of Richmond, you can bet we are going to have a terrible battle. I hope and trust we will beat him, and that so badly so that an end to this war will soon come.

If I can only live to see Richmond ours & be able to return to Geneva with this regiment, if there aint more than twenty five of us left, I will be satisfied; and will feel that our effort[s] have not been in vain...

Your Aff. brother Morris

His next letter, a hastily written note without salutation and signed simply "Good by!!" revealed that the anticipated order to advance had been issued. Importantly, he is acting commander of the 126th New York.

May 3d 1864 4. P.M.

We march to night immediately after dark & will probably be in front of the rebel army to morrow or next day. I am in command of the Regt & have everything to do. Good by!!


Seven hours after scribbling these lines, Captain Brown and his regiment were marching toward the enemy. General Grant intended to interpose the Army of the Potomac between Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and Richmond, a big gamble. He had to maneuver close to 75,000 men and 4,000 trailing wagon trains through fifteen miles of scrub forest known as the Wilderness.

Seventeen days later Morris poured out his feelings to his brother Smith about the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and a near fatal engagement at the Po River just prior to Spotsylvania: On the bank of river Mattapony

May 20th 1864

[To Smith Brown]
Recd your short note my dear brother yesterday requesting particulars of our movements so far &c., &c. but as I am not in a very good condition for writing to day I can only give a very brief schedule of our progress so far.

We broke camp & left Stevensburg about eleven P.M. May 3d—crossed the Rapidan [River] at Elys Ford at daylight & marched to Chancellorsville where we remained until the next morning when we started for Spotsylvania C[ourt]. H[ouse].

When we had reached Todds Tavern our advance was stoped by the Rebs & after some little skirmishing we beat em out. Here we remained till dark when we fell in & marched up the [Brock] road leading from Germanna Ford to Spot. C.H. about six or eight miles when we came upon the rest of the army & they had been fighting all the afternoon. [This is the battle of the Wilderness]

Well we built breastworks along this road & awaited the attack which must begin at daybreak [May 6] for the rebel prisoners said they must have this road [the intersection of the Orange Plank Road and the Brock Road] or they were whipped.

At daylight the most furious musketry commenced that ever I heard. Oh! how it did rattle. About 7 a.m. we were ordered in & away we went throughout that terrible wilderness—coudn't see ten rods in front of us.

Well we drove the rebs at least a mile & a half but they being hurriedly re-inforced [by Longstreet's Corps] drove us clear back [on the Plank Road] behind our breast works & charged us again & again—planting their colors on our works.

This fight commenced at daylight & lasted till dark All musketry... The wilderness is so dense that cannon could not be used. This day the 126th [New York] lost 71 killed & wounded out of our 180. Such musketry I never heard!!! Here we remained during the next day without much fighting & that night (6th) the rebs left & we marched for Spot. C. H. where the 2d Corps had their big fight the next day (7th). The 8th had another terrible fight [Po River engagement] our Brigade covering the retreat of the 1st Div back across the river.

This was the worst place I ever was in yet for the rebs outnumbered so much that they nearly encircled us before we gave away & then the only way we escaped being taken prisoners was—the woods in our rear were afire & we plunged through this & the smoke being so thick they were afraid to follow us. They were so close on to us that they were yelling surrender & halt for ten rods before we entered the fire. Here Capt [Henry] Owen was killed & Capt [Ira] Munson mortally wounded—has since died.

Well we did'nt fight much more (that is our Brig.) except some skirmishing until the 12th. [Spotsylvania] On the 11th our Corps was on the extreme right of the line. Just after dark of the 11th we fell in & marched to the extreme left when arriving. Just before daylight the divisions of the corps were massed in "double column at half distance" preparatory to a great charge. As soon as we could see, the word forward was given & away we went, up quite a hill for the enemys works Their fire never stopped us a moment but over their works we went capturing [Major General Edward] Johnsons entire Division together with cannon & colors.

We here got all mixed & could not take their second line of works which were about a quarter of a mile in the rear of the first with an abattis such that we could not have climbed over even though there were no rebels behind to oppose us. This was probably the greatest & most successful charge of the war.

I was quite severely bruised on the knee just as I had mounted their breast works. Could'nt walk for two days but am all right now I have written incorrectly. We captured two lines of work but could not get the 3d. Here they fought all day... Well having fought all day we were relieved by the 6th Corps & kept as skirmishers until the 17th when our (1st) Division at daylight again charged the works [that] we failed to take the 12th (massed as before) & this time were repulsed. Our Brigade got up to the works & our colors (126) were planted on their works but we were forced to fall back, which we did & lay down not over thirty rods from their guns.

The other Brigades did not move up as close as we so that while we kept their guns silenced in our front they finally succeeded in training a battery on us from their (enemys) right & the grape & canister coming upon us we were compelled to fall back.

If the other Brigs had kept their guns silenced as well as we did we could have held our own ...Our thinned ranks show what hard fighting we have done I think our Brig. has lost half of the men we had when at Stevensburg. Our Regt has lost 121 out of 180... ...Have not changed my shirt for three weeks.

This has been a terrible campaign—ten times as bad as last summer ...Well I guess this is enough. We are in reserve now for the first time.

Write often Morris...

In an abrupt break from the past, there was no rest for the two opposing forces. Unlike his predecessors, General Grant had not withdrawn his army after the battle of the Wilderness and allowed it to lick its wounds. Instead, he intended "to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."

But he would learn a valuable lesson in early June at Cold Harbor, Virginia, where in a matter of a few hours he lost more men than in any comparable time period. It was, as some historians have labeled it, "murder, not war."

Here's how Morris Brown viewed what was happening:

June 5th/64

My dear mother & Jennie
I wont attempt to designate any particular place as Hd. Qrs. for we are all over Virginia every day. We now lie between Cold Harbor & the Chickahominy—perhaps a mile from the river.

...I am now sitting flat down in the dirt (for we cannot stand up for fear of the rebel sharpshooters) writing, all crouched up in a heap.

There is no invisible place I can inform you. ...Could you but know our situation & then compare it with those at home!

But I am glad you cannot. I believe I am getting nervous. Oh! such scenes as I have passed through during the last four weeks. I now think that if I get out of this place alive—even though I may lose an arm or a leg I will be a fortunate man. ...Anyone who comes out of this campaign alive is a very fortunate being surely.

For the last thirty days I have either been in one fight or a skirmish nearly every day or have witnessed other regiments get all cut to pieces which is about as bad.

They are getting so they dont care or notice a fight down here when only lose four or five hundred in killed & wounded. Our lines in some places are not over thirty rods from the enemys & you can bet we have to keep down.

The situation had changed little a week later, according to a letter to his brother Smith.

Near Coal [Cold] Harbor Sunday
June 12/64

You know too well the danger I am constantly in, but while I hope I may come out all right I feel that my chances are slight. If I get off with the loss of a leg or an arm I shall be satisfied.

We have actually been under fire every day since the 5th of May—although a good many of these days we lay in rifle pits & were secure. But I think there have been but very few days of that time that we (our brigade) have not lost more or less in killed or wounded. The lines are now in one front not over four rods apart—that is the rifle pits & not the skirmish lines.

We are living as it were in our own graves. Every one has his own hole dug so as to escape the fire of the Johnnys mortars for both sides are using them now. We are having a regular old siege now, & consequently dont do much else but skirmish & dig.

We have underground roads dug to the front—so we can pass around from one pit to the other. Great times these! ...I think Grant will mass a heavy force & pitch into the Johnnys right flank. At present we are at a halt. We don't seem to be doing anything. There "has got" to be a terrible battle fought here ere many days pass... Morris

Indeed, General Grant planned to "pitch into the Johnnys." But learning the lesson of Cold Harbor, he would circumvent Richmond, cross the James River and capture the Confederacy's lightly guarded railroad center at Petersburg. The maneuver went well at first, utterly surprising the Confederates. But like too many other plans, lack of coordination caused the attack to fail, leading to the siege of Petersburg, beginning June 15, 1864.

Grant then tried direct assaults on now heavily fortified Petersburg, one of which Morris Brown describes in a letter home:

Near Petersburg Va.
June 18th 1864

My dear parents Well I am all right yet, but oh! what terrible fighting we have had for the last two or three days. Night before last we (our brigade) charged the enemys works, took three but with some loss. Col. Baird was killed also Lt. McDonald. Capt. Richardson was very severely wounded in upper jaw—probably will not live. Adjt. Lincoln has his left arm off & Lt. Dibble badly wounded in leg. Three enlisted men killed & seventeen wounded. We only have seventy muskets [men] so you can see our loss is very severe particularly in officers... Capt. [Sanford] Platt & I are the only two officers left who were with the Regt. when we left Stevensburg.... ...Such fighting I never saw before, & such narrow escapes I never had. A merciful Providence & a God who hear the prayers of the dear ones at home is certainly protecting me.

...My faith is stronger than ever....I picked up a testament during the battle of the Wilderness on the 7th day of May & since then it has been my constant companion...death has none of the terrors it formerly did. Col. McDougall Comdg. our brigade just told us we probably would charge the city of Petersburg to night....We will try it hard anyway...

Good bye again
Your aff. Son Morris

Thus, not quite twenty-three years old, Morris Brown was now the senior regimental officer. His next excerpted letter offered an ominous warning to his brother. The fighting was too fierce. One Brown family member risking his life was enough.

June 20th 1864

My dear brother ...If you run the risk of being ordered back for heavens sake dont be mustered. Keep out of this. Resign rather than return here. You have done your duty. Now mind what I say. do not get mustered if you have to come back here...

Your brother Morris

A second letter that same day, again condensed, had an even more urgent tone:

June 20th
My dear brother ... I have heard that we were going back to reorganize—that is the Corps. Certainly it is necessary for you never will believe how badly we have been cut up. The loss of this many will never be known only by a few. 75,000 I believe wont cover it. Grant cant take Richmond. He may in some way compell them to evacuate the city but as for capturing it with Lee's army there is all nonsense. We can & have whipped the rebs in every open fight but when they get behind their breastworks then we must keep away.

Good bye Morris.

Do not get mustered yet & resign if you have to come here.

Morris's gloom was dispelled some by good news which he duly proclaimed to his parents:

June 20th 1864

My dear father ...Enclosed you will find a letter from Col. McDougall to Gov. Seymour...Be sure & preserve a copy of this letter...

The letter amply attested to Morris Brown's bravery and leadership.

Head Quarters 3d Brig 1st Div 2d Corps
In the field June 17, 1861 [1864]

To His Excellency
Horatio Seymour
Gov of New York

I most respectfully call your attention to the case of Capt Morris Brown Jr 126th New York Vol. During the fearful charge of last night after his Colonel was killed he assumed command of the Reg and behaved with great gallantry. After reaching the enemies works and driving them out, Capt Brown performed several acts of personal daring which called forth my highest praise at the time. Going at my request from the right to the left and in person ascertaining the position of the enemy upon our flanks, being all the time under a heavy fire.

His conduct upon this occasion was such as in my judgment entitled him to promotion and I most respectfully recommend that your excellency promote him to the position of field officer in his Regt. Capt Brown is an officer of high order & intelligence and entirely capable of filling any office to which he may be promoted.

His own conduct as well as that of his Reg and his lamented Colonel Baird (who was killed) were splendid. The Brigade losing in the charge about 1/2 of their number of enlisted men, and nearly 2/3 the number of commissioned officers present.

Trusting Capt Brown's case may meet with your early attention I have the
Honor to remain Your obedient servant

C D Mac Dougall
Col 111th N.Y. Vols.
Comdg 3d Brig 1st Div 2d Corps

However, Morris would not live to enjoy the promotion he had so ardently sought and that MacDougall had recommended. Brown's "personal daring" had cost him his life, the first announcement of which came from Surgeon Hammond, the family friend. Petersburgh [sic.]June 22 [1864]

Mr. Brown
I have to announce to you the painful news of the death of Morris. He was killed yesterday while leading the Regiment in a charge by a ball in the head. His death was instantaneous. I have not as yet been able to get his body. The Brigade fell back and he was left between the lines.

I am making every effort possible to get his body and hope to succeed.

I have his property & papers. His watch I presume is lost. You may rest assured that I will do all in my power aided by Col. McDougall to secure him decent burial where his remains can be had when a proper time comes for their removal. Morris was a noble man and fell on the field without a blemish or a blott upon his character. I need not say how much I shall miss him...

I will write again soon. F. M. Hammond

Three weeks later Surgeon Hammond provided details:

City Point July 12th 64

Mr Brown

I have received your letters and should have answered them before only that I wanted to get reliable facts to satisfy you as to the manner of Morris death and also about his body....I assure you I done all I could to get his body. I offered $200 for it a sum I would gladly have paid.

Col McDougall and Capt. Platt ...were out in search of him [Morris]. Bill Hayner [Hainer] & Pat Manley went out on my solicitation and the promised reward near to where he fell than any others. They did not see the body, were fired on and had to return....[Warren] Allen brought me his sword without scabbard or belt He always carried his sword naked [without a scabbard] & never wore a belt when in battle or on a march in fact did not own either. Capt. Platt gave the sword to Allen. I do not think he had any amount of money on his person. His papers & clothes I have. His watch is lost. I will send his valise containing his private papers as soon as I can find some reliable person going to Washington...

...I assure you I feel his loss very much. I admired him for his many good qualities. He was brave, generous and noble. A true man in every sense of the word....

...I sincerely sympathize with you and [your wife]...

Yours Truly

F. M. Hammond
Surgeon 126th NYV
in Charge 1st Division
2d Corps Hospital City Point Va

Captain Morris Brown's body was never recovered. In fact, nothing was done to mark his death until the 1990s, when a stone bearing a bronze plaque was placed near his brother Smith's grave in Penn Yan's Lakeview Cemetery. However, on March 6, 1869, Morris was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor. Sadly, both Morris's mother and brother Smith also were dead.

Morris Brown, Jr.'s story is not unique, but it is a poignant reminder of a dark period in American history and the sacrifices many families made.

Fortunately, Morris' Brown Jr.'s memory was kept alive either by his sister, Jennie, or a like-named niece who maintained a scrapbook containing the bulk of Morris's letters to his family. It is now being preserved as a testament to a young man not yet in his prime who made the ultimate sacrifice.

© 2005, Wayne Mahood
Part 1
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