Johnson County Historical &

    Genealogical Society

 

"LEST WE FORGET"

by John B. Wells III
 

During the ceremonies surrounding the dedication of The Johnson County Confederate Monument last Summer, an elderly woman approached me and asked if I'd like to see an old photograph of her grandfather. Almost too busy to listen, I politely followed her to her chair under a nearby tree. There she uncovered a beautiful likeness of a handsome young man, sitting proudly in a gray shell jacket with a cavalry saber in one hand and a pistol in the other. The dedication ceremony was forgotten, and Susie Brown Hitchcock proceeded to weave a fascinating tale of a young North Carolina man who left his Tar Heel home to fight with General Robert E. Lee, and how he finally made it to Johnson County, Kentucky. Her story ended on a typically sad note, in that her ending was similar to the cases of most of the mountain Confederates. Her grandfather was buried in 1913, in a family cemetery at Sitka, beneath a plain, simple marker, without mention of his heroic service to the South. He was buried in the same cemetery with a relative by marriage who fought for the Union, who has a beautiful Government grave marker pronouncing his Union service. Her grandfather was yet another mountain Confederate forgotten by his family and his country, save his elderly granddaughter.

John Brown was born in Ashe County, North Carolina, on February 24, 1831, and grew to maturity in the beautiful hill country of western North Carolina. About 1850, he married Nancy ________ and had at least two children, Henry, born in 1851, and Caroline, born in 1859, both in Ashe County. On May 7, 1862, Brown left his family and enlisted in the Confederate Army, as a private in Company A of the 9th North Carolina State Troops (also called the 1st North Carolina Cavalry). This company was made up of entirely Ashe County men on April 23, 1861, and had already seen considerable action with J.E.B. Stuart's Cavalry. By May 1862, Company A was back in North Carolina defending the railroads around Weldon. Brown joined his company at Weldon, but in August the company was ordered to join the Army of Northern Virginia, under Gen. Robert E. Lee. As a part of Hampton's Cavalry Brigade, the 1st North Carolina Cavalry saw heavy action during Lee's Maryland Campaign. On October 10th the regiment accompanied Gen. Stuart on his incursion into Pennsylvania, making a circuit around the Yankee Army, marching eighty-five miles twenty-seven hours.

Although the 1st North Carolina Cavalry was not officially engaged during the Second Battle of Manassas, apparently, Private Brown and a detachment of the 1st did see action. After the battle, regimental records listed Brown as among the wounded "in action". His wound must have been slight because he was again in action on November 5, 1862, at the Battle of Barbee's Cross Roads when the regiment lost four killed and seventeen wounded and captured in a furious cavalry charge against the Federals. The next significant action came on June 9, 1863, at the Battle of Brandy Station, where the 1st made two charges, capturing the battle flag of the 10th New York Cavalry, and routing them. During the Gettysburg Campaign, the cavalry again saw action. On July 2nd, they engaged Union cavalry at Hunterstown, Pennsylvania, and on the 3rd, fought on the left of the Army at Hanover. After the defeat at Gettysburg, the North Carolina boys fought constantly as a rear guard until finally disengaged on July 11, 1863, at Hagerstown, Maryland.

The 1st North Carolina remained with Stuart's command until the General was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, then it was transferred to Gen. W.H.F. Lee's Division, where it remained until April 1865. As a part of this division, the 1st fought at Cold Harbor, Strawberry Plains, Sappony Church, White's Tavern, and many other smaller engagements. As the war was coming to an end, the 1st was again called on to protect Lee's Army with a desperate charge at the Battle of Five Forks, on March 31, 1865. However, the Federals could not be stopped and Lee was forced to surrender on April 9, 1865, at nearby Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Private John Brown did not surrender at Appomattox. He and a small detachment of the 1st Cavalry broke through Federal lines and made their way to Lynchburg, Virginia, where they planned to re-group and attempt to join Confederate forces still in the field in North Carolina. However, they were surrounded and forced to surrender on April 23, 1865. Private Brown's parole listed him as a "Pvt, Co. A, 9th Regt, Lee's Cavalry".

Pvt. John Brown returned to Ashe County, but the Carpetbagger government left him little choice but to move out of State. In 1868, he moved to Floyd County, Kentucky, where he married his second wife, Angeline Blackburn, on October 7, 1868. Angeline died in 1872, and in 1873, John married for the third time to Lucinda Catherine Harmon. By 1900, the Brown family moved to Johnson County into the Sitka community where he farmed until his death on July 3, 1913.

At his death, there was no elaborate funeral, no headline in the local newspaper announcing that one of "Jeb" Stuart's cavalrymen had died. No announcement appeared that one of Robert E. Lee's "brave rebs" had passed on. That will change ... the Gen. Humphrey Marshall Camp, SCV, has received a beautiful marble marker for his grave which will be placed soon. It will announce to the World that John Brown was a CONFEDERATE SOLDIER.

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