John Clay Brown of the 14th Brooklyn (NYSM) is the author of this letter describing the condition of corpses discovered on the battlefield of First Bull Run on his return there in March, 1862. At the time of the battle he was a private in Company D. Biographical information, the letter, and the photo below are courtesy of Dr. Thomas Clemens of Keedysville, MD. When he enlisted in the 14th Brooklyn, he was 5′ 6″ tall, with blue eyes, auburn hair and light complexion. Brown’s pension file includes various depositions, indicating he was a color bearer at the Battle of Groveton on August 18, 1862, where he suffered sunstroke which eventually forced him from the ranks and sent him to hospital in Washington. He returned to his regiment, with the flag he had kept in his possession, in time to participate in the Battle of Antietam. He remained with the regiment throughout the winter and spring, and was wounded and captured at Gettysburg. After imprisonment at Libby Prison and Belle Isle in Richmond, he was exchanged in September 1863, after which he rejoined the 14th Brooklyn. At the end of his three year enlistment, he signed on for another three year hitch, doing so in part for a $900 bonus. In May 1864, the 14th Brooklyn was consolidated into the 5th New York Veteran Infantry. On June 2, Brown was again captured, at Bethesda Church. In South Carolina, he fell from a railroad car injuring his back. He was released from the prison at Andersonville, GA on December 13, 1864, weighing just 85 pounds. While recovering and awaiting exchange in Annapolis, MD, Brown learned he had been promoted to lieutenant in command of Company I of the 5th NY Veteran Infantry. He rejoined the regiment and was present at the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox.
After the war, Brown suffered from the physical effects of his service and was unable to do heavy labor. He suffered dizziness from his sunstroke and wore a truss for a hernia. He had a light mercantile business for a time, and applied for a pension in 1884. When the pension was granted in 1886, Brown was living in Newburgh, NY. He moved west, with the last residence in the pension records being Talent, OR. His date of death and place of burial are not known.
John Clay Brown: Born 10/4/1842; raised Brooklyn, NY; enlisted in 14th Booklyn (NY) State Militia (later desingated 84th NY Infantry) on 4/18/1861; mustered into Company D 5/23/1861; wounded and captured, 7/1/1863, Gettysburg, PA; POW Libby Prison and Belle Isle, Richmond, VA; returned to company, date unknown; re-enlisted 2/12/1864; transferred to Company A, 5th NY Veteran Infantry when 14th Brooklyn consolidated into that regiment in 5/1864; captured 6/2/1864 at Bethesda Church, VA; POW Andersonville, GA, 6/8/1864; paroled Charleston, SC 12/13/1864; mustered as 1st Lieutenant, 5th NY Veteran Infantry 5/17/1865; mustered out of service 8/21/1865 Hart’s Island, NY. Date and place of death and interment unknown.
Sources: http://www.14thbrooklyn.info/DBROWN.HTM (9/20/2008); letter and biographical information provided by Dr. Thomas Clemens, copies in site owner’s collection.