Pvt. John Clay Brown, 14th Brooklyn, on his Return to the Battlefield

18 09 2008

This is an exerpt of a letter written by a member of Company D, 14th Brooklyn recounting his return to the First Bull Run battlefield in March of 1862, around the time of many of the photographs you can view here.  A transcription of this letter was provided to Bull Runnings by Dr. Thomas Clemens of Keedysville, MD.  This post includes a short biography and photograph of the author, John H. C. Brown.  Only the greeting, the first paragraph, part of the third paragraph, and closing are reproduced below.  The “Sister” to whom the letter is addressed is Brown’s friend Mary Emma Chalmers, Dr. Clemens’ great-great grandmother.  See the full letter here.

Virginia, March 24th, 1862

Dear Sister,

Having great confidence in you abilitys of endurance I even now dare to address you even 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 and proceeded to Fair Fax, 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 my boots off 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] Did they think the Army of the Potomac would halt before that [ ? ]  They could not have thought that, it was but a faint to keep us back to allow them to have more time.  Well we pressed on and halted three miles 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 [Cub] run.  Well after being there the third day we all donned our red pants and marched to Centreville there we stacked arms and the Gen. gave us leave to visit the old Battle ground.  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 not one, two, yes ten of [ ? ] our boys unburied, all not one had a head on, oh the rebels will feel the effect of our sorrow when we meet them again.  How soon that meeting will take place I do not know but we hope [ ? ] the sooner the better.  The next day we sent a squad of men to bury them and mark the spot also where they lay.

[Second paragraph]

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 days 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 and shame, a disgrace to God and to their country.

[Fourth paragraph]

[Fifth paragraph]

Your affectionate friend,

John C. Brown