“He Was Our Father, We His Boys”

DBF

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“And there grand old Chaplain Brown, now swift from the caissons springing,
Rushes with rations of cartridge, feeding the patriots' guns;
Now by the wounded and dying kneels down where the bullets are singing,
Faithful to fight for his country or pray for the souls of her sons.”

Extract from a poem by Rev. Theron Brown, Norwood, Mass., read at the
reunion of the Twenty-first Regiment Connecticut Volunteers at Wiiimantic
May 14, 1880.

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21st Connecticut Chaplain - Thomas G. Brown
Public Domain

On April 21, 1863, Methodist minister and newly commissioned officer, Rev. Thomas G. Brown became the Chaplain of the 21st Connecticut Volunteer Regiment. Rev. Brown came from a strong New England family. His family left England and eventually settled in New Hampshire. Chaplain Brown’s father had been one of the early colonists that met the British Army at the battle of Bunker Hill. The Chaplain was one of 15 children born of a woman who was known for her “strong Yankee” personality. His date of birth is “unknown”, but it was believed to be approximately 1800. The war of 1812 saw his 3 older brothers in the army, he enlisted toward the close of war but did not see active service.

His wife, Caroline Maria Daniels, could trace her ancestors in America to the Mayflower. They were the parents of 3 sons and a daughter. Rev. Brown spent most of his adult life as a traveling Methodist minister and life at times would be difficult for the family, but they were a close-knit family.

When the war began they were living in Connecticut. Eldest son, Henry was an assistant paymaster for the United States Navy serving with the Atlantic and Gulf squadron, youngest son, Eben, also served as a paymaster clerk in the United States Navy during the war, but it was his middle son, Delos Daniel that served in the Union Army and enlisted in the 21st Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, assigned to Company “H”. Frederick W.H. Buell became Rev. Brown’s son-in-law when he married his only daughter and youngest child - Caroline in 1862, he too enlisted in the 21st Connecticut, Company “H”. Unfortunately, the marriage would be short lived as he would die from illness in January of 1865 in his 26th year.


Connecticut Calls

The 21st Connecticut were in Virginia one morning when they heard the deep ring of solemn-toned church bells calling the civilians to worship. One soldier remarked - - -

[they were] “reminding us of the Sabbaths in old New England and the days and scenes of long ago, the sound of the " long roll fell suddenly upon our ears, calling us to other duties, and forcibly reminding us that, though the Sabbath was made for man, it was not made for the soldier.” {2}

There was no “day of rest” for the soldier and when 64-year old Thomas G. Brown reported for duty as their Chaplain, they never knew how dedicated he would be in duties. He was a man of strong Christian character, and had a sincere desire to serve. He was compassionate to his soldiers, lending a sympathetic ear when required, ministered to the wounded, gave encouragement to those who were fearful. His humbleness shone through his day, whether in camp, or on an active battlefield. His men quickly grew to love him.


Battle of Proctor’s Creek/Drewry’s Bluff/Fort Darling
May 16, 1864

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View from within Fort Darling of the James River taken during the Civil War.

Library of Congress

The 21st Connecticut were assigned to fight with General Benjamin Butler during his Bermuda Hundred campaign. On May 16, 1864, the Connecticut troops advanced to within 3 miles of Drewry’s Bluff, before Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard successfully drove them back. For the 21st regiment their fighting came to a climax during this battle. The casualties were costly for the Connecticut boys in blue. Fighting at times was so desperate that soldiers observed their “sturdy old chaplain” grabbing an axe to open the ammunition boxes and help speed up the distribution. It was also during this battle where Chaplain Brown was observed at his best - - -

“Death was thinning our ranks and anon the good Chaplain, having supplied munitions of war to those in need, was beckoned to the side of a dying soldier. ‘Are you badly hurt, my boy?’ said the old man. ‘Oh, yes, sir, I expect I’ve got to die.’ ‘Are you a Christian?’ ‘Yes, sir, I hope I am.’ ‘Well then, thank God, let us pray.’ And down on bended knees by the dying man's side sank the fearless minister, and with bared head, looking up to Heaven, lifted his soul in prayer that God would receive the departing spirit.

Meanwhile the air was alive with leaden hail, and the roar at times drowned the firmly spoken words of him that prayed. But God could hear. Those of us who witnessed the scene will never forget it, nor will they ever cease to honor the fighting old Chaplain of the Twenty-first, Rev. Thomas G. Brown.” {2}

By the end of the day another name was added to those wounded - - -

May 23, 1864.
Brigadier-General H. J. Morse,
Adjutant-General Connecticut.

General — I have the honor to transmit the following list of killed, wounded and missing from this regiment, in the action of May 16, 1864, near Drewry's Bluff, Va.:

Captain C. T. Stanton, wounded severely.
Captain J. M. Shepard, wounded severely.
First Lieutenant William S. Hubbell, wounded slightly.
First Lieutenant Alvin M. Crane, wounded slightly.
Second Lieutenant Aaron S. Dutton, wounded badly.
Chaplain Thomas G. Brown, wounded slightly.
{2}


He stayed on the field until the regiment fell back. The next day it was noticed that he had suffered a wounded, he replied that it was “nothing, just a scratch”. Not only was he their Chaplain - on that day he became the 21st’s hero and had earned the love of every soldier.


The War Ends & Reunions

Chaplain Thomas Brown survived the war and his wounds. He returned to his duties and continued to “fatherly” minister to his “boys”. On June 16, 1865, he mustered out of the United State's service.

When many soldiers of the 21st, first saw their Chaplain back in 1863, they could not believe that he would “never in this world” keep up with the rigors of camp life. Rev. Brown proved them all wrong and as a soldier wrote - - -

“He was a quiet, unpretentious man, doing all that was possible for the physical, as well as spiritual, well being of even the most humble man in the regiment.” {1}

He loved attending the 21st’s regimental reunions. During his appearance at one reunion, they presented him with a gold-headed cane. He was deeply touched and emotional and when he was able to speak, he turned to his beloved boys and said - - -

“I don’t see what I have ever done that you boys love me so”. {1}

Chaplain Brown died in 1885 and on Good Friday of that year members of the 21st Connecticut Infantry Volunteers gathered to say their last goodbyes to their fallen leader. They all agreed “He was our father, we his boys”. Below is a beautiful tribute the author’s write - - -

“His memory is still with us, and his benign countenance, his sturdy form, his pleasant words, his cheerful smile, as he met with us at our yearly reunions, are a recollection always with us, and the influence of his service and life is a heritage which will always be ours.” {2}

* * * * * * *

“His epitaph, written in the hearts
of his comrades, is Duty and Love.”​

49094625_126784813665.jpg

Lakeview Cemetery
East Hampton, Connecticut

Find A Grave - C. Greer




Sources
1. Heroes for All Time: Connecticut Civil War Soldiers Tell Their Stories, by Dione Longley, Buck Zaidel
2. “The story of the Twenty-first regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, during the Civil War. 1861-1865”, by United States. Army. Connecticut Infantry Regiment, 21st; Hubbell, William Stone, 1837-1930; Brown, Delos D., 1838- [from old catalog]; Crane, A. M. (Alvin Millen), b. 1839
3.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/49094625/thomas-gibson-brown
 

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luinrina

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By the end of the day another name was added to those wounded - - -
For a moment I thought there would be a "wounded fatally" behind his name. I'm glad that wasn't the case!

I'm always amazed at what these men accomplished, no matter whether young or old. I imagine it takes a lot of courage to calmly remain at the side of a dying soldier when the bullets could hit you any moment.

Especially interesting I find his pose for his picture.

Thank you for sharing Chaplain Brown's story with us, Donna! :thumbsup:
 


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