Morris Brown, Jr., is a Hero
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
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
[To Smith Brown, excerpted]
Here we are yet. not moved since I last wrote you. ...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
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
Write often Morris
Six days later, Morris focused on what he expected to be a long campaign.
Camp near Bealton
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 stream...to
halt was to face annihilation, and to move as prescribed" was equally
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:
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 &
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...
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
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
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
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
...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
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
...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!
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
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
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
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
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
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,
Here's how Morris Brown viewed what was happening:
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
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
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...
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
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 
To His Excellency
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
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 
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
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
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
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]...
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
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
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