John Daniel Brownley born 1816

The story of Judge John Brownlee of Indiana, USA


Civil War Experiences of John Daniel Brownley submitted by Alvin Brownley

The letters, medallions and newspaper clippings about the life and experiences of John Daniel Brownley have descended through the generations. They have passed down the line until they have come into the possession of Alvin Brownley, great-great-grandson of John Daniel Brownley. The following letter by John Wesley is an autobiographical sketch concerning his experiences during the Civil War. The original letter was written in longhand.

"J. D. Brownley born September 21, 1844 in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, of Scotch parents, moved with his parents to Logan County, Ohio in 1848. Enlisted November 13, 1861 in Company K 57 O.V.V.J. Went into camp at Finley, Hancock County, Ohio then to Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio. Went by railroad to Cincinnati, Ohio, took river steamer on the Ohio River. Went into camp at Paducah, Kentucky then up the Tennessee River to Pittsburg Landing. Went into camp close to the Shiloh Church on the morning (about sun-up) of April 6, 1862. I heard the first Rebel bullets about the 10th of the same month on the march to Cornith, Mississippi. It rained on us during the day and that night I laid in water.

"About 2 o'clock I was taken with cramps, externally and internally. Got to the doctor the next morning at 8 o'clock. I wasn't able to walk, I was sent to the hospital, stayed a day or two, crawled on my hands and knees to my regiment. So when my regiment moved, the ambulance moved me. I was three months before I was able for duty. While still weak, I went swimming in Wolfe River, came near drowning.

"Went into camp at Memphis, Tennessee stayed there to some time in the fall of 1862. Got on a steamer (called the Omaha) on the Mississippi River with 30 other boats (Sherman in command). Three boats went down the river to the Yazoo River and went up it a short way, disembarked and took up positions in the night. It was called the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou.

"We laid in line of battle for several days. One night an officer came along, shook each of us and told us not to speak and to follow the man ahead of us. They wrapped the cannon wheels and we went to the boats, embarked up the Mississippi River (our regiment was on the Omaha) went up the Arkansas River to an Arkansas Post. After several hours (we were within 20 steps of their breastworks), they surrendered.

"On to the old Omaha again, back up the river a few miles, burnt a lot of corn. Went back down the river to the Mississippi river then down to Young's Point, Louisiana, it's a few miles up-river from Vicksburg, Mississippi. Here's a diagram of the river. (Note: At this point in the letter, Brownley attempts to diagram Vicksburg and the surrounding landscape. The following four lines are the captions used in the drawing.)

"Vicksburg. The canal Grant dug or had dug but it didn't work. Young's Point (we were at this place for awhile). I helped to dig this canal.

"Several boats ran the gauntlet past the Confederate batteries, went down the river a few miles below Vicksburg. The army marched on the Louisiana side of the river to where the boats were, crossed the river, marched and skirmished the Rebs until we found them in Vicksburg. Two different times we made assaults on their breastworks. The last day we got up within a few yards of their works and had to stay till the night before we could go back but kept firing all day.

"On the 4th of July, 1863, they surrendered. They marched out of their works and laid down their arms. We did some maneuvering out from Vicksburg. We embarked on boats at Vicksburg and went up the Mississippi River to Memphis, Tennessee, disembarked, marched across to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"We had a battle called Missionary Ridge. I wasn't in on this one, I was a guard at General F. P. Blair's headquarters. On New Year's Day, 1864, I re-enlisted. We had nothing but parched corn at that time.

"Went home on furlough March 1st, 1864 to April 1st, 1864. Went to Huntsville, Alabama and soon after started on what was called the Atlanta Campaign. Our first battle was at Resaca, Georgia. Then skirmished from there to Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864 (Sherman in command now).

"We had a hard fight, we tried to go up the mountain (it was steep), we didn't go but while we was engaging the Johnnies, some of the Union troops flanked. Then our next hard battle was Atlanta, Georgia. This was July 22nd, 1864.

"Oh, I will never forget that time! I can see in my mind the very place I stood and when I looked around right behind me were the Rebs. Well, I fired my last shot, laid down my gun, went and hunted out my knapsack from the rest of the company's knapsacks and I was a prisoner. Your Uncle Alex was taken prisoner at the same time.

"Well, we went to Andersonville (Georgia) Prison. Oh, such a sight that our eyes seen when we entered. Well, I can't describe it. Well, we were shown a place to lay, so I bought three small sticks for $5.00. We took our knives, throwed up a mound of dirt, stretched our blanket on the sticks and laid our poncho (rubber blanket) down. So we had a good place.

"We got our water in a small stream. The Rebs had their horses up at the head of it, then just outside of the stockade was the cookhouse right on the little stream. And all the slop went into it. I was hungry all the time I was in there.

"There were two stockades around the prison. It was logs set close together five feet in the ground and probably 15 feet high. Guards stationed at intervals on top of the stockade in board boxes. Inside of the stockade 20 feet from it was the dead line, made of stakes set into the ground with poles nailed on top of them. The guards told us they got a 30 day furlough for every Yank or prisoner they shot. They had orders to shoot everyone that got against the dead line. So all a prisoner had to do if he wanted to get out of his misery was to touch it.

"After two long months of boarding at that hotel, the evening of September 21, 1864 (that was the happiest birthday I ever had), my name with quite a few others was called, and we went out of prison, marched up to the station, was put on freight cars and was gave more to eat (cornbread, navy beans, molasses and sowbelly) than we had in 10 days while in prison. I was hungry, I ate all before I quit, that was about sundown. During the night, I took sick, had dysentery, then flu. I was convalescent at Chattanooga, Tennessee during the winter of '64-'65.

"Made a trip with a drove of cattle from Chattanooga to Nashville, Tennessee. Some time in March of 1865, took the train to Louisville, Kentucky, then took a river steamer on the Ohio River to Cincinnati, Ohio, then on a train by way of Columbus, Ohio to New York City, New York. Boarded an ocean steamer, after four days and nights, disembarked some place in South Carolina. Not getting with my regiment, I again boarded an ocean steamer, landed in North Carolina and after a short march, came to my regiment in Raleigh, North Carolina. While on this rip, Lincoln was assassinated. Soon after, the Rebs surrendered.

"We then marched from Raleigh to Washington D.C. by way of Richmond, Virginia. Was in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. Took the train by way of Harper's Ferry to the Ohio River. Took a river steamer down to Louisville, Kentucky. After staying a few days, again on a river steamer down the Ohio River into the Mississippi River. Down to the White River, up to Rebel's Bluff, Arkansas, on a train to Little Rock, Arkansas.

"Was discharged at Little Rock, Arkansas on August 11, 1865 (enlisted November 13, 1861). Served my country 3 years, 5 months, and 28 days. Returned home.

"So my military life was done and I have never been sorry that I done my part to keep the United States united, or in other words, helped to put down the rebellion and to take the shackles off a downtrodden race. Yet I say, down with the traitors, the Union forever.

J.D. Brownley

The following is an article from the College Place, Washington newspaper dated May 28, 1938.

"Brownley Believes He Is The Last Of His Outfit"

COLLEGE PLACE, May 28 - John D. Brownley, 94, is probably the only remaining G.A.R. member of the former A. Lincoln Post of Walla Walla, and claims to be the only surviving member of his Company K., Ohio Veteran's Volunteer Infantry, in which he saw duty during almost the entire Civil War. He enlisted with Sherman in November, 1861, and while he took part in some of the bloodiest engagements of the war, he emerged without a bullet wound or a scratch. His worst experience was two months' stay in the notorious Andersonville Prison, where 33,000 men were penned into an enclosure of 17 acres, conditions and suffering were indescribable, causing the death of 14,000.

Private Brownley's first engagement was in the latter part of the first Battle of Shiloh. Skirmishes on the Arkansas River and the Yazoo River preceded the long siege of Vicksburg, where he helped man the fortifications during the period when the Northern ships ran the gauntlet of the Southern fort.

Following the fall of Vicksburg, Brownley saw service in Tennessee, and later took part in the Battles of Kennesaw Mountain and Resaca, Georgia. It was during the Battle of Atlanta that he was taken prisoner and removed to Andersonville, where followed two months of acute suffering and starvation. Released in an exchange of prisoners, he was given a several days ration of corn bread and raw pork, which he ate at once and was made violently ill. It was during this period of convalescence that Sherman and his men marched to the sea. Lincoln's assassination occurred while Brownley was enroute from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he had rejoined his regiment, to New York. He marched in the Great Victory Parade in Washington, D.C., and was later sent to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was mustered out in the summer of 1865.

Mr. Brownley is still hale in body and quite active, in spite of failing eyesight. He stated that he had cut and split nearly three cords of wood for his own use during the winter. He does considerable work in his garden, and is considered an authority on rose culture.

He is now considering an invitation to be the guest of the U.S. Government at the observance of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, when all G.A.R. veterans will bivouac on the famous battlefield from June 29 until July 6 of this year. He will be provided with an attendant and all expenses will be paid if he attends.

"I have seen the coming of nearly all the modern inventions," Mr. Brownley said, and told of his boyhood in Ohio. Born in 1844, Ohio was then heavily wooded and Indians were a constant menace. The log houses were built without nails and heated by fireplace. A twist of cotton in a dish of oil constituted their only light. Shoes were made by the traveling shoemaker, from leather tanned with white oak bark. The rough floors were swept by brooms made from tree twigs. "There are no forests there now," he said. "and yet, we had better times those days than they do now, " he said wistfully. Spelling bees at the schools, apple "cuttins", log rollings, horse races and wrestling provided recreation and interest in the region around Bellefontaine, the county seat.

Mr. Brownley lived for many years after the war in Missouri, where he farmed and where four sons, one now 71, still live. A daughter lives in Kansas City.

Elder A.J. Breed, also a resident of College Place, enlisted in the army, but was not mustered, since his enlistment came at the close of the war. "When Lee heard I had enlisted, he simply gave up and surrendered," is his favorite comment on the subject.

In a letter from John D. Brownley to his son William J. Brownley in Bogard, Missouri, dated June 25, 1938, he rebutted some of the statements made by the reporter from the College Place newspaper, along with the acceptance of the invitation to go to Gettysburg and his schedule for the return trip. The letter is as follows.

June 25, 1938

Dear Son and Daughter,

I will write a few lines to say I'm leaving for Gettysburg in the morning at 3:30 (Sunday). On the way back expect to come to Carleton (sp: Carrollton, Missouri) and will see you. Can't tell just when that will be.

I am sending a clipping. The reporter made some mistakes. Never saw Indians in Ohio, never attended a horse race, our step-father made our shoes and he made a broom out of a hickory stick.

Love and best wishes,


In commemoration of attending the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and for his dedication in service to the United States during the Civil War, John D. Brownley received a ribbon and medallion inscribed with his name, presented to him by the United States Government at the Gettysburg anniversary.

John D. Brownley also received a ribbon and medallion testifying to the fact and celebrating the survival of his capture and placement in Andersonville Prison Camp when he attended the 54th National Encampment of the National Association of the Union Ex-Prisoners of War, held in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1920.

The obituary for John D. Brownley was published in the Carrollton Daily Democrat on October 20, 1938, and is as follows.

J. D. Brownley was born in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, September 21, 1844 and died at his home in College Place Washington, October 15, 1938, being 94 years, 24 days old. He was married to Mary F. Rea, March 22, 1866. To this union eight children were born, five of whom are now still living. They are: Alexander E., of Braymer, Missouri; Jasper R., of Dawn, Missouri; William J., of Mandeville, Missouri; Mertie McCain, of Dawn; and Arlo L., of Rosedale, Kansas. Three preceding him in death, an infant child, one daughter, Amy G., and a son, Charles M. He leaves eleven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren and many friends to mourn his going.

Mr. and Mrs. Brownley moved from Ohio to Carroll County, Missouri in 1869. She preceded him in death February 20, 1912, he then going to Wichita, Kansas, where he lived for about three years, then going to Franklin, Tennessee for a time. In 1918, he moved to College Place, Washington.

On June 22, 1919, he was married to Mrs. Georgina V. Reader. She preceded him in death in 1931

In the year of 1878, he became a Seventh Day Adventist and lived his confession true and faithful to the end. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was a member of Company K, 57th Ohio VVF. It was during the Battle of Atlanta that he was taken prisoner and removed to Andersonville, where followed two months of acute starvation and suffering which was more to be dreaded than death.

He marched in the Great Victory Parade in Washington D.C. and was later sent with his company to Arkansas, where he was mustered out in the summer of 1865.

He attended the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg where all G.A.R. veterans met on the famous battlefield from June 29th to July 6th of this year and like many of his generation had seen many changes that have been wrought through the years.


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