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Brevet Brigadier-General William Henry Browne, U.S.V.

Brevet Brigadier-General William Henry Browne, while a minor and a member of the regiment since famous as the Seventh New York National Guard, became second lieutenant of New York Volunteers. He was engaged in the bombardment of Vera Cruz, the battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Molino del Rey, the storming of Chapultepec, and the taking of the City of Mexico. His State brevetted him first lieutenant and captain for " gallant and distinguished services in the late war with Mexico." General Scott wrote of him, "Served with me with honor in Mexico." He received medals and other testimonials from the city of New York and other sources.

Having resumed studies and become a member of the bar, he was selected as a candidate for a judgeship. General Scott thus wrote of him: " Mr. Browne, my gallant brother-soldier in the campaign of Mexico, I am happy to say, unites legal requirements and high moral worth to the distinctions won on fields of battle."

He was among the first to raise troops in 1861. He did so principally at his own expense, never making a claim for reimbursement. But a majority of his companies were assigned to other regiments than his own. Left with only a battalion, he became lieutenant-colonel of the Thirty-first Regiment (infantry). He commanded it at the battle of First Bull Run (his colonel commanding a brigade), and was engaged at siege of Yorktown, ,battles of West Point, Golding's Farm, Savage Station, Charles City Cross-Roads, and Malvern Hill, commanding his regiment for the greater part of the time during the Seven Days' battles, the colonel having been severely wounded. He became colonel of the Thirty-sixth New York (infantry), with rank from July 6, 1862. During the battle of Antietam he commanded a mixed brigade of cavalry, artillery, and infantry; and was engaged in the first and second battles of Fredericksburg and Salem Heights. While commander of the Second Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps, he was severely wounded, and thereby confined to his bed for sixteen weeks. He was especially commended for skill and gallantry. ("Report on Conduct of the War," 1865, Vol. I., p. 108.)

General Sedgwick thus wrote:... "Express my admiration for the ability as an officer, the high attainments as a gentleman, and the soldierly qualities which have marked your career. . . . Of your gallantry and undaunted bravery on the occasion of storming the heights of Fredericksburg, while at the head of your brigade, and subsequently on the hotly-contested field of Salem Heights, where you received your agonizing wound, I cannot speak with too much praise. The bravery of the soldier, the skill of the officer, and the courage of the gentleman were so happily blended that your conduct on that day afforded a noble example, the memory of which must long live in the hearts of all your friends and comrades." Many other testimonials from distinguished generals, and covering his whole time of service, are on file.


Disabled from active field-duty, he was appointed colonel of the Veteran Reserve Corps and confirmed by the Senate. Examined by a board of officers, all his seniors in commission, he was awarded the highest "degrees of attainment" on all points, field-service, capacity for his commission, general education and intelligence, industry, knowledge of tactics, etc., discipline, and attention to duty,-the report ending thus, "and is a fit subject for recommendation for promotion."

The reason stated for not sending him to the front as a general was that he was too severely wounded. Nevertheless, he was assigned to command six regiments, although junior colonel (act of April 4, 1862); was placed in charge of Maryland and Delaware as assistant to the provost-marshal-general of the army, as chief mustering and disbursing officer and superintendent of volunteer recruiting. The position required peculiar tact, discrimination, and address, especially in enforcing drafts. For effect and public safety it was necessary not to contradict the erroneous belief that the conscription was rigorously enforced, when, in truth, thousands drafted were already within the enemy's lines.

On the reorganization of the army he was appointed to the permanent establishment, but declined. Ever since then he has been a practicing lawyer in Washington, D. C. As author of legal works-notably, a " Treatise on Trade-Marks and Analogous Subjects"-he is well known to bench and bar. His Alma Mater, the University of the City of New York, has conferred on him the highest honorary degree, LL.D.

Source: Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War, published by L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893, 419 pgs.

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