Augustus Cicero (A.C.) Brown, Sr.
(12 May 1832 – 8 October 1862)
By Colonel Bruce Alan Brown, PhD, (USAF Ret )
After the Confederate defeats at Forts Henry and Donelson in February of 1862, a call went out for additional volunteers. Governor Joseph Brown authorized the creation of a brigade-sized unit from thirty-four counties in northwest Georgia. According to my grandmother, Clara Belle Bennette Brown, Augustus Cicero Brown, Sr., decided he was going to join and “show them Yankees.”
On March 4, 1862, my great, great grandfather was mustered into the 41st Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Camp McDonald in Big Shanty, Georgia. Company K (the “Campbell Salt Springs Guards” as they called themselves) were 133 volunteers from Campbell County who were commanded by Captain Jonathan J. Bowen. A review of the company roster reveals twenty-six separate families, represented by at least two or more relatives in the unit. While the practice of keeping family members together contributed to unit cohesiveness, it often decimated entire families and communities.
After training at Camp McDonald, the 41st was posted to guard a railroad bridge over the Tennessee river at Bridgeport, Alabama. Then the siege of Corinth compelled the movement of the 41st Georgia to Mississippi. Outnumbered by Union forces, the Confederates abandoned Corinth, withdrawing 50 miles south to Tupelo, Mississippi in late May. While encamped there, illness was taking its toll. On July 17, 1862, Augustus’s half brother, Hiram, passed away from illness.
On July 21st, 98 of the original 133 officers and enlisted men of Company K left Tupelo to defend Chattanooga from a potential attack. On August 29, the Army of Mississippi, commanded by General Braxton Bragg, invaded Tennessee, taking with him the 41st Georgia. Moving on to Kentucky, the Confederate Army stopped in Perryville. There was a drought and as the Union and Confederate Armies confronted each other, the primary issue became water. On October 7th, fierce skirmishes broke out over the control of the only water source, Doctor’s Creek. At night fall, the fighting closed for the day.
The next day, October 8th, a little after noon, Confederate artillery opened fire on the Union lines. The 41st Georgia was formed on the right side of the Rebel battle line that stretched over a mile in length. Company K was deployed near the center of the regiment which formed under the cover of a grove of oak trees that lined Doctor’s Creek and waited. Ordered to form up, they deployed shoulder to shoulder in a linear formation with intervals of only 21 to 24 inches between them. They were followed by a second identical line, only 32 inches behind the first. The 98 men of Company K covered a front of approximately 25 yards and would be going into battle for the first time.
At 2:15 that afternoon, moving out from the woods, Company K came under fire from Union troops defending Open Knob Hill about two hundred yards away. Opposing Company K were elements of the 33rd Union Brigade, the 105th Ohio and 123rd Illinois, and an artillery battery under the command of Lt Charles Parsons. Soon the battery opened fire on the advancing lines. As the 41st Georgia emerged from the woods it came in view of the enemy’s battery. The enemy opened upon them a most terrific and deadly fire. Ten minutes into the attack, Company K encountered a wooden fence. Confederate forces laid down on the ground firing volley after volley at the 770 men of the 123rd Illinois as they charged down the hill with bayonets fixed. After decimating the first and second lines of the 123rd Illinois, Company K rose from the ground, crossed the fences with a Rebel yell, and moved forward shoulder to shoulder as Union cannons fired round shot and shell into their ranks. Company K and the rest of the brigade continued to march up the hill repeatedly firing into the third line of the 123rd Illinois.
View from the fence approaching Open Knob Hill
The action was described by Private Sam Watkins, a member of the 1st Tennessee Regiment, which was to the immediate right of the 41st Georgia:
“Two [Union] lines of battle confronted us. We killed almost everyone in the first line, and were soon charging over the second, when right in our immediate front was their third and main line of battle. We were soon in a hand-to-hand fight, every man for himself, using the butts of our guns and bayonets. The guns were discharged so rapidly that it seemed the earth itself was a volcanic uproar. The iron storm passed through our ranks, mangling and tearing men to pieces. Our men were dead and dying right in the very midst of this grand havoc of battle. It was a life and death to death grapple.”
At approximately 3:00 p.m., the 41st charged up the hill with the 1st,6th, and 9th Tennessee reaching the crest of Open Knob Hill first and capturing the guns. The 41st veered to the right slightly to cross the northern part of the hill.
According to Captain Thomas Malone, Assistant Adjutant-General, 3rd Brigade:
“Of course, in making this charge we lost a great number of men. One gun pointed at the right company of the 41st Georgia was said to have killed twelve or thirteen men and desperately wounded, as I myself know, the colonel of that company and its captain, two splendid fellows.”
View looking down at the approach to Starkweather’s Hill
The 41st Georgia moved down the hill chasing the remnants of the Union 33rd Brigade until the Union line formed on a ridge commanded by Col John C. Starkweather; they formed with twelve guns. The 41st continued to advance with the rest of the rebel line and after an initial repulse, charged again. This time reaching the top of the ridge. After fierce hand-to-hand fighting, they took the ridge and six of the Union guns.
The taking of Starkweather’s hill is described by Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee that was attached to the immediate right of the 41st Georgia:
“We did not recoil, but our line was fairly hurled back by the leaden hail that was poured into our very faces. Eight color-bearers were killed at one discharge of their cannon…It was death to retreat now to either side. Out Lieutenant Colonel Patterson halloed to charge and take their guns, and were soon in a hand-to-hand fight—every man for himself—using the butts of our guns and …Such obstinate fighting I never had seen before or since. The guns were discharged so rapidly that it seemed the earth itself was in a volcanic uproar. The iron storm passed through our ranks, mangling and tearing men to pieces. The very air seemed full of stifling smoke and fire which seemed the very pit of hell, peopled by contending demons.”
Beyond the tree line about two hundred yards the Union line formed.
The remaining elements of the Union forces retreated about 200 yards to the west on the side of another ridge not far from the Wilkerson House. Now, the Union line stabilized. At approximately 4:00 p.m., the Confederate line advanced and made it to within fifty yards of the Union line. At this point the 41st Georgia and the 27th Tennessee were so decimated only a few of the remaining members of those two regiments participated. Pulling back, the remainder of the 41st and the rest of the brigade made another assault on the ridge and again were repulsed. Holding a line, the brigade made a third unsuccessful assault. The line then stabilized until the preparatory order went out at approximately 2:00 a.m. the next morning to withdraw.
During one of these assaults on the three previous positions described, Private Augustus Cicero Brown, Sr. was killed. A “bombshell [exploded} knocking from his body his right arm and immediately afterwards he was pierced through his chest with a bayonet,” according to Private James McClarty of K Company.
Living only about an hour, a witness watched Augustus (AC) die. In which assault did he die? We will never know, since the exact position was not identified by witnesses. I and my wife, Katherine, have walked the battlefield in the steps of the 41st in July and October of 2014 imagining the sounds of the guns and the screams of the wounded and dying. We interviewed rangers including the park manager, Kurt Holman. We are not sure where great-great Grandfather AC fell.
We do know some basic facts. He was severely wounded by a cannon explosion and bayoneted through the chest and lived for approximately one hour. In any of the three assaults, AC could have been wounded. In only one did the line stabilize enough for the remaining members of the regiment to have time to check for wounded and be close enough to know if someone lived for an hour. And that would have been the last assault on the ridge near the Wilkerson house.
While it was a tactical victory for the South, it was technically a defeat since General Bragg made the decision to withdraw the Army of Mississippi from the area.
Augustus Cicero Brown, Sr. was survived by his wife, Rachael, and four children: Sarah C. Brown (b .July 1855), Mary Minerva Brown (b. August 1857), Martha P. “Mattie” Brown (b. October 1859), and Augustus Cicero Brown Jr. (b. February 1862) my great grandfather.
On December 23, 1890 the State Assembly of Georgia passed a law giving widows up to February 15, 1893 to apply for a Confederate Veterans Pension. On January 31st 1893, Augustus Cicero Brown’s wife, Rachel Ann Marena Fults Brown, applied for that pension. Quoted in the application is a description of my great, great grandfather’s death by his friends Privates William A. Howell, James W. Mauldin, and William S. Tucker:
Augustus Cicero Brown, Sr. was “killed by the explosion of a bomb shell at the battle of Perryville, Kentucky…his right arm was torn from his body as well as a part of his shoulder…deponents know absolutely that he died immediately afterwards…living only about one hour. Depondent Tucker says he knows that he was also pierced with a bayonet as he fell back after the explosion of the shell. This took place on the 8th day of October 1862.”
Confederate dead laid on the battlefield for over three days, some accounts estimate a week, before they were buried in shallow graves. Later, Henry P. Bottoms, led the excavation and re-interment in two pits on his land. Few were identified and it may be assumed that Augustus Cicero Brown, Sr. was put to rest in the mass grave that is now marked with the Battle of Perryville memorial seen at the beginning of this narrative.
Company K of the 41st Georgia Volunteer Infantry fought in twelve pitched battles from Perryville, Missionary Ridge, Kennesaw Mountain, Franklin and Bentonville; participated in two sieges, Vicksburg (where they were captured, paroled and then returned to the fight) and Atlanta; and served in campaigns that spanned seven separate states of the Confederacy. Company K stacked arms and surrendered at Goldsboro, NC to General Sherman on April 26, 1865.
Of the 133 men who mustered into Company K on March 4, 1862, only 25 remained at the 1865 surrender.
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