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Private Virgil V Brown

Private Virgil V Brown
Company D, Infantry Battalion

The face of the rather fierce and defiant looking young Legion soldier looks out at us through the mists of time. This tiny picture was found in a book titled "Bartow County Heritage". It was accompanied by a tale of great tragedy. Here is his story as told in the article.

"This story, like that of so many young Georgia men and boys of his generation, typifies the horror and tragedy wrought by the Civil War. Although Virgil left no direct descendants and died more than 130 years ago, he has not been forgotten. Long after his tragic death, this young man remained an important part of the lives of his many nieces and nephews and his story has survived through succeeding generations to the present time.

Charles Virgil V Brown, son of Vincent Brown and Leannah Henderson, was born July 4th, 1842 in Cass county, Ga and was executed by the enemy at Burnt Hickory, Ga in the latter part of May 1864, probably on May 24th. The Browns settled in Cass County soon after it was created, but shortly before 1860, Virgil, who was unmarried, moved with his sisters and widowed mother a few miles away to Van Wert.

On 11 June 1861, Brown enlisted as a private in Captain Wimberly's Co D, Rifle Battalion, Phillips Legion, Georgia Volunteers. This unit organized in Cobb County, fought with distinction throughout the war and suffered heavy casualties during fighting in Virginia. Records in the Georgia Archives show that Virgil was in Lynchburg, Va in August 1861 and in the summer of 1863, he was wounded and treated at Jackson Hospital in Richmond. He was wounded again the following year, hospitalized in Danville, Va and subsequently furloughed home in March 1864. He was still recuperating when General Sherman's army invaded Georgia; by the middle of May the enemy was close, and on May 24 the fighting had reached Van Wert and the surrounding area.

Although not yet recovered from his wounds, Virgil left by horseback to join the Confederate troops in the area but was soon captured by Union soldiers. Even though he was in uniform, the young soldier was accused of spying and ordered to be executed. The story, as told by his nephews and niece, Corrie Waits Kingsbery (this writer's grandmother), is that he was brought home and allowed to say goodbye to his family, at which time he gave them his gold watch. Virgil was then taken to the enemy camp at Burnt Hickory, where he was executed - according to his niece and nephews, he was blindfolded, forced to kneel down, and then shot in the back. The next day word was sent that the family could claim his body and his young nephews, Cicero and Gus Waits, brought Virgil's body home in a wagon. He was either buried at his mother's farm in Van Wert or in one of the unmarked graves next to his father at the Stidham-Henderson Cemetery, but no marker has been found.

The final record from the Company muster roll for May and June 1864 contains these handwritten remarks, "Captured at home and murdered by the enemy" Submitted by Joanne Kingsbery Craig, Houston, Texas"

An investigation of the details of this story provide some clarification and corrections. Virgil's 1863 wound (thigh) has been identified from a newspaper casualty report as having occurred July 2nd, 1863 at Gettysburg. This wound must have been somewhat severe as he is not returned to duty until September 14th, 1863. His 1864 wound appears to have occurred in the battles around Cold Harbor, Va (June 1st & 2nd) as he is admitted to Richmond Confederate GH #9 on June 3rd, 1864. He is then transferred to a hospital in Danville, Va where he is admitted with a leg wound on June 4th, 1864. He is furloughed home to recover on June 7th, 1864. This, of course, makes a May 24th, 1864 death date impossible. With the dilapidated state of southern railroads in 1864, it is unlikely that he was able to make his way home until late June. At the time Virgil probably reached home, Sherman's armies would have been operating further to the southeast in Cobb county, pressing Johnston's army back towards Kennesaw Mountain (and then attacking them there on June 27th, 1864). Just reaching his home would have been an arduous and dangerous task as he would have had to pass through or around Federal lines.

A cursory search of the Official Records and the OR Supplements yielded no trace of the trial and execution of Virgil Brown. It is hoped that additional future research will turn up a record of the specifics of Virgil's untimely end. Company D's March/April 1864 muster roll was actually written up on October 5th, 1864 and it is apparent that his comrades did not know his fate at that time as the entry for Virgil simply reads "absent, at home on wounded furlough". The muster roll for May/June 1864 was not done until December 1864 and it is at this late date that his fellow soldiers have learned his fate as the entry reads, "Captured at home and murdered by the enemy". It is my belief that the circumstances described make it likely that Virgil may have been captured and executed in the summer or early fall of 1864 when a good deal of raiding and bushwhacking was going on in the area between Dalton, Ga and the Chatahoochee River.

The tragic fate of young Virgil Brown, a reliable, hard fighting southern soldier, provides yet another example of just how brutal this long war had become by 1864.

Photo courtesy of Ms Joanne Kingsbery Craig of Houston, Texas.

Written by:Kurt Graham

Phillips Georgia Legion
Texans in the Civil War