Stephen F. Brown
Brown, Capt. Stephen F., who was born in Swanton, April 4, 1841, is the only survivor of three children of Samuel G. and Anna (Crawford) Brown. The other children were a daughter, who died young, and Samuel G., Jr., who was first lieutenant of Company A, Seventeenth Vermont Regiment, and died from injuries received at the battle of the Wilderness. Capt. Stephen F. Brown's maternal grandfather was with General Washington at Valley Forge during the Revolution. His primary education was obtained in the schools of his native town, and he afterwards attended the spring and fall terms of the academy at Swanton Falls. In winters he taught school, and worked on a farm during the summer months. He thus successfully fitted himself for college, and in the fall of 1862 passed an examination for admission to the University of Vermont. Instead of pursuing his collegiate course of study, however, he enlisted in Company K, Thirteenth Vermont Infantry, as a private, but was elected first lieutenant of that company. The Thirteenth was a nine months' regiment, and was part of the Second Vermont Brigade, which was commanded by General Stannard at Gettysburg. This brigade was in the front and center of the battle line and rendered distinguished service, especially in the closing conflict, against which the rebel general Picket on the afternoon of the third and last day made the last and most desperate charge of the enemy, but they were met by the Second Vermont Brigade on the open plain between the battle lines in a hand to hand encounter. Here Captain Brown, undaunted by previous loss of his sword on the march, went into the battle with a common camp hatchet and was among the first to meet the advancing charge. With hatchet up lifted in one hand he seized a rebel officer wit the other, demanded his surrender, and at once relieved him of his sword and pistol, and putting them on his own person, wore them until discharged. He still retains them as mementos of personal experience at Gettysburg, where none but the bravest would withstand the fearful charge.
The historial [sic] in the second volume, page 478, of "Vermont in the Civil War" makes favorable mention of Captain Brown as a soldier and officer. A few years ago he was presented with an elegant and valuable gold medal for distinguished bravery at Gettysburg. The writer (R. O. Sturtevant) was an eye-witness to the facts here stated.
Captain Brown was injured on the head at Gettysburg by a concussion from the explosion of a shell while in the act of aiding one of his mortally wounded men, Corporal William Church. A rebel battery swept the crest of a ridge over which the brigade had to march by flank back to position after the charge. The range was good and every shell exploded in the marching ranks with loss of dead and wounded. It was here that corporal William Church, of company K, Thirteenth Vermont Regiment, was slain. Captain Brown, observing Corporal Church as he fell, hastened to his aid and found one leg shot away above the knee. He procured a tourniquet and while endeavoring to stop the flow of blood another shell exploded so near above his head that the concussion came very near proving fatal. Though quite seriously injured he refused to go to the rear, saying to Surgeon Nichols that he would remain until the battle was over unless the regiment was ordered from the field.
He returned from the seat of war with his regiment, and was honorably discharged. Subsequently Vermont tried to raise another regiment from the veterans of the Second Vermont Brigade, and Captain Brown was commissioned recruiting officer for Northern Vermont. He raised accompany of 160 men, and was elected captain of Company A, Seventeenth Vermont Infantry. This regiment was organized in the spring of 1864, and immediately departed for the seat of war. They took part in the battle of the Wilderness, and on May 6, 1864, during that battle Captain Brown, having his left arm extended directing the movements of his men, was struck by a minie-ball, which entered at the shoulder and came out at the elbow. The arm had to be amputated, but owing to the excessive discharge of blood he completely recovered from the injury in the head received at Gettysburg. After his final muster out, and on recovering his health, Captain Brown entered the Albany Law University, where he graduated March 3, 1868. He was admitted to the bar and removed to Chicago, and with a capital of $25 commenced the practice of his profession.
In pursuing the legal profession Captain Brown's courage has never faltered, and invention and enterprise have distinguished his career in Chicago. After the great fire nothing of his law office remained but the key. He rented an office on the corn of Desplains and West Madison streets, in which the landlord generously left a pine table and upon it a copy of the New Testament. The captain was scarcely seated in his new office when a collecting agent came to consult him. The agent had in his possession $100 belonging to one of his principals, which he desired to keep for a while until the banks re-opened, but his principals threatened to cause his arrest if he did so. The captain stated to his client that he had the latest law on the subject in question, and taking the testament read to him from Matthew 5:25, "Agree with thine adversary quickly," etc. That settled the case.
It would be impossible in the compass of this work to cite the different and important cases in which he has been retained as counsel. He has successfully met his legal brethren in the different courts of Chicago and the state of Illinois, and has had in two noteworthy cases such opposing attorneys as M. W. Fuller, esq.. (now chief justice of the United States) and Hon. Robert T. Lincoln (the present minister to the court of St. James). These were Biggs vs. Clupp and Girrard vs. Guetiau, and were carried to the courts of city and state, and in them Captain Brown was successful. He has accumulated a handsome fortune, the results mainly of his law practice. He has for years spent his court vacations with his aged parents in Swanton. Owing to illness of his father (whose death occurred in 1891) he has for the last few years been obliged to relinquish his business in Chicago and, like a dutiful son, devote all his time to the comfort and happiness of those who by their care and attention in his youth prepared him to engage successfully in the battle of life.
Source: Lewis Cass Aldrich, "History of Franklin and Grand Isle Counties Vermont," (D. Mason & Co., Syracuse, NY, 1891), p. 705-9.
St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record
September 16, 1903
Death of Captain Brown
Capt. Stephen F. Brown, a notable veteran of the civil war, suddenly died at his home in Swanton Sept. 8 of heart disease. He was born at Swanton in1841. Capt. Brown enlisted in Co. K of the 13th Vermont regiment. At Gettysburg he was under arrest on a charge of disobedience and his sword had been taken from him. When a counter-charge was ordered against that Picket's, Capt. Brown seized a hatchet and went into the melee with his men. With this weapon he captured a confederate officer, retaining the latter's sword and pistol as trophies. During the battle Brown was injured in the head by an exploding shell. He lost an arm in the battle of the Wilderness. After the war he entered Albany law school and practiced in Chicago. Of late years he had been a farmer.
Contributed by Tom Boudreau.
News & Citizen: Sept. 6, 1903
Captain Stephen F. Brown
Man Who, Armed With a Hatched, Let Company K, 13th Vermont
in Battle of Gettysburg.
Captain Stephen F. Brown, 62, died of heart disease in Swanton Tuesday night of last week. He enlisted in Company K of the 13th Vermont Infantry as a private, but was elected 1st Lieutenant. This regiment was part of Gen. Stannard's famous brigade at Gettysburg. At that time Capt. brown was under arrest upon some formal charge of disobedience of orders not involving any moral culpability, and his sword had been surrendered according to military custom.. He could not be kept out of action, however and in the counter-charge on Picket's brigade on the third day he led his men, his only weapon being a common camp hatchet. He captured a Confererate officer, however, and retained the latters sword and pistol as trophies. He was injured on the head from the explosion of a shell while aiding a wounded comrade. His expolit in leading his men with a hatchet is commemorated in a statue erected by the 13th Vermont on the field of Gettysburg.
After his term of enlistment had expired, he raised a company of 160 men and was elected captain of Company A, 17th Vermont Infantry. He was so badly wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg that amputation of one arm was necessary. After the war he graduated from the Albany Law School, and for many years was a prominent lawyer in Chicago. He has been living quietly on a farm in Swanton the past few years.
Submitted by: Deanna French.