At the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864, Brigadier General John Adams lost his life
while gallantly leading a brigade of Mississippians – the 6th 14th, 15th, 20th, 23rd, and 43rd Mississippi Infantry regiments.
I was recently sent the following press release by James Turner highlighting the work of a Tennessee Group called Save Our Flags, which is engaged in the worthy effort of conserving General Adams’ Brigade Flag. This unique flag stands as a testament to the courage under fire displayed by General Adams and the brave Mississippians he led. It needs to be restored, and I encourage anyone that can help to give to this worthy cause.
The Press Release is as follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: James Turner
Save Our Flags
P.O. Box 782
Lebanon, TN 37088-0782 http://www.saveourflags.org
As the Battle of Franklin raged, Confederate General John Adams was felled
by numerous bullets as he rode his horse into the Federal works. Among his
effects that day was a unique brigade flag, and today the Save Our Flags
Initiative has announced they are sponsoring its conservation.Many historic items were donated to the Tennessee Historical Society after
the American Civil War, and among those is Adams’s headquarters flag,
which was donated in 1907 by the general’s widow. Currently maintained at
the Tennessee State Museum, this flag finds itself in dire need of
conservation. James Turner, chairman of the Save Our Flags Initiative,
says that this flag is different from any he’s ever seen, and he’s glad to
involve Save Our Flags in its conservation. “The brigade flag of General
Adams has risen to the top of the endangered list at the State Museum,”
says Turner, “and with the 150th anniversary of the battle upcoming, we’re
optimistic that this project will grab the attention of the public.
Confederate originals such as this flag are rare, and we’re excited to
help with a flag that went into the melee that was Franklin.”
Dr. Michael Bradley of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission
added, “In this past year I’ve watched the Save Our Flags people lead the
way for the conservation of the battle flag of the 14th Tennessee
Infantry, the famous kepi of General Cleburne, and the Sam Davis overcoat.
While other organizations are asking for money, it’s refreshing to see
these folks volunteering to raise it.”
The Save Our Flags Initiative has raised and donated tens of thousands of
dollars to help conserve items preserved by the Tennessee Historical
Society and Tennessee State Museum. “We care about these tangible
heirlooms from our ancestors,” said Michael Beck, commander of the
Tennessee Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, “and we intend to do
everything we can to be sure they remain intact for future generations.”
Meanwhile, the group is asking the public to let them know if they have
any particular information on this flag, or its maker. “Records show that
it was made by an unidentified Mississippi woman in 1863,” says Battle of
Franklin historian David Fraley, “but we know little beyond that, and
would like to hear from anyone with more details. Because we know that
brigade flags were carried forward at this particular battle, an educated
guess would be that this flag was unfurled in the midst of the fighting.”
The estimated cost of the flag’s conservation is $6,500, and the Save Our
Flags Initiative typically relies on small donations to conserve these
items. “People often say that they’d like to be involved in things like
this,” said Turner, “and because every penny donated goes toward
conservation, even a ten dollar donation makes a big difference.”
The Save Our Flags Initiative is an outreach of the Tennessee Division,
Sons of Confederate Veterans, and its sole purpose is to help conserve
endangered flags and textiles from the War Between the States. Founded in
1896, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is a genealogical, non-profit
organization of over 30,000 descendants of Confederate soldiers.
If you’d like more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview
with James Turner, please call James Turner at 931-325-9860 or by emailing
In 1860, Isaac Newton Brown was a respected lieutenant in the United States Navy with over 26 years of honorable service. He was so highly thought of by his superiors that he was selected in May 1860 to serve as executive officer on the U.S.S. Niagara, which was given the plum assignment of returning a group of Japanese diplomats to their homeland. The trip to Japan and then back to the United States took an entire year, and when the Niagara sailed into Boston Harbor in the spring of 1861, she returned to a homeland divided by Civil War.
Isaac Newton Brown had to choose sides, a prospect that must have been daunting to a man that had spent his entire adult life serving in the United States navy. He was, however, a native Southerner, having been born in Kentucky, and since the 1840’s he had lived with his wife and children, when not at sea, on a plantation in Coahoma County, Mississippi.
Brown chose to go with his adopted state, and tendered his resignation as an officer in the United States navy. He wrote of this decision later, “I returned a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from service abroad after the commencement of the late unhappy troubles. My family home had been in the state of Miss. for more than a quarter of a century previous to that time, and my wife and children were then resident there.” – Confederate Applications for Presidential Pardons, 1865-1867, application of Isaac N. Brown. Accessed via Ancestry.com.
Word of Brown’s resignation from the navy spread quickly throughout Boston, and the news stirred up a hornet’s nest of anger toward the former lieutenant. In a letter written to Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus, Brown described what happened when he stepped off the Niagara in Boston harbor:
Confidential Louisville, Ky May 3rd, 1861 Ex. J.J. Pettus, Gov., &c Dear Sir Though unknown to you personally I venture in the exigency of the moment to write what follows – I have just gotten away from Boston
where I was detained for several days with I presume the intent to be turned over as a prisoner of war. My resignation was immediate upon my arrival in the Niagara from Japan, and as it was made in the usual way its acceptance by the captain of the Niagara should have relieved me from all further dependence upon govt. orders. So much for myself – premising merely that I was on my arrival at Boston 1st Lt. of the Niagara turned from that position ashore & arrested by the Gov. of Mass. – for treason, my crime being a refusal to serve against liberty – law, the rights of man – in a word my country, wife and children. However I am now here on my way home, and will be free to take my own course as soon as I can hear of my dismissal from the Navy. While at Boston I was asked very significantly by a friend of the South if I lived near Yazoo City. This question was in connection with the subject of John Brown (Son of the old traitor hung in Virginia) whom my interlocutor termed a Hell Hound, and said that he was loose somewhere, & he feared would soon be heard of. I mention this for what it is worth possibly it might be well to have unusual vigilance directed towards the locality named. I escaped through Vermont and Canada, Ohio & Indiana. Every where North and West the feeling is terribly hostile to the South, and the least violent demand from us total submission and disarming. Such seems to be the popular sentiment. I told those to whom I could talk that they would have submission from the South when the male race ceased to live there. The time I think has come for the battle of human liberty to begin, for it seems to have been a mistake about it having been fought in America. I am fatigued with travel & hastening on home to Coahoma Miss. (Helena Ark. Is my P.O.), and I pray you pardon this hurried letter. In great haste, very truly yours, I.N. Brown Late Lieut. U.S.N.
Original letter is in the John J. Pettus Correspondence, Series 757, Box 932, Folder 1, Mississippi Department of Archives & History
I did some looking, and found the following account of the arrest of Isaac Newton Brown in the Charleston Courier, May 7, 1861:
Arrest of Navy Officers in Boston – We find the following in the Boston Courier, of the 27th ult.: Considerable excitement was created on State street yesterday morning by the statement that the First Lieutenant of the Niagara, Isaac N. Brown, had resigned his commission and had purchased a ticket for Louisville, Ky. It was also said that he had avowed his determination to fight for the flag which he should find floating over his plantation. Mr. Wm. C. Dunham heard the above remark, and at his instance Mr. W.L. Burt made a complaint before Mr. C.L. Woodbury, United States District Attorney, that Lieutenant Brown had signified his intention of returning to the South, and also that he had given utterance to seditious language. After hearing the evidence, the Attorney decided that it was not strong enough to authorize him to place Brown under arrest, and referred the complaints to Gov. Andrew, as Commander-in-Chief of the State. He advised Mr. Burt to apply to Gov. Andrew, who at once authorized his arrest. He was then arrested by the Police, and the Mayor informed Mr. Dunham in the following note:
MAYOR’S OFFICE, CITY HALL, Boston, April 25, 1861.
Mr. W.C. Dunham – Sir: – Lieut. I.N. Brown, late of the Niagara, is in the custody of the police of this city, and will so remain until released by the Governor or other competent authority.
J.M. WIGHTMAN, Mayor.
At 2 o’clock, the following order was received from the Navy Yard by Lieut. Brown, who was in custody at the City Hall:
U.S. Frigate Niagara, Boston Harbor, April 25, 1861
Sir: – You are hereby detached from this ship, and will report to Captain William L. Hudson, Commandant of the Navy Yard, Charlestown. I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. W. MCKEAN, Captain, To Lieut. Isaac N. Brown, U.S. Navy
The Mayor accompanied the Lieutenant to the Navy Yard, and he consented to take the oath to support the Constitution of the United States; and was willing to take an oath not to fight during the war, if released from the service on his parole of honor; but he felt that he could not take the oath to obey any future orders which might be given him, as under the present circumstances of the country the oath might require him to attack and destroy the residence of his wife and children.
The crowd who were in pursuit of Lieutenant Brown, broke open some boxes belonging to him at the depot. They contained only Japan curiosities &c., and were not further disturbed.
As Brown made his way home, Southern newspapers heralded his return. The following article was published by the Memphis Appeal on May 5, 1861, and reprinted by the Macon Telegraph on May 11:
LIEUT. ISAAC N. BROWN
We were happy to meet Lieut. I.N. Brown, late of the United States Navy, and late prisoner of the authorities of Boston, on our streets yesterday, en route to his home in Mississippi. From the accounts we have already published, it will be remembered that Lieut. Brown was in command of the Niagara in the laying of the Atlantic cable. After this service, his ship was detailed to take the Japanese embassy to their far distant home, and on his return to Boston he, among others, was arrested for misprision of treason for refusing to take the new oath of allegiance prescribed by the Lincoln Government. He, however, was not detained as prisoner more than some two hours. By the indisposition of the Mayor of Boston longer to detain him, he was permitted to make his escape through Boston, from whence he paid his fare from station to station until he reached Canada. Being then in a free country, he bought a through ticket to Louisville, from whence he came to this city by rail. He left yesterday evening on the steamer Victoria for his home in Coahoma County, Mississippi, and will probably today be received at his own fireside by the joyous congratulations of wife, children and friends.
Lieut. Brown speaks in high terms of the Mayor and other officials, as well as of many citizens of Boston in rescuing him from the mobocratic spirit that now holds sway throughout the North. He met with many kindly greetings from private citizens, who assured him that there were those yet left in Boston who did not approve of such a spirit, although they might be compelled to keep their peace.
We congratulate Mr. Brown on his release and escape, and indulge the hope that the time may not be far distant when we shall see him a Commodore, commanding not only a single, but a fleet of ships, in the cause of the Confederate States of America.
Isaac Newton Brown’s story was just beginning, as much was to be heard of him during the war. I plan to write of his further exploits in a future blog posting.