James Trimble Brown(i) was born in Pulaski, Tennessee on February 25, 1842. Born to Neill S. Brown and Mary Anne Trimble, he was well educated by his parents. His father was governor of Tennessee, during the Mexican War. He would become a school teacher in Nashville. His uncle, John C. Brown, was a major general in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, young “Trim” Brown, then 19, entered the Confederate service as a 1st Lieutenant in the artillery. During the war he would serve in all three branches of the Confederate military. In 1862, having learned that Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest was organizing a cavalry brigade to operate in central Tennessee – where his home was located - he lobbied Major Baxter Smith to join the staff of his 8th Tennessee Cavalry regiment. Smith later said, to The Daily American (Nashville, Tennessee), “because of my knowledge and admiration for his father and the family,” he was placed on his staff.
In July 1862, Forrest was ordered to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to seize the Federal garrison stationed there (approximately 940 men), commanded by US Brigadier Thomas T. Crittenden.(ii) The garrison was a supply depot for the Federal Army of the Ohio, commanded by US Major General Don Carlos Buell. Situated on the important Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, it was of strategic importance to the Army of the Ohio. Attacking the garrison before dawn, on July 13, Forrest surprised the Federal troops, over running the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry. During the ensuing battle, the Confederate cavalry was facing stiff opposition from the 3rd Minnesota Infantry, supporting a battery of four cannon. Bedford Forrest, asked Smith if his cavalry could capture the hastily formed enemy line. Smith, after looking towards his staff, determined they could and answered affirmatively. He stated that “Trim” Brown looked like he was, “eager for the fray.” Advancing rapidly, they captured the position, leading to a complete Confederate victory at the battle of First Murfreesboro. Baxter Smith later said of Trim’s performance, “No one on that memorable day bore himself more gallantly or acted his part better.”(iii)
In September 1862, Trim Brown was appointed aide-de-camp of his uncle’s infantry brigade. He performed well in the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The following year, Trim would return to the cavalry, of the Army of Tennessee, as assistant adjutant general, a position he would hold through the end of the Civil War. He would receive brevet promotion to captain, however he would never be confirmed by the government. His final rank would be first lieutenant, the same rank he was appointed to at the start of the war.
Brown would return to Nashville after the war, marrying Jane Foster Nichol. They would have two sons and a daughter. Becoming a lawyer, his ambition would earn him a reputation as one of the best attorneys in Nashville. In 1878, Trim would run for district attorney. On May 31, while attending Decoration Day festivities (honoring Union dead from the Civil War), he would become ill, supposedly from the heat. His condition would worsen and he would die while being cared for by his brother-in-law, a local physician. He was 36 years old. A local attorney compared him to President Andrew Jackson, “In war he exhibited the heroism of a soldier. He possessed as high an order of courage as ever characterized the Hero of Hermitage, and was as knightly and heroic in his bearing.”(iv)
His funeral was large and well attended. It included a procession of the local militia, of which Trim was a member, two large guns and his rider-less horse followed the hearse. The helmet he had worn rested on the horn of his saddle. Lieutenant James Trimble Brown was interred at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. He is a true American HERO, having fought bravely for the cause he believed in.
(i) James Trimble Brown, at Ancestry.com, was used to research this article.
(ii) Battle of Murfreesboro I, at Wikipedia, was used to research this article.
(iii) Coddington, Ronald S., Faces of the Confederacy, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in 2008, Pg. 39.
(iv) Coddington, Ronald S., Faces of the Confederacy, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in 2008, Pg. 41.