Links to a bygone era: Fewer than 100 kids of veterans of conflict remain; 6 in Tenn.
Posted April 17, 2010Jim Brown, 98, of Tellico Village holds a photograph of his father, James Henry Harrison Brown, a Civil War veteran, on Tuesday at the Bearden Banquet Hall. Jim Brown is part of an exclusive group: the surviving children of Civil
MAN'S FATHER FOUGHT IN CIVIL WAR
Jim Brown grew up in the Civil War's shadow, listening to stories of the fighting from a father who lived it. "He was in it from the beginning at Manassas to the end at Appomattox," Brown said. "He'd be amazed to see the changes today."
At 98, Brown's part of an exclusive group - the surviving children of Civil War soldiers, removed by a single generation from the nation's bloodiest conflict. Records show fewer than 100 sons and daughters of the blue and gray veterans remain nationwide. Tennessee boasts four Confederate sons - two in the Knoxville area, including Brown - along with a Union son and daughter.
Historians hope to see members of that club hang around long enough to help celebrate the war's 150th anniversary, which begins next year.
"As you might imagine, they're going away pretty quickly," said Ben Sewell, executive director of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "We know of 32 Confederate real sons across the country, and we're losing them at the rate of about five to nine per year. But a number of these fellows who are remaining have birth dates as late as 1923 or 1924. So there's a pretty good chance of having a few remaining for the sesquicentennial."
Brown, who lives in Tellico Village with his son, plans to be here for the celebration. So does Tom Bruce, 85, who lives in Knoxville with memories of a Confederate father he barely knew.
Bruce was born in Morristown to a 77-year-old former Virginia cavalryman and was just 6 years old when his father died in 1930. Levi Bruce served with the 7th and later the 11th Virginia Cavalry through fighting in what's now West Virginia.
"I'm part of a dying breed, I guess," Bruce said. "The only thing I can remember distinctly about my father is when he bought me a bicycle once. My mother had his sword and a picture of Robert E. Lee he had framed, but she sold them one piece at a time for enough money to get by."
Brown can claim memories a little clearer. He was born in 1912 to a 71-year-old father who survived battles from Gettysburg to the Siege of Knoxville. Brown knew his father for the next 11 years, until the veteran's death at age 82.
James Henry Harrison Brown joined the 8th Georgia Infantry's Company K at age 20 when war erupted in 1861. Records show his regiment saw action from the war's first major battle at Manassas, through the cornfields of Antietam, Md., in 1862 and across the bloody ground at Gettysburg, Pa., in 1863.
The father followed Gen. James Longstreet to East Tennessee in the fall of 1863 for the Confederacy's attempt to recapture Knoxville, including battles at Campbell Station near present-day Farragut and at Fort Sanders, where the Siege of Knoxville ended in a 20-minute failed assault near the University of Tennessee campus. He returned to Virginia for the last days of the war, all the way to the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
Brown plans to stand where his father fought next month when he helps celebrate the placement of a Civil War Trails marker near the Campbell Station site. He still shares some of his father's stories in talks to groups such as the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable, where he spoke Tuesday night.
Most of those stories dealt less with glory and honor than with hunger and hardship.
"He'd talk about what he endured," Brown said. "He'd talk about marching barefoot through the snow in the East Tennessee winter and leaving bloody tracks behind."
He believes his father would be proud to see the nation that emerged from that struggle.
"He was doing what he thought he had to do," Brown said. "But I never heard him say a harsh word about anyone, Yankees or anyone else. I just wish I could have listened to him more."