Major Henry F. Brownson (1835-1913): Holy Cross Alumnus, Civil War Veteran, Lay Leader

Henry Francis Brownson was born at Canton, Mass., August 7 1835. His father was the celebrated Orestes A Brownson, who was baptized by the founder of Holy Cross College, Bishop Fenwick. Wishing to become a Catholic, the young Henry asked his father’s consent to go to Holy Cross, a prospectus of which had accidentally fallen in his way. The request was granted and on November 18, 1844, Brownson was baptized at the college He graduated from Holy Cross in 1852, and in 1856 was admitted to the bar at the general term of the supreme court New York. In June 1861, he entered the regular army as an officer of the 3d Artillery. He was 2d lieutenant in 1861; 1st lieutenant in 1862; assistant adjutant general of volunteers, April 3 1863. He was made brevet captain in July 1862, for gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Malvern Hill, Va., where he was severely wounded. On the 3rd of May, 1863, he was appointed major for his gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Chancellorsville.  “Lieutenant Brownson acting assistant adjutant general performed his duty well and efficiently,” writes Col Hayes commander of the artillery reserve at the battle of Antietam. Captain John Edwards in his official report says, “Lieutenant Brownson’s section did a good deal of execution during the action, throwing double rounds of canister at the rebel infantry on two different occasions when they advanced beyond their cover. Eight horses out of sixteen were shot in this section alone. Lieutenant Brownson occupied nearly the same position through the engagement, and held it unflinchingly until the last moment although the enemy kept up a continuous fire of artillery upon the section. I cannot speak too highly of the lieutenants of the battery: Hayden, Kelly, and Brownson.”  After the war Major Brownson was employed in the Reconstruction of Georgia and Virginia. In December 1870 he resigned his commission in the army and made his home at Detroit, Mich., devoting himself to the practice of law and to various literary works. He has collected and arranged the works of his father Orestes A. Brownson, the compilation making in all twenty volumes. Besides some translations we may mention among the recent productions of Major Brownson, “Faith and Science; or, How Revelation Agrees with Reason and Assists It.”

The Holy Cross Purple, Volume 3, Number 1 (June 1896), pp. 33-34.

NOTE: Henry Brownson was one of the organizers and leaders of the first American Catholic lay Congress at Washington, D.C., in 1889. He died in 1913.  

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