When the Civil War began, John Alexander Brown was a farmer living near what is today Pinewood, S.C. Answering the call of the Confederacy, he joined the 14the Battalion, S.C. Cavalry, on January 2, 1862 as a private. He was stationed near Pocotaligo, S.C. during 1862 – 1863 and fought in at least two battles there on May 29th and October 22nd, 1862, to prevent Federal forces from invading inland and cutting the vital Charleston-Savannah Railroad. It was also in 1862 that he was selected for detached duty with Headquarters Ordnance and became the wagonmaster in charge of the wagons and animals of the ordnance train.
During 1863 Pvt. Brown’s original cavalry unit was reorganized as Co. H, commanded by Captain Richard Skinner of the 5th S.C. Cavalry Regiment. In 1864 the unit was ordered to Virginia as part of General Wade Hampton’s Cavalry Corps.
Pvt. Brown fought with the 5th S.C. Cavalry in numerous battles in 1864 around Richmond, Virginia, including some of the largest cavalry actions of the war. In 1865 the S.C. Cavalry units returned to South Carolina and fought against Sherman’s army until the final surrender in April of that year. The 5th S.C. Cavalry served as the escort for General Johnson to meet with General Sherman. The unit itself did not surrender and simply rode home after acting as escort for Gen. Johnson. On the return home Pvt. Brown was seriously injured when his horse fell trying to jump a log or stream, and he remained crippled for the rest of his life. His final days were spent living quietly at the Pinewood farm. He died November 9, 1909.
In so many ways John Brown was the typical soldier of the Confederacy, who fought not so much for a “cause” but for his state and compatriots. The cost was hard, but time has healed the wounds and eased the loss. For us today what has remained has not been the victory or defeat, but the heritage of the men who fought. It is a rich heritage indeed.