Francis E. Brownell

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Francis E. Brownell
Francis E. Brownell
Born 1840
Troy, New York
Died March 15, 1894 (aged 53–54)
Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Bellefontaine Cemetery
Saint Louis, Missouri
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service April 20, 1861[1] – 1863
Rank First Lieutenant
Unit 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars Battle of First Bull Run
Awards Medal of Honor

Francis Edwin Brownell (1840 – March 15, 1894) was a soldier and recipient of the Medal of Honor for killing James W. Jackson, after he shot Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, colonel of the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Brownell's actions marked the first action in the American Civil War to merit the award.


Brownell enlisted as a member of the 11th New York Volunteers, the "Fire Zouaves", in April 1861, and was assigned to Company A. In the first days of the war, as the 11th entered Alexandria, Virginia on May 24, 1861, Ellsworth took him and several other men to capture the telegraph office. On the way there, one of Ellsworth's men spotted a Confederate flag atop the Marshall House inn.[2][not in citation given] Ellsworth's group entered the inn and quickly cut down the flag, but they encountered the proprietor, James Jackson, as they descended the stairs. Jackson killed Ellsworth with a shotgun blast to the chest, and Brownell responded in kind by fatally stabbing the innkeeper.[3] For this, he was rewarded with a commission in the Regular Army and served as an officer in the 11th Infantry Regiment (United States) for the next two years, retiring in November 1863 with the rank of first lieutenant.

After the war, Brownell twice was denied his request for the award in recognition of his actions in killing Jackson. A third attempt with the assistance of his congressman was granted. Brownell finally was award the Medal of Honor in 1877, inscribed with his name and regiment. A request to have his action described on the medal meant it was returned to the War Department and a second medal was issued. It was inscribed: “The Congress to Sergt Frank E. Brownell, 11th N.Y. Vol Inf’y for gallantry in shooting the murderer of Col. Ellsworth at Alexandria, VA, May 24, 1861.”[3]

Following the war, Brownell lived in Washington, D.C. where he worked as a clerk with the Pension Office. He was a companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

He is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in Saint Louis, Missouri.[4]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Rank and organization: Private, Company A, 11th New York Infantry. Place and date: Alexandria, Va., May 24, 1861. Entered service at: Troy, N.Y. Birth: New York. Date of issue: January 26, 1877.

Killed the southern sympathizer who shot Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth at the Marshall House Alexandria, Va., after that state had declared its secession from the Union.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Corporal Francis E. Brownell of Company A, 11th New York Fire Zouaves". Civil War Gazette. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  2. ^ "Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Francis E. Brownell". Medal of Archived from the original on July 11, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  3. ^ a b "Tiger! Zouave!". Marc A. Hermann and Shaun C. Grenan. Retrieved December 4, 2007.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "secession" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ "Death of Francis Edwin Brownell" (PDF). New York Times. March 16, 1894. Retrieved 2008-02-05.