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Lancaster preacher was chaplain of York’s U.S. Army Hospital

This PA Civil War Trails marker in Penn Common commemorates the U.S. Army Hospital that stood there during the Civil War.

The Rev. James Allen Brown, one of eight children of Quaker parents from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, served as the chaplain of the military hospital for most of the war, serving from 1862 until 1864. His was a massive chore, as the facilities housed more than 14,000 different patients during the war, with the majority there during Brown’s tenure as a chaplain. Perhaps as many as 200 patients died; Reverend Brown officiated at many of the funerals for those fatalities who were buried in York’s Prospect Hill Cemetery.

Before the war, he had served as pastor of York’s Zion Lutheran Church in 1848-49 among several assignments, where “he prosecuted his work with his characteristic energy and success.” During his stay in York, he married a local woman, Miss Mary E. Hay, the daughter of Dr. Jacob Hay. When the war began, he was teaching at a seminary in South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union. Brown and his family hastily returned to the North, and apparently stayed in York near or with Mary’s family. Reverend Brown soon volunteered as the chaplain of the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry, a regiment primarily raised in York and Adams counties and commanded by his in-law Colonel George Hay.

A prolific author and educator, Brown later supervised the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, beginning in August 1864. At his death in June 1882, his wife, six daughters, and three sons were by his side.

Brown’s final days in secessionist South Carolina were exciting for he and his young family. This interesting passage is from American Lutheran Biographies, by J.C. Jensson (Milwaukee: A. Houtkamp & Son, 1890), pages 122-23.

Upon the breaking out of the civil war, the strong Union sentiments entertained by Dr. Brown were known by those who favored secession, and led them to organize a body of “minute men,” who were to call and interview the Doctor, and if he bhould declare himself unfavorable to secession, they were to expel him from the state. Being apprised by a personal friend of the dauger which threatened him, “At live o’clock of the same day, when all the professors and students had assembled in the college chapel for the customary evening prayers, Dr. Brown, very pale, but with a look of firm determination, arose and told the audience of the notice he had received, and said that he then and there would anticipate an interview on the part of a committee. He then said he was born in the Union, reared in the Union, and hoped to die in the Union; that his sympathies were unequivocally with the Federal government, and that he proposed to resign as president of the college, return to his native state, and, if necessary, join the ranks in defense of the Union. This soon spread through the town, and the effect on the people was electric. Mr. Johnston, chancellor of the State of South Carolina, and a firm friend of Dr. Brown, fearing violence from the excited populace, offered to take him quietly to a small station nine miles from Newberry, and to send his family by the next train. Dr. Brown declined the offer. He said he had come to South Carolina openly and without fear, and he proposed to leave with his family in the same manner. Fortunately he was able to do this without any hostile dein onstrations from the people. This incident is not only an interesting episode in Dr. Brown’s life, but serves also to show his fidelity to his convictions and the fearlessness of his character.”

“He was a man not above the medium height yet commanding in appearance, serious and thoughtful in manner, unflinching in duty–a man of deep religious conviction and Christian fidelity.

Throughout his entire life Dr. Brown was a diligent student, and was never content until he had made himself thorough master of whatever he undertook. As a teacher, both in hia earlier and later years, he was greatly admired by his pupils for his ability, and many were drawn to him in an enduring friendship. Beginning with his years before he entered college, and only ending with the loss of the power of speech, he was always an earnest and efficient advocate of every measure calculated to promote the cause of temperance. As a preacher, he was clear, logical and convincing. He seldom read from manuscript, but generally spoke without notes, and his audiences always listened with interest and lasting benefit.

As a debater he had few equals, and it was on the floors of a deliberative body that his greatest powers were called into action, and shown forth most conspicuously. In taking the floor he was neither first nor frequent, but when he did rise to speak, he seldom left anything further to be said in the advocacy of the cause he presented.”

Here is a biography from Lutheran Ministers of Berks County, by John William Early.(Reading, Pa.: Central Luther League of Reading, 1902), pages 45-46.

Rev James Allen Brown, D.D., LL D.

Dr. Brown was born in Drumore township. Lancaster county, Pa., February 19, 1821. His parents were James and Anna Brown. While engaged in teaching school he prepared for college. He entered the senior class of Pennsylvania College In 1841 and graduated the next year, his residence at the time being Middletown. He again taught school while studying theology. He was licensed in 1844, but seemed to have kept on teaching. He became pastor of the Luther chapel, Baltimore, Md., from 1845 to 1848; at York, Pa., 1848-49; St. Matthew’s, Reading, 1849-59.

In the latter year he was made professor of theology in the Seminary, and professor of ancient languages in the college at Newberry, S. C. The breaking out of the Rebellion in 1861 caused his hasty return. He then became the chaplain of the Eighty-seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, September 25, 1861–July 16, 18G2; and post chaplain United States Army hospital, York, 1862-64.
By a strange combination of circumstances, he was now made professor of didactic theology in the Seminary at Gettysburg, to succeed his former opponent in theological controversy, Dr. S. S. Schmucker. Whether it was intended as it really seemed to be as a terrible arraignment of the course and attitude of the former incumbent, we cannot say. But if it was not, it was a most peculiar proceeding, more severe than any ordinary vote of censure.

He held this position until 1881. Then a stroke of paralysis, which partially disabled him during 1880, caused him to retire and take up his residence at Lancaster soon afterward.

“He was president of District Synods, and of the General Synod in 1865.” He received D.D. from his Alma Mater in 1859, and LL.D. from Wooster University, Ohio.

He married Mary E. Hay, York, Pa., September 12, 1848. He died at Lancaster June 19, 1882, a little over sixty-one years of age.
A son, J; Hay Brown, is a Judge of the Supreme Court.”