a sergeant in the American Revolution and the
first American soldier to be awarded a
Purple Heart. His grave is lost to us.
Awarded the second Badge of Military Merit from George Washington on May 3, 1783.
A soldier for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Born in Stamford, CT he enlisted in the 5th Connecticut Regiment on 23 May 1775, and re-enlisted as on 9 April 1777, for the duration of the war in the 8th Connecticut Regiment. He was promoted to corporal on 8 May 1779, and to sergeant on 1 August 1780, transferring with the consolidation of units to the 5th Connecticut Regiment on 1 January 1781, and to the 2nd Connecticut Regiment on 1 January 1783. He was awarded the Badge of Military Merit, one of only three people to be awarded the decoration that later became the Purple Heart.
On the evening of October 14th American troops under Colonel Alexander Hamilton attacked Redoubt No. 10 on the extreme right of the British line of defenses. A Connecticut soldier, Private Joseph Plumb Martin of the Corps of Sappers and Miners told of the attack on Redoubt No. 10 some years later:
"We arrived in the trenches a little before sunset... The Sappers and miners were furnished with axes and were to proceed in front and cut a passage for the troops through the abatis, which are composed of the tops of trees, the branches cut off with a slanting stroke which renders them as sharp as spikes. At dark the detachment was formed and advanced beyond the trenches and lay down to await the signal for advancing to the attack... We had not lain here long before the expected signal was given. Just as we arrived at the abatis the enemy opened a sharp fire upon us.. As soon as the firing began our people began to cry: "the forts our own" and it was "rush on boys." The sappers and miners soon cleared a passage for the infantry who entered it rapidly".
Sergeant Brown had not waited for the passage to be cleared, however, but had carried his men over the obstructions and into the redoubt capturing the fort in 10 minutes. With these defenses compromised, and all hope of retreat cut off Cornwallis decided to surrender. He sent a drummer boy to beat the Call to Parlay, and the last major military engagement of the American Revolution was over.
When the second Badge of Military Merit was awarded to Sergeant Brown his citation read in part: "That Sergeant Brown of the 5th Connecticut Regiment in the assault on the enemies left redoubt at Yorktown, in Virginia, on the evening of the 14th of October 1781, conducted a forlorn hope with great bravery, propriety, and deliberate firmness, and his general character appears unexceptionable." ("The Story of the Purple Heart", Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, February, 1922.)
On February 22, 1932, the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth, President Herbert Hoover revived the Purple Heart medal by issuing the following General Order:
"By order of the President of the United States, The Purple Heart established by General George Washington at Newburgh, August 7, 1782, during the war of the Revolution, is hereby revived out of respect to his memory and military achievements.
The decoration is authorized to be awarded to persons who, while serving in the army of the United States, perform any singularly Meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service. A wound received in action may be construed as resulting from such an act."
After the war Brown moved west to a newly developed river town called Cincinnati, Ohio. He lived out his days there, his original tombstone was lost to time; possibly stolen or destroyed. On 24 July 2004, at a cemetery across the street from what is known as Lunken Airport, a new tombstone was laid out in remembrance to Sgt. William Brown.
Note: The marker is a memorial marker only, installed a few years ago. He is likely buried at the Presbyterian-Fulton-Fulton Mechanick's Cemetery (PFC), which is nearby. I have been doing restoration, preservation and research work on PFC since 1999. IF you'd like further information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org