Civil War tiff settled before court date PDF Print E-mail
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor   
Saturday, 11 May 2013 08:21
BrownMedalHonor_story
Civil War medals and Confederate prison cell key that belonged to Sgt. Wilson W. Brown.
A 16-month family dispute over possession of the Civil War medals and Confederate prison cell key that once belonged to their ancestor, Sgt. Wilson W. Brown of Dowling, is finally settled - and in seemingly amicable fashion.
Just a month before the case was to go to trial before Wood County Common Pleas Court Judge Alan Mayberry, the parties agreed Wednesday to allow defendant Linda Schwartz of Perrysburg to retain possession of one medal. The other will go to Schwartz's cousin, Albert C. Ward of Timberlake, Ohio, who represents the plaintiff's relatives.
Brown was a member of the famed Andrews' Raiders who commandeered a Confederate locomotive in April 1862, were captured after a wild 50-mile chase, and either executed or held in a Rebel prison. The key was purportedly the one used to unlock the prison cell when Brown and three other Raiders made a successful escape and returned north. The men were presented some of the first Medals of Honor in U.S. history, awarded by President Lincoln himself.
"The original 1863 Medal of Honor and the believed prison key will be going to the VA Clinic in Toledo. Specifically, they are going to go with Linda Schwartz and she will have that decision, but that is what she plans" to do with them, confirmed Bowling Green attorney Harold Hanna, who represents Ward.
Brown's second Medal of Honor dates to 1904, when Congress decided to redesign the medal, its highest honor, because they felt the original looked too similar to the regular medal awarded to every Civil War Union soldier. Of the 22 original Andrews Raiders, "eight or nine were still alive in 1904, so they are the only Raiders who received two Medals of Honor," Hanna explained.
That second medal, from 1904, "will go to the plaintiff, Albert Ward," for intended donation to the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Ga., "which has indicated they would welcome it," Hanna said.
Polling of the Wilson Brown descendants many months ago showed that the "vast majority" favored donating the artifacts to the Smithsonian-affiliated Georgia museum, where they could be seen by the general public. The General, which is the name of the locomotive that was commandeered by the brave Union soldiers in the raid known to history as the Great Locomotive Chase, is already on display at the same museum.
"We hope we can get this all done in the next 60 days," Hanna said. "The Southern Museum has a section for Medal of Honor winners and the new VA building in Toledo evidently does as well, on the second floor," so the family feels reassured that the precious artifacts will be in appropriate, secure locations that also allow for public viewing.
For many decades, possession of Brown's medals and key rotated among the descendants, each holding them for several years in turn. That ended about 30 years ago with Schwartz's now-deceased father, according to Ward.
His January 2012 lawsuit alleged that Schwartz had refused to share the items with the family for "family reunions, historical convocations, and other events honoring the memory and valor of Wilson W. Brown."
"Here we have a class of - we believe - 64 known Wilson Brown descendants," a number that will only grow, and "intangible property that has never been probated" and thus descends "intestate, which calls for it to be all held in common," said Hanna.
The Brown descendants gathered in Bowling Green this week ultimately decided to take their cue from an earlier court case involving the Medals of Honor for another of the Andrews' Raiders, Jacob Parrott of Kenton.
"What they finally concluded in the conference Wednesday was to follow what had been done with the Parrott medals," Hanna said.
The Parrott family agreed - after a decade of litigation - to donate the original 1863 medal to the U.S. Capitol and the 1904 medal ended up in a public library in Northwest Ohio.
Happily, Brown's descendants have found their solution in well short of a decade.
"At the conclusion of the settlement everybody hugged each other and departed in peace," Hanna reports.
They are even making plans for a June family reunion at which the cousins will visit Brown's grave in the Dowling Cemetery, and then view the now-famous artifacts and other memorabilia they have relating to the raid. Brown, a locomotive engineer who served with the 21st Ohio Infantry Regiment, died in 1916.
Last Updated on Monday, 13 May 2013 10:58
 

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