Northumberland County, Virginia: Pvt. Winston Brown, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry

Gravestone of Pvt. Winston Brown, Company B, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2014. All rights reserved.

Pvt. Winston Brown, of Company B, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry, was born enslaved in 1837, Northumberland County, Virginia. He enlisted in the Union Army on February 6, 1864, Point Lookout, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. At the time of enlistment, he was described as five feet, five inches tall, with a dark complexion, and black eyes and hair. By occupation, he was documented as teamster.

Pvt. Brown mustered into service on February 22, 1864, Fort Monroe, Hampton, Virginia. Brown engaged in action at the Battles of Deep Bottom, and the Siege of Petersburg in 1864. Luckily, he never suffered any major injuries or wounds during his service. Pvt. Winston Brown mustered out with the surviving members of his regiment on February 4, 1866, at Brazos Santiago, Texas.1 After the war, he returned to Virginia, and settled in Norfolk. He married Miss Sophronia Crawley, of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, in 1863. Three daughters were born to their union, Rebecca (1867-1960), Dora (1872-1932), and Lucy (1873-1944). 2

Pvt. Winston Brown filed for his approved pension in 1890. He passed away in 1908, and is interred in Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia. Currently, his headstone bears no indication of his escape from chattel slavery, nor his fight for the collective freedom of all African Americans with the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War.

Mapping significant places in the life of Pvt. Winston Brown, Northumberland County, Virginia, Point Lookout and St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia, and Hampton, Mill Creek, Fort Monroe, Point Comfort, Sewell’s Point, and Tanners Creek, Norfolk, Virginia. Colon map of Virginia and Maryland, 1862. David Rumsey Collection.

Deposition of Winston Brown, October 16, 1902, Norfolk, Virginia. Pension claim no. 919414.

Age, 68, am an invalid and can do no work, p. o. address Sewells Point, Va.

I was born in Northumberland Co., Va., and was a slave; was owned by Richard Holland. My father was Winston Brown. I was named after my father and have never gone under any other name. Personal description, height, 5 feet about 4 ½ inches, was a farm laborer before enlistment.

I served during the war of the rebellion in Co. B, 1 U. S. C. Vol. Cav, enlisting at Old Point, Va., in 1863 and being discharged in either Feb. or Mch. 1866. I was discharged at City Point Va. The above was my only service in the army or navy of the U. S. and I was never in the Confederate service.

Jeptha Girrard was my Col. McIntyre was first my Capt. but later was Lt. Col. Brown was Major. I do not recollect that we had any other major. McIntyre was succeeded by Spencer as Capt. of my Co. Boltwood was 1st Lt. I do not recollect the name of my 2nd Lt. Richard Lawton was my Ord. Sgt. James Langley was duty Sgt. Olmsted Tucker (was duty Sgt). Andrew Nimmer of Barboursville ate and slept with me in service.

I served in Va. till Richmond fell and then we went to Texas. We went to Texas and came back by boat while in Texas we were stationed at Brazos. 3

I was in the following engagements; Chickahominy Swamp and Deep Bottom. We were also in fight at Petersburg. I was never wounded in service.

I was never on detached duty but once and that was at Fort Magruder as a provost guard. I was never in the hospital in service, but I suffered a great deal with knee ache in Texas. That was the only ailment. I was incurred in service. I get $10 a month under the new law. I never filed a claim under the old law.

I have only been married once. I married Sophronia Crawley. We were married at Point Lookout while the war was going on. We were married by a white minister whose name I cannot recall. We have We have no children under 16 years of age. My wife is still alive and we are living together as husband and wife. I have lived in Hampton, Old Point and Norfolk ever since I left the army.”4


General affidavit. Margaret Walters, Barboursville, Norfolk, Virginia, September 15, 1896. Pension claim of Winston Brown, no. 919414.

That she has been acquainted with the claimant since 1856. That prior to his enlistment he was a sound able-bodied man and of good habits and character. That from 1856 to the time of his enlistment they were neighbors in Northumberland Co., Va., and since his discharge in 1867 they have both lived in Norfolk Co. That his rheumatism, disease of eyes and injury of left knee are not due to vicious habits. That since Sept. 11th 1895 He has been totally disabled from the performance of manual labor. That this statement was written when in her presence and from her oral statements made to J. L. Hubard, Norfolk, Va.September 15th 1896 and in making the statements she was not aided or prompted ……..”5


General affidavit. Robert Spratley, Tanners Creek, Norfolk County, Virginia, September 15, 1896. Pension claim of Winston Brown, no. 919414.

That he has been acquainted with the claimant since 1863. That claimant was then a sound, able-bodied man and of good habits and character. That he has lived near him and seen him at least once a week since 1867. That his disease of eyes, rheumatism and injury to left knee are not due to vicious habits, which he knows from his intimate acquaintance with him. That he has been totally disabled from the performance of manual labor since September 11, 1895.6


General affidavits of John Butler, aged fifty, Tanners Creek, Norfolk, and Thomas Land, aged fifty-six, Norfolk, Virginia, July 31,1894. Pension claim of Winston Brown, no. 919414.
Gravestone of Cpl. Thomas Land, Company A, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry. Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

That they were in same regiment with Winston Brown during the war of the rebellion, and knew him before the war. That the injury to the left knee of Brown was incurred at Brazos Santiago, Texas in 1865, in the fall of the year (day & month not known). That they saw him two or three days after he was injured, and was disabled at the barracks. That they have known him ever since the war and see him two or three times a week. They know that he complains of trouble with his eyes and rheumatism, that said disease and injury to left knee are not due to vicious habits as Brown is a very temperate man. That they know these facts from their intimate acquaintance with said Brown.7


Neighbors’ affidavits. Rev. Zachariah Hughes, age fifty-one, and George Hudgins, age fifty-two. Pastor and Deacon of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, respectively. October 26, 1896, Norfolk, Virginia. Pension claim of Winston Brown, no. 919414.
Gravestone of Rev. Zachariah Hughes (ca. 1847-1916), Pastor, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Norfolk, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2014. All rights reserved.

“That they live near and are well acquainted with claimant, being respectively pastor and a deacon in the church to which Brown belongs. That claimant has been confined to his bed for many months. The only time he has been able to leave was when examined at the Soldiers Home. That he is destitute and needy circumstances and incurably ill. That he is unable to have his affidavit taken at his home and is unable to leave. He desires and in their opinion is entitled to special action in his case.”8


Titustown and Bolling Brook neighborhoods of Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk City map, 1921, Library of Congress.

After Pvt. Winston Brown’s decease on February 27, 1908, his widow, Sophronia, gained title to their small lot in Norfolk’s Titustown, the close-knit African American community officially established in 1911. According to the tax assessor, the property was worth about twenty dollars. Sophronia soon filed for her (approved) pension. To support her claim, she needed the testimony of many friends and neighbors, chiefly to prove that she was the lawful widow of Winston Brown. Sophronia may have been descended from free persons of color in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Some of the accounts contain a discrepancy regarding Winston Brown’s place of birth, while others contain interesting details on life at Point Lookout during the Civil War, and the post-Civil War districts of Sewell’s Point, Barboursville, and Tanners Creek of Norfolk, Virginia.


Widow pension claim of Sophronia Crawley Brown, Tanners Creek, Norfolk, Virginia. September 19, 1908, Claim no. 886.828.

I am 66 years old, my post office address is Tanners Creek, Va., occupation working on farm.

I  claim a pension as the legal widow of Winston Brown, who served as a Pvt in Co. B, 1st U. S. C. Cav. He was in no other regt. He died at “Bowling Brook” Norfolk County Va., Feb. 27, 1908.9

I belonged to Washington Corbin of St. Mary’s Co., Md., near Point Lookout. My father was Matron (sp) Crawley and my mother was Sarah Ann Crawley. 10

I was called Crawley until I was married to Winston Brown at Point Lookout, Md., Nov. 20, 1863, by a white minister named Mr. Knight. He preached to the colored people, was from the North, don’t know his full name.

We were married in a large building near the office of Capt. Edwards who was quartermaster. My husband was then a teamster under him. Mr. Knight gave us a paper to show that we were married, but it was destroyed in a fire. We had no license to marry, there is no record of our marriage… A crowd saw us married; the only two living that I know of who saw us married are Peter Cadden and Mary Saunders.

My husband was born in St. Mary’s County, Md. I had known him from the time I was a little girl. He was hired out in Northumberland Co., Va., he was not born there. I lived with the soldier as his wife from the time of our marriage to his death. I was never separated or divorced from him.

He enlisted in the army in Feb. 1864 at Point Lookout. I was with him while he was in the army, when stationed at Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Hampton, Va. His capt. was name was McIntyre.

No, the soldier nor I were ever married before our marriage to each other, nor did he have a wife according to slave custom, nor I have a husband according to slave custom.

While his Regt. was in Texas I worked at Ft. Monroe for Mrs. Frissel, who kept a boarding house. The soldier was paid off at City Point, Va. and came to me in March 1866. He never left me after that. We lived in Hampton till 1868, and then moved in the neighborhood where I now live.

Q: By whom can you prove that neither you or your husband were married before your marriage to each other?

A: By Peter Cadden and Mary Saunders. I don’t know of anyone else now living. They are the only witnesses to our marriage now living that I know of. My husband’s brothers and sisters are dead.

Q: The soldier stated you were married April 15 1863, you say Nov. 20, 1863; which date is correct?

A: November 20, 1863 is correct. George Hudgins has known me about 42 years. Angelina Harrison has known me about 25 years. Humphrey McCoy was in my husband’s Co. and knows me as far back 1864. Tom Watkins has known me since 1866, and knew my husband well. I have not remarried since the soldier’s death. I own no property except three quarters of an acre of land near Sewells Point, P. O. unimproved. I have no income at all except from my own labor.” 11


Deposition of Thomas Watkins, Norfolk, Virginia, November 15, 1908. Widow claim no. 886.828.
Sewell’s Point and Tanners Creek districts of Norfolk County, Virginia, 1892. These areas were annexed by the City of Norfolk from (former) Norfolk County (now the City of Chesapeake), in 1955. Library of Congress.

I am about 65 years of age, a barber, P. O. address 56 Lincoln St., Norfolk, Virginia. I knew Winston Brown for many years. I believe that I first met him about 40 years ago. He them lived on the McWaters farm, Sewells Point. He was married all the time I knew him, his wife came at times with him to my shop, would wait for him. I am not sure of her name. I think that it is Sophronia. That is name I heard him call her, that they were nice people. They were never divorced to my knowledge. I have seen her but once since her husband died. She has not remarried so far as I know.12


Deposition of Mary Saunders, Norfolk, Virginia, November 13, 1908. Widow claim no. 886.828.

I am 60 years of age, widow of Peter Saunders, P. O. address 310 Bank? St., Norfolk, Va.

I got acquainted with Sophronia Brown at Point Lookout, Md., during the war. Whilst I was there I saw her married to Winston Brown, a white minister married them but I don’t remember his name. We were all in charge of the Government, the soldiers were there. No sir, I could not tell you the date of their marriage, I did not know the dates. I knew Sophronia about a year before her marriage. So far as I know she was never married before. I never heard that she was. I did not know Winston Brown before he married the claimant. He went into the army some some time after his marriage to claimant. I believe I did not see them again until after the war ceased. I don’t know the year it was. They then lived together as man and wife on the McWaters farm, Norfolk Co., and I lived on the Taylor farm across the creek. I saw them after that till he died. They were never separated or divorced. She was with him when he died. She, the claimant, has not remarried since his death. I moved to town, this city, going on six years.

I don’t know that claimant and soldier were raised near me in same county. I was raised in St. Mary’s Co. Md. They were married in St. Mary’s Co., at Point Lookout. Sophronia and her husband lived in the next tent to me at Point Lookout after they were married. They left there first. I could not tell you if Winston Brown was married before he married the claimant or not. I never heard that he had a wife before he married her. I don’t know that the year was 1863 when they were married.” 13


Deposition of Mary Dickson, Norfolk, Virginia, November 2, 1908. Widow claim no. 886.828
Hampton, Mill Creek, and Fort Monroe (north), in relation to Sewell’s Point, Tanners Creek, and the City of Norfolk (south). Norfolk County, Virginia map, 1887. Library of Congress.

“I am 65 years of age, R. F. D. No. 1, Norfolk Va., residence “Boling Brook” occupation cook. I am the widow of Jim Dickson.

I first met the claimant Sophronia Brown at Point Lookout, Md., don’t know the year, it was during the war, the same year I was carried there by the troops who came through New Kent Co., Va. near the White House. Her name was Sophronia Crawley then.

I was present and saw her married to Winston Brown at Point Lookout, Md., by a white preacher from the North named Mr. Knight. It was in the fall of the same year I got there. They were married in a big house which the Government had for quarters to live in. They were married by regular ceremony. Brown was driving a wagon for the Government then. Neither of them was married before, from what they said. They were both young then. They lived there for some months after that as man and wife, then they went away. I next saw the claimant at Old Point Comfort, Va. in 1865, she stayed awhile at the barracks on Mill Creek where I was. Her husband was in the army she said. I did not see them again until some years after the war was over. They were then living on Sewells Point on the McWaters farm, where the Exposition was last year. They lived together as man and wife till he, Winston Brown, died. They were not separated or divorced. She waited on him in his last sickness. He was sick for years. No sir, the claimant has not remarried since soldier’s death.” 14


Deposition of Peter Cadden, Norfolk, Virginia, November 13, 1908. Widow claim no. 886.828.

I am about 57 years of age, a laborer, P. O. address 278 Brewer St., Norfolk, Va. I was born in St. Mary’s Co. Md., and during the war my father took me to Point Lookout. He worked there for the Government in the “dead house.” I got acquainted with the claimant and Winston Brown at Point Lookout. Her name when I first knew her was Sophronia Crawley.

They were married at Point Lookout, Md., during the war. I don’t know the date but I was a boy. I did not see them married. They were married in a big house, in which a good many people lived. I knew that they would have seen them married and I did see them as they were coming back after the wedding. I don’t know who married them. I believe it ws Chaplain Edwards, a white man. They may have been married by a Rev. King. I don’t known who was in charge at Point Lookout…

Neither Winston Brown nor the claimant were married before their marriage to each other. Not that I ever knowed. I am satisfied that they were never married before. Brown went into the army soon after that, and I did not see them again till about 1867. They were then living on Sewells Point. That was in 1869, not 1867. They were on the McWater farm, and lived there for many years. I worked there 7 or 8 years; I saw them often. They lived together as man and wife till he died. They were not divorced. The claimant has not remarried since the soldier’s death. They were married in 1863. I am sure of the year, but don’t know the exact date. Yes, I have heretofore testified in this case. My former affidavit is correct, except I was not raised near them, and was not an eyewitness to their marriage.15


Deposition of Margaret E, Walters, Norfolk, Virginia, November 14, 1908. Widow claim no. 886.828.

I am 70 years of age, widow of Wm F. Walters, P. O. Box No. 7 Byrd St., Norfolk, Va.

I knew Winston Brown well, we were children together in Northumberland Co., Va., though I was the oldest. His master lived near Wicomico Church, his name was Rich’d Hindland (?) Winston went to Point Lookout Md. After the war started. I next saw him in Hampton Va., the year he came back from Texas, and then I met his wife, Sophronia, she was with him. After that they moved to Sewells Point. I went to see them there, and both have visited me in this house. I heard of his death last year. I have not seen Sophronia since.” 16


Deposition of Andrew Nimmo, Norfolk, Virginia, November 14, 1908. Widow claim no. 886.828.

I am in my 71st year, occupation light work, P. O. address No. 18 Hunter St., Norfolk, Va.

I knew Winston Brown well, he was my tent mate while we both served in Co. B, 1st U. S. C. Cav. I did not know him before enlistment.

Q: Was he married?

A: He was a married man while he was in the army, so he told me, but I cannot recall that I saw his wife till after the war, he then lived on Sewells Point, and introduced me to her. I met her after that several times at churches. I don’t know her given name, cannot say whether it is Sophronia or not. From what they said she was the same wife he had while he was a soldier. No I cannot tell what year it was when I first met him after the war. I have moved to this place from Norfolk Co., about 14 years ago, and I don’t think that I have seen either of them since I had not heard of his, Winston Brown’s death.” 17


Mrs. Sophronia Crawley Brown passed away on February 13, 1920, and was interred in Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church cemetery on February 16, 1920. It is possible that she rests near her husband Winston, but her gravestone has not been located.18

Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2014. All rights reserved.
Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2014. All rights reserved.

  1. Fold3, “Civil War Soldiers – Union – Colored Troops 1st-6th Cavalry” database, Compiled Military Service Records of volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served with the United States Colored Troops, database with images (https;//www.fold3.com : accessed 15 February 2015), entry for Winson Brown, Pvt., Co. B, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry, Union.
  2. “Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 January 2016), certificate image, Rebecca Simmons, 5 July 1960, no. 18074; certificate image, Dora Kent, 22 November 1932, no. 23766; certificate image, Lucy Dogner, 2 June 1944, no. 12667, citing “Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Deaths, 1912-2014.”
  3. Brazos Santiago, Texas.
  4. Winston Brown (Pvt., Co. B, 1st U.S.C.Cav), Civil War), pension no. VA 919414, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files, Record Group 15; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; National Archives, Washington, D. C.”
  5. Winston Brown Civil War pension no. VA. 919414, RG 15, NA-Washington
  6. Winston Brown Civil War pension no. VA. 919414, RG 15, NA-Washington
  7. Winston Brown Civil War pension no. VA. 919414, RG 15, NA-Washington; Cpl. Thomas Land served with Company A, 1st U. S. Colored Cavalry. Per his enlistment record, he was born about 1848, Nofolk, Virginia. He enlisted on December 8, 1863 at Norfolk, and mustered into service on December 22, 1863, Camp Hamilton, Virginia. He was promoted to the rank of Corporal on February 1,1864. He mustered out on February 4, 1866, Brazos Santiago, Texas. Cpl. Thomas Land died on February 1, 1919, Washington, D.C., and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.
  8. Winston Brown Civil War pension no. VA. 919414, RG 15, NA-Washington
  9. Refers to the Bolling Brook neighborhood of Norfolk, Virginia, near Titustown.
  10. In the 1850 and 1860 U. S. Census records for St. Mary’s County, Maryland, there is Merrit/Merrett Crawley, mulatto, born ca. 1810-1815, identified as a farmer and wood dealer. “1850 U. S. Census,” database online, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com/ :accessed 6 April 2020.), Maryland, St. Mary’s, dist. 2, p. 28; citing, “Year: 1850; Census Place: District 2, St Mary’s, Maryland; Roll: 296; Page: 294A”; “1860 U. S. Census,” database online, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com/ : accessed 6 April 2020), Maryland, St. Mary’s, dist. 2, p. 3; citing “Year: 1860; Census Place: District 2, St Mary’s, Maryland; Page: 31; Family History Library Film: 803479.”
  11. Deposition of claimant, 19 September 1908, Sophronia C. Brown, widow’s pension application no. 886.828, certificate no. 666.837; combined with Winston Brown (Pvt. Co. B, 1st U.S.C.Cav, Civil War,Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Record Group 15; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Archives, Washington D.C.
  12. Thomas Watkins was a member of Company E, 10th Regiment, U. S. Colored Infantry. Born enslaved in Sussex County,Virginia, he enlisted on April 5, 1865 at Baltimore, Maryland. He is interred in Calvary Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia; Deposition of Claimant, Sophronia Brown, widow’s pension no. 886.828, Civil War, RG 15, NA-Washington D.C.
  13. Deposition of Claimant, Sophronia Brown, widow’s pension no. 886.828, Civil War, RG 15, NA-Washington D.C.
  14. Deposition of Claimant, Sophronia Brown, widow’s pension no. 886.828, Civil War, RG 15, NA-Washington D.C.
  15. Per his death certificate, Peter Cadden, son of Joseph Cadden, passed away on December 14, 1921, in the Tanners Creek district of Norfolk. He is interred in Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery. “Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014,” database with images, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : accessed 6 April 2020), certificate image, Peter Caddin, 14 December 1921, no. 27437, citing, “Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Deaths, 1912-2014“;”Deposition of Claimant, Sophronia Brown, widow’s pension no. 886.828, Civil War, RG 15, NA-Washington D.C.
  16. Deposition of Claimant, Sophronia Brown, widow’s pension no. 886.828, Civil War, RG 15, NA-Washington D.C.
  17. Andrew Nimmo was a member of Company B, 1st Regiment, U. S. Colored Cavalry. He enlisted on December 3, 1863, at Norfolk, Virginia. He is interred in Calvary Cemetery, Norfolk, Virginia; Deposition of Claimant, Sophronia Brown, widow’s pension no. 886.828, Civil War, RG 15, NA-Washington D.C.
  18. Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 January 2015), certificate image, Sophronia Brown, 13 February 1920, no. 5002, citing, “Virginia Department of Health; Richmond.”

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