William M. Browne

For other people named William Browne, see William Browne (disambiguation).
Brig. Gen.
William M. Browne
Confederate States Secretary of State
In office
February 18, 1862  March 18, 1862
President Jefferson Davis
Preceded by Robert Hunter
Succeeded by Judah Benjamin
Personal details
Born (1823-07-07)July 7, 1823
County Mayo, United Kingdom
(now Ireland)
Died April 28, 1883(1883-04-28) (aged 59)
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
Resting place Oconee Hill Cemetery
Athens, Georgia
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Eliza Jane Beket Browne
Military service
Allegiance  Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States Army
Years of service 1862–1865
Rank Brigadier General
Commands 1st Virginia Cavalry Battalion, Local Defense
Browne's Local Brigade
Battles/wars American Civil War

William Montague Browne (July 7, 1823 April 28, 1883) was a prominent politician and newsman. During the American Civil War, he served as acting Secretary of State for the Confederacy in 1862 and as a temporary brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. When he was not confirmed to that rank by the Confederate Senate, he reverted to his permanent grade of colonel

Early life

Browne was born in County Mayo in Ireland on July 7, 1823 as son of D. Geoffrey Browne, MP. Definite information about some events, positions or locations in his early life, including an uncertain higher education, alleged service in the British Army during the Crimean War, diplomatic services and his initial whereabouts in the United States during the early 1850s, appears to be unavailable.[1] Residing in New York City by 1855 or 56, he wrote for the New York Journal of Commerce. He associated with the Democratic Party and later became a clerk in the House of Customs. In 1859 Browne moved to Washington D.C. and wrote for the pro-administration Washington Constitution.[2]

Civil War

In 1861 Browne, known as Constitution Browne by then, had become a well-connected proponent of secession and moved to Athens, Georgia, after that. A favorite of both the just elected Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Secretary of State Robert Toombs he was appointed Assistant Secretary of State. On several occasions in 1861 and 62 Browne acted as interim Secretary.[3] Living in Richmond, Virginia with his wife, Eliza Jane Beket, he had two permanent houseguests. One was Howell Cobb, a former United States Secretary of the Treasury and an old and close friend from Washington, who now was the President of Provisional Confederate Congress. The other was his younger brother, Colonel Thomas R.R. Cobb.[4]

Browne resigned in March 1862 and was assigned as military aide-de-camp to President Davis, with the rank of a Colonel of cavalry.[5] Beside his main duty on the staff he also was assigned to command a battalion of local defense cavalry.[6] On April 5, 1864 Davis appointed Browne as Commandant of Conscription in Georgia, where Governor Joseph E. Brown consistently hindered the Confederate war efforts. Browne was a natural choice as a Georgia resident who had inspected and reported about the conscription in Georgia before.[7]

In late 1864 Browne, while still enforcing conscription, was detached to commanded a small brigade of reserves during the Savannah Campaign. In December Browne was promoted to temporary brigadier general, to rank from November 11, 1864. He resumed his conscription duty in January 1865. In February 1865 his promotion was not confirmed by the Confederate Senate and he reverted to colonel. Despite this he later was excluded from amnesty on grounds of being both a civil officeholder and a military officer ranking higher than colonel.[8] He was paroled on May 8, and pardoned either in late 1865 or 66.[9]

Later life

Afterwards Browne, back in Athens, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1866. Beside his practice of law he became a newspaper man again when he took over editorship of the Southern Banner in 1868. Despite his position, the Brownes suffered from relative poverty and fragile health.[10]

He was the uncle of Sir Robert Ricketts of Gloucestershire England.[11]

See also


  1. Coulter, pp. 1-2
  2. Coulter, pp. 2-6
  3. Coulter, pp. 80-85
  4. Coulter, p. 93
  5. Coulter, p. 92
  6. Coulter, p. 99
  7. Coulter, pp. 102-103, 109
  8. Coulter, pp.115-120
  9. Coulter, pp. 125-127
  10. Coulter, pp. 128-129, 132
  11. The Free Lance Star April 9, 1980


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Hunter
Confederate States Secretary of State

Succeeded by
Judah Benjamin

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