Kady Brownell

Tent #36 is named in honor of Kady Brownell. The daughter of a Scotsman in the British Army, Kady was born in Africa in 1842. After the death of her parents, she migrated with her adopted parents to Providence, Rhode Island, where she worked as a weaver. Here she met and married a mechanic, Robert S. Brownell.

With the fall of Sumter in 1861 Robert enlisted in the 1st Rhode Island Infantry Volunteers. Despite great opposition from Robert and others, Kady joined him. Colonel A.E. Burnside appointed her the company’s color bearer and Daughter of the Regiment. Kady refused to be merely an ornament, however, and she soon became proficient as a sharpshooter and swordsman. Besides carrying the Union flag, she fought alongside Robert in several battles, including the first Battle of Bull Run (July 1861).

After a three-month enlistment the couple mustered out with honorable discharges. They re-enlisted in the 5th Rhode Island Infantry, where under the command of now General Burnside they took part in the Battle of Roanoke and advanced to New Berne, North Carolina. Kady served as an army nurse and “Daughter of the Regiment.” But it was in the role of heroine that Kady will most be remembered. While preparing for battle at New Berne, she realized that her company had been mistaken as rebels. Kady immediately rushed to the front waving her flag until it was apparent to all that the advancing forces were friendly. She thus helped avert a serious incident from occurring.

It was at New Berne that Robert was wounded, his leg bone shattered. Kady spent weeks nursing him, as well as other wounded Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners. They later returned to New York where both received honorable discharges. Kady was also presented a Sergeant’s sword engraved with her name cut on the scabbard and the flag she had carried proudly throughout her service.

Kady was the only woman to receive discharge papers from the Union Army, and in 1884 the U.S. government granted he a Civil War pension of $8.00 a month.

Following the Civil War, Kady and Robert lived in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. In 1870 Kady was inducted into the GAR, thus stirring up controversy once again among male veterans.

Kady died on 4 January 1915.

Biography written by by Mary F. Cordato, Ph.D.
  |   All photos courtesy of the National Archives