William M. Browne

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William M. Browne
Browne, William Montague 2.jpg
Acting Confederate States Secretary of State
In office
February 18, 1862 – March 18, 1862
PresidentJefferson Davis
Preceded byRobert Hunter
Succeeded byJudah Benjamin
Personal details
Born(1823-07-07)July 7, 1823
County Mayo, Ireland, U.K.
DiedApril 28, 1883(1883-04-28) (aged 59)
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
Resting placeOconee Hill Cemetery
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Eliza Jane Beket
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States
Branch/service Confederate States Army
Years of service1862–1865
Commands1st Virginia Cavalry Battalion, Local Defense
Browne's Local Brigade
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

William Montague Browne (July 7, 1823 – April 28, 1883) was a prominent Irish-born American 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[edit]

Browne was born in County Mayo in Ireland on July 7, 1823 as (apparently the fifth)[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

American Civil War[edit]

Browne in uniform

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.[4] 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.[5]

Browne resigned in March 1862 and was assigned as military aide-de-camp to President Davis, with the rank of a Colonel of cavalry.[6] Beside his main duty on the staff he also was assigned to command a battalion of local defense cavalry.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] He was paroled on May 8, and pardoned either in late 1865 or 66.[10]

Later life[edit]

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.[11]

He was the great-great-uncle of Sir Robert Ricketts, 7th Baronet of Gloucestershire England.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Forging a British Link to the Old Confederacy". Washington Post. 17 April 1980.
  2. ^ Coulter, pp. 1-2
  3. ^ Coulter, pp. 2-6
  4. ^ Coulter, pp. 80-85
  5. ^ Coulter, p. 93
  6. ^ Coulter, p. 92
  7. ^ Coulter, p. 99
  8. ^ Coulter, pp. 102-103, 109
  9. ^ Coulter, pp.115-120
  10. ^ Coulter, pp. 125-127
  11. ^ Coulter, pp. 128-129, 132
  12. ^ "Forging a British Link to the Old Confederacy". Washington Post. 17 April 1980.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Hunter
Confederate States Secretary of State

Succeeded by
Judah Benjamin