Natchez man, Medal of Honor recipient having story told in project

Published 12:10 am Sunday, December 21, 2014

NATCHEZ — Courage, valor and strength are just some of the words to describe the late Wilson Brown.

Brown, who is the only Medal of Honor recipient of more than 8,000 buried veterans in the Natchez National Cemetery, will have his story told through a memorial project.

Brown was an enslaved African American who sought freedom by jumping in the Mississippi River, which would later lead him to fighting for the United States.

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The Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture Director Darrell White and Home With Heroes Foundation President Mark LaFrancis seek to create a lasting memorial in Brown’s honor, while also writing a book and creating a documentary.

“The life experiences and achievements of Wilson Brown were phenomenal, by any measure,” White said. “To exhibit the qualities to take him from slavery to bravery, and his service to the nation, regardless of race, to prove his worth and be acknowledged and recognized by our government with the Medal of Honor.”

White said the book is in the developmental stages and will enable future generations to better understand the elements of the nation’s history that haven’t been told.

“It’s outstanding,” White said. “We are trying to bring the triumphs of yesterday to the attention of today’s audiences.”

The Adams County Board of Supervisors granted NAPAC and Home with Heroes $500 to kick off their fundraising efforts for Brown’s legacy.

An African American — who was once enslaved on a plantation near Natchez — Brown saw his chance for freedom when union gun ships patrolled the Mississippi River, said Adams Count Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell.

“Brown jumped into the treacherous waters and swam to one of the gun ships, The USS Hartford, in the fleet of Admiral Farragut,” Grennell said. “The union officers were so impressed with (Brown’s) courage and abilities, they sent him to naval training, after which he was assigned to the Hartford, which later was engaged in the Battle of Mobile Bay, the last amphibious battle of the Civil War.

“(Brown) was so heroic in that battle, he was selected to receive the Medal of Honor, which was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. (Brown) was one of the only two men to earn the Medal of Honor in that battle.”

Brown later returned to Natchez and lived out his life until his death in 1900 at the age of 59.

“When I heard the story of Wilson Brown, I couldn’t believe what I was listening to,” LaFrancis said. “Brown must have had an incredible amount of courage to flee the plantation and risk his life by jumping into the Mississippi River. Then he risked his life again aboard the USS Hartford.”

LaFrancis said he was humbled upon visiting Brown’s grave.

“When we founded Home With Heroes to honor and help veterans and their loved ones, I never imagined we’d be selecting a veteran of the Civil War, and a former slave as well,” LaFrancis said.

Donations for the Wilson Brown Memorial Project can be brought or sent to the NAPAC museum on 301 Main St., to Home With Heroes on 317A Highland Blvd., or contributing through PayPal to the account:

A Wilson Brown Memorial Facebook page is in the works and will include a short promotional video.

For more information, call White at 601-445-0728 or LaFrancis at 601-442-0980.