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William Carey Brown papers

Identifier: COU:254

Scope and Contents

General Brown's papers are exceedingly diverse. They include personal and family materials; assorted military records; collected historical files on U. s. Army engagements and campaigns in the West, the Philippines and Mexico; documents and memorabilia concerning West Point and numerous military fraternal orders; reports and papers on various technical military topics; printed matter and photographs. The personal and family papers contain correspondence (1836-1938), family estate papers, financial records, scrapbooks, photographs, awards and certificates, and 68 diaries (1873-1938). General Brown and his sisters, Helen and Grace, were interested in family genealogy. Extensive research was done for the Brown, Young and Kemble families and is included. A few military records for Brown's promotion or retirement are also contained in his personal papers. The Collection contains voluminous military correspondence (1870's-1938) between Brown and veterans of various campaigns solicited for Brown's historical research purposes. This correspondence fills 10 record boxes. The most prominent correspondents are listed individually. The military records collected during his career contain copies of official orders, letters, memoranda, etc. This section also contains the inspection reports t o the Chief Quartermaster during World War I. Information about the Indian wars and frontier expeditions is found in the wars, campaigns and reminiscences portion of the guide. This data was collected by Brown for his historical research and contains some of his personal recollections. Correspondence, diaries, photographs, maps, articles and reports from participants and others provide an insight in to the problems of the territories of the West. Items regarding the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, Punitive Expedition in Mexico and World War I are included. Brown attended t h e United States Military Academy at West Point,Class of 1877. He was Adjutant at the Academy from 1885 to 1890. Numerous reports, registers, letters, speeches, directories, photographs and regulations pertaining to his service comprise this portion of his papers. Organizations in which he held membership included The Association of Graduates (1887-1938), The Order of Indian Wars (1896-1938), the Society of the Army of Santiago de Cuba (1900-c. 1930) and The Military Order of the Carabao (1930-1936). He saved items pertaining to each organization, especially the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting for the Order of Indian Wars (1911-1938). General Brown traveled t o Australia (1906) t o report on the feasibility of buying horses for use in the Philippines. He returned later (1907-1908) to buy the mounts for the army. and personal memorabilia of the journeys is included. Material related to these horse purchases and personal memorabilia of the journeys is included. Items and topics of special military interest include Brown's numerous inventions, Emergency and New Reserve Rations, the Greely Arctic Expedition, the General Leonard Wood case, biographies of military notables, W. C. Camp manuscript notes and other miscellaneous information. Active in promoting congressional legislation for retired military veterans' benefits and in promoting his own congressional appointment to Brigadier General, Brown's memoranda on bills, petitions, reports, drafts of bills and other congressional action is extensive. The printed matter in the Collection is voluminous. It contains government publications, military publications, and catalogs of all types, almanacs, journals, magazines, newspapers, articles, pamphlets, booklets, books and more. Brown traveled widely at home and abroad. This is reflected in the numerous railroad, bus and ship timetables, maps, tourist guides and brochures he saved. The Collection contains many maps of both military and general travel interest. Photographs of family, friends, officers and soldiers, Indians, groups of military personnel, camps, agencies and forts, battle areas, monuments, parades, etc., travel sights and assorted scenes and objects complete the Collection.


  • 1836 - 1938
  • Majority of material found within 1873 - 1938

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Biographical / Historical

Distinguished military officer, inventor and historical researcher were all embodied in the person of William Carey Brown. General Brown never married, and there is no indication that he ever allowed anything to interfere with historical devotion to service of his country. Brown's experience with Indian wars began at the age of 8 when his family became fugitives in Minnesota during the Sioux uprising in 1862. His father, Garretson Addison Brown and mother, Susan (Carey) Brown, had migrated to Traverse des Sioux, Nicollet County, Minnesota, from Ohio, in 1853, where he established a store and engaged in mercantile business until 1857 when he went in to the livestock business. He was for a short while the postmaster and a probate judge. It was from Nicollet County that William Brown was appointed to West Point in 1873. Four years later he completed his course at the military academy with honors and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the First Cavalry. In 1878 he saw service against the Bannock Indians in Oregon, and the following year he took part in an expedition against the Sheep-eater Indians at Big Creek, Idaho, of which he subsequently wrote the history. Brown was brevetted a first lieutenant for conspicuous gallantry in action (1879). Shortly after, he was sent to the Infantry and Cavalry School and was subsequently appointed the Adjutant at West Point (1885-1890). Brown was ordered to the Dakota frontier where he rejoined the First Cavalry in time to participate in the campaign of 1890-1891 when the Sioux went on the warpath in the dead of winter. However, Brown was not to see action in any fighting during this period. In 1891, Colonel J. C. Bates, commanding, Fort Assinniboine, requested Brown to prepare a party to reconnoiter and map the St. Mary's Lakes region which he did with efficiency and skill. Years later this area was preserved by the government as Glacier Lake National Park, much to Brown's proud satisfaction. Soon after, he declined an appointment as acting Indian agent for the Navajos in Arizona and, in 1894-1895, toured Europe as a military observer. He was promoted to captain in 1896, and when this country went to war with Spain in 1898, he commanded Troop E, First Cavalry. For gallantry in action at Santiago, Brown was awarded the War Department Commendation and the Silver Star. His troop was one of those which charged a t San Juan Kill and it was at this time he made the acquaintance of Theodore Roosevelt, forming a friendship which endured until the latter's death. On August 17, 1899, Brown was commissioned a major in the 45th Infantry, U.S. Volunteers, which saw active service in the Philippines. This action attracted the attention of his superiors and he was twice recommended for promotion to lieutenant colonel. In one battle he had an encounter with the notorious bandit Lt. Colonel Tomas Tagunton and succeeded in killing him. His journey home took him through China, Japan, Manchuria and through Russia. Reports of his observations were filed with the general staff upon return. After this period in the Far East, he took command at Fort Clark, Texas, in 1904, to conduct experimental firing tests and obtain data pertinent to the Springfield rifle. Brown devised an automatic correction "drift" on the rear sight of the rifle that increased the efficiency in later marksmanship of the A.E.F. He next traveled to Australia to report on the feasibility of buying horses for use in the Philippines (1906) and was later to return to Australia for nine months to buy the mounts. In March, 1914, Brown was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned the command of the 10th Cavalry during the siege of Naco, Arizona (1914). When General John Pershing's punitive expedition was sent in to Mexico in 1916, Brown commanded an independent cavalry column and, in an engagement at Aguas Calientes, defeated and dispersed Beltran's band of Mexicans. The following year when the United States became involved in World War I, Brown was sent to France with the Rainbow Division. For his service abroad he was cited by General Pershing and awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Brown retired for age, December 19, 1918, after 41 years of active commissioned service. For more than a year after his retirement he assisted in the Quartermaster General's Office in Washington, D.C., in an advisory capacity in matters pertaining to Emergency Rations and in the development of New Reserve Rations f o r the army. During his retirement, he engaged in historical research and writing, about the Indian wars. He was active in promoting congressional legislation for benefits to retired military personnel and was personally successful in winning congressional appointment as Brigadier General, U.S.A., Retired. General Brown took an active part in the improvement of army equipment and held several patents for his inventions. Many of these devices were adopted by the War Department. He belonged to numerous professional organizations and maintained an active, productive life until his death on May 8, 1939, at his home in Denver, Colorado.


145 linear feet (54 boxes, 4 cartons)

Language of Materials



William Carey Brown (1854 – 1939) attended the US Military Academy and served forty-one years in the US Army. Following his retirement he worked to preserve the legacy of the Indian Wars by locating and marking battlefields and gaining recognition and benefits for veterans. Collection contains correspondence, diaries, military papers, maps, publications, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings, relating to Brown’s military career which included campaigns against the Indians, service in Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, and Mexican Punitive Expedition.



Processed by Doris Mitterling September 1, 1978
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States