Sgt. Wilson W. Brown received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1863 and a redesigned version in 1904. The key is believed to be from his Confederate prison cell.
BOWLING GREEN — Rather than testifying at a court trial in Wood County next month, descendants of Sgt. Wilson W. Brown are planning a family reunion.
Albert C. Ward, a great-grandson of the Union soldier who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his role in Andrews’ Raid, this week reached agreement in Wood County Common Pleas Court with his cousin, Linda Schwartz of Perrysburg, over possession of Sergeant Brown’s medals and what is believed to be the key to the Confederate prison cell from which he escaped.
Mrs. Schwartz was given possession of the original medal issued to Sergeant Brown in 1863 and the key, both of which she agreed to donate to the new Veterans’ Administration Clinic in South Toledo for display in an area honoring veterans.
Mr. Ward of Timberlake, Ohio, was awarded possession of the second medal, which was issued to Seregant Brown in 1904 after the medal was redesigned. He is to donate it to the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Ga., for public display.
“You’re dealing with property that doesn’t have a market value, but has historical and genealogical value, that both sides felt strongly about,” said Harold Hanna, Mr. Ward’s attorney. “They got to thinking: if we split it up, it will be displayed in more places, so now it will be in the South and in the Toledo area.”
In February, 2012, Mr. Ward filed suit against Mrs. Schwartz on behalf of Sergeant Brown’s surviving descendants seeking a court order to gain access to the memorabilia. Mrs. Schwartz, he contended, had the items since her father’s death in 2005 and refused to share them for family and public events.
A locomotive engineer and member of the 21st Ohio Infantry Regiment, Sergeant Brown was among the first U.S. soldiers to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor for his part in the failed 1862 raid, often referred to as the Great Locomotive Chase.
Despite help from a court mediator last year, Mr. Hanna said the dispute over the artifacts took a long time to settle because both sides felt strongly about where the items should be displayed. The case was set to go to trial June 10. “I know Linda felt strongly the medal should be in a location where it could be most observed by veterans, while the rest of the descendants felt it should be displayed where it could be seen by the public at large,” he said.
Brian Ballenger, an attorney for Mrs. Schwartz, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Mr. Hanna said that if either the VA Clinic or the Civil War museum at some time no longer wants to keep the items, the agreement calls for reuniting them at the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.
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