He first saw action at Ivy Mountain, Kentucky., November 8–9, 1861. Chosen by James Andrewsfor his abilities as a locomotive engineer, as he had been an engineer on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad before the war, he took part in the Andrews’ Raid (Great Locomotive Chase) in April 1862. The raid sought to cut off Confederate supply lines from Atlanta to Chattanooga, by going behind Confederate lines and destroying the Western & Atlantic Railroad.
Captured by the Confederates, he was imprisoned in Atlanta’s old Fulton County Jail for most of 1862 before escaping with seven of his fellow raiders.
He was promoted to Sergeant, November 1, 1862. He later saw action at the Battle of Stones River, December 31, 1862 - January 3, 1863, at Dug Gap, Georgia, September 11, 1863 and was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga.
He was discharged May 15, 1864. In the 1950s Disney Studios released the movie The Great Locomotive Chase to herald the exploits of the Andrews Raid.
He was portrayed by actor Stan Jones in the film.
He is buried in New Belleville Ridge Cemetery, Dowling, Ohio. As a result of the court settlement, the original 1863 medal was placed in a Veteran’s Administration outpatient clinic in Toledo, Ohio. The other medal, issued in 1904 when the medal was redesigned, was donated, along with Brown’s papers, to the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, Kennesaw, Georgia., near the location where the raid began.