Kady Brownell enlisted with her husband in the 1st Rhode Island Infantry Volunteers the day after Fort Sumter fell. She fought openly alongside her husband in several battles, including the first Battle of Bull Run. At the end of their 3-month enlistment, Kady and her husband re-enlisted in the 5th RI Infantry. Robert was wounded in the battle at New Bern, North Carolina, and the Brownells were transferred to New York while Robert recuperated. Both were discharged in the winter of 1863.