Brother Against Brother
In hundreds of individual cases the war did pit brother against brother, cousin against cousin, even father against son. This was especially true in border states like Kentucky, where the war divided such famous families as the Clays, Crittendens, and Breckinridges and where seven brothers and brothers-in-law of the wife of the United States President fought for the Confederate States. But it was also true of states like Virginia, where Jeb Stuart's father-in-law commanded Union cavalry, and even of South Carolina, where Thomas F. Drayton became a brigadier general in the Confederate army and fought against his brother Percival, a captain in the Union navy, at the Battle of Port Royal.
General John Hunt Morgan surprised and captured the Federal garrison at Lebanon, Kentucky. With minimal time to prepare, Union Lt. Col. Charles S. Hanson quickly deployed his 350 - 400 men from the 20th Kentucky Infantry that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Arriving at the town, Morgan formally requested that Hanson surrender, an offer that was refused. With a huge numerical advantage, Morgan quickly pushed Hanson's advance pickets back through the town's streets. He trapped many of the Union soldiers in the Louisville and Nashville Railroad depot, but the well fortified brick building provided considerable protection. Morgan ordered nearby buildings set on fire, hoping to force Hanson to surrender. In a sharp six-hour fight, Federal troops killed Morgan's 19-year-old brother, Lt. Thomas Morgan, during the final charge. General Morgan finally captured and paroled the enemy soldiers. His men burned the offices of the Circuit Clerk and County Clerk, as well as 20 other buildings. Union colonel Charles Hanson had two brothers fight for the Confederacy, including Brigadier General Roger Hanson, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee.
The Civil War in Kentucky not only divided communities, turning friends and neighbors into foes, it also tore many families asunder as well. The Clays were no exception. Henry Clay once said that he hoped he would never live to to see his beloved Union torn apart by Civil War. Henry Clay got his wish. Unfortunately, his family was not so fortunate. Henry Clay's son James allied himself with the Confederacy.
The Last act of the Confederate Department of War was to accept Lieutenant James B. Clay Jr.'s resignation making him the last Confederate officer. Captain Henry Clay III wrote of his fear of meeting his brother on the field of battle and his relief that his brother was a prisoner of war. Henry died of Typhoid in 1862 at the age of 28. Lieutenant Thomas Julian Clay was captured at the surrender of Ft. Donelson and imprisoned at Camp Chase much to his Union brother Henry's relief. Tommy died of Typhoid on 1863 at the age of 23. He and Henry are buried side by side in cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville. Lt. Colonel Eugene Erwin served in the Vicksburg campaign and is the only Clay family member to die in battle. He was shot dead leading a charge on June 25, 1862. A promotion to the rank of General was waiting for him had he survived. Captain Thomas Hart Clay, Jr. served on the staff of General Simon Bolivar Buckner. Captain Harry Boyle Clay served under General John Hunt Morgan. Harry was captured in a raid on Sept 4, 1864 and forced by the commanding Union officer to identify the body of his commander, John Hunt Morgan. Major Henry Clay McDowell served first as a Captain under General Rousseau, then as a US Marshal for the State of Kentucky. McDowell ended the war as a Lt. Colonel in the 62nd KY Militia. For unknown reasons, he was always known as Major McDowell. All were grandsons of Henry Clay, except McDowell who was a grandson-in-law.
John J. Crittenden was a senator from Kentucky, the state maybe most divided by the Civil War. Sen. Crittenden struggled to hold his state together as dissident factions debated over whether to side with the Union or Confederacy. Originally, Kentucky had been neutral. But after contingents from both the Union and Confederacy traveled to Kentucky (Confederate troops entered first), the state government became divided. Crittenden was torn by the disputes between the Union and the Confederacy. While he ultimately remained loyal to the United States, he also proposed a plan (the Crittenden Compromise) which called for the federal government to leave the issue of slavery to the states. His plan ultimately failed.
Kentucky's ambivalence was reflected in the Crittenden family as well. The senator's sons, George Bibb Crittenden and Thomas Leonidas Crittenden, both served as generals in the Civil War. However, each fought for a different side. While George, the eldest, served the Confederacy, Thomas commanded Union troops.
George Bibb Crittenden was something of a revolutionary soldier throughout his lifetime. He certainly had something of a rebellious nature: George fought against the Mexican Army for an independent Texas in the 1840s, and he sided with the Confederacy when the Civil War began between the states. George rose quickly in the Confederate ranks from infantry colonel, to brigadier general and to major general in less than a year. His drinking proved a problem for him in these higher stations, however.
A bad defeat in the clash with Union forces at Mill Springs, Ky., caused him to be transferred off the front lines. Rumors that he'd been drunk during the battle further tarnished him. Still, he retained his rank - until he was discovered drunk later that year at his post in Mississippi and was court-martialed. George resigned from the Army but returned to fight until the end of the Civil War, this time as an enlisted soldier.
Though his younger brother Thomas had a starkly different demeanor, he suffered a fate similar to George's. Thomas was the more staid of the Crittenden brothers. While George studied law, Thomas became a practicing lawyer and achieved the rank of U.S. consul in England. Thomas was a talented commander, but his reputation was harmed by others less gifted than him. As major general in the Union, he commanded flanks of troops during a number of battles. The Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia, at which the Union forces were led by Gen. William Rosencrans, proved to be the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. In just two days, both sides saw 34,624 casualties.
After the battle, a Confederate victory, Rosencrans incorrectly attributed the defeat to Thomas Crittenden. The major loss was enough for the Union generals to relieve Crittenden of his command [source: Murfreesboro Post]. He eventually regained his status after Rosencrans continued to wage losing battles, however.
Exploring why two brothers would fight on opposite sides of the Civil War is no easy task: It's difficult not to overestimate their motives. This is especially true when the division of a family seems to reflect the divisions of an entire country, as the Crittendens appear to. It's important to remember that the motives behind the Civil War, like the people involved in it, were complex and multilayered. It's easy to stray into generalizations, claiming that George represented a drunken and rebellious South and Thomas stood for the staid and cosmopolitan North. But neither of these interpretations accurately represents either side - or either man.
Neither Thomas nor George left any written account of their perspectives. It's up to us to decipher their motives. The brothers didn't die in the Civil War. And there's no evidence that the Crittenden boys ever fought one another in the same battle. But their story reveals the truth in the oft-used term to describe the Civil War, the "Brothers' War"
The Breckinridge family has been prominent in both Kentucky and national politics since Kentucky was established as a state in 1792. John Breckinridge, founder of the clan, was Attorney General of the United States under President Thomas Jefferson; his son, Robert Jefferson Breckinridge, was a Presbyterian minister involved in the pre-Civil War rift in the Presbyterian church which has lasted down to the present. Robert favored public education, opposed slavery, and was an ardent supporter of the Union during the Civil War. Robert's son, Joseph Cabell Breckinridge, fought on the Union side during the war, and later made a career in the Army. He married Louise Dudley, daughter of Ethelbert Ludlow Dudley, the noted Kentucky physician and teacher, lecturer in medicine at Transylvania University and the Louisville School of Medicine. Joseph's brother, Robert Jefferson Breckinridge, Jr., fought on the Confederate side.
John Cabell Breckinridge lawyer, soldier, and statesman, was born January 21, 1821, near Lexington, Kentucky, and was the only son of Hon. Joseph Cabell Breckinridge, and grandson of Hon. John Breckinridge. He served as a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Kentucky and was the 14th Vice President of the United States, to date the youngest vice president in U.S. history, inaugurated at age 36. Following the outbreak of the American Civil War, he served in the Confederate States Army as a general and commander of Confederate forces, including young Virginia Military Institute cadets, at the Battle of New Market. He also served as the fifth and final Confederate Secretary of War.
Mary Todd Lincolns's father, Robert S. Todd, fathered 16 children - 7 with his first wife and 9 with his second. Mary's full siblings were Elizabeth, Frances, Levi, (Mary), Ann, Robert,(died as infant) and George. Her half siblings were Robert (died as infant), Alex, David, Samuel, Emilie, Katherine, Elodie, Martha, and Margaret.
Three of her half-brothers died in Confederate military service during the war - Sam at Shiloh, David at Vicksburg, and Aleck at Baton Rouge. Their deaths and that of the husband of her half-sister Emilie may have added to the grief she felt as the result of the death of Willie; however, she pointedly told Elizabeth Keckley that she was not grieve her half-brothers.
Half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln, Emilie (Emily) Todd Helm first came to the White House in December 1863, accompanied by her daughter Katherine. In March 1861, President Lincoln had offered her husband, Ben Hardin Helm, the job of army paymaster, which he declined. He instead became a confederate general. Ben Hardin Helm, was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. Upon learning of Helm's death, Lincoln reputedly wept and said, "I feel as David of old did when he was told of the death of Absalom."
After Helm's death, his widow, Emilie Todd Helm, visited Abraham and Mary Lincoln in the White House. This created a stir in Washington, and newspapers complained when Lincoln's rebel sister-in-law visited. Later, when Emilie was seeking the president's permission to travel into the Confederacy to sell cotton, she reminded Lincoln that Union bullets had made her a widow and her children orphans, so Lincoln bore the responsibility to help her. Although Lincoln was the Union commander-in-chief, most of his inlaws, the Todd family of Lexington, supported the Confederacy. Few families were immune from the divisions of the Civil War.
Her many Confederate relatives led to unfounded questions about her loyalty to the Union. Mary told Elizabeth Keckley that brother Aleck "made his choice long ago. He decided against my husband, through him against me. He has been fighting against us and since he chose to be our deadly enemy, I see no special reason why I should bitterly mourn his death."
Phililp St. George Cooke was born in Leesburg, Virginia, June 13, 1809, the U.S. Army was Cooke's life for 50 years. Graduating 23d in the West Point class of 1827, he was a veteran of frontier service and the Black Hawk and Mexican wars. He became a dragoon officer, a cavalry tactician, and an explorer in the Far West; in the late 1850s he was also a U.S. observer in the Crimean War.
When the Civil War began he was a colonel, but 12 Nov. 1861 he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Regular Army and given command of the cavalry forces in Washington, D.C. Cooke's sole combat service followed the next spring when he took part in Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. He led a cavalry division in front of Yorktown and in the battles at Williamsburg, Gaines' Mill, and White Oak Swamp. The rest of his war service was administrative: he served on courts-martial until Aug. 1863, commanded the District of Baton Rouge until May 1864, then headed the Unions recruiting service until the Confederate surrender. He is remembered not so much for what he did during the Civil War but for what became of his family.
Cooke had 3 daughters and a son, John R. Cooke, who became a Confederate general. Like her father, one daughter held to the Union cause. The other 2 daughters, one of whom vas married to Confederate cavalry commander JEB Stuart, allied with the South. This political split estranged the family members for most of their lives and became the subject of national gossip. The older soldier was brevetted major general for his war service 13 Mar. 1865, and after more administrative duty he was retired 29 Oct. 1873, a little more than half a century after he had entered West Point.
With the coming of war, Jefferson Davis, the new President of the Confederate States of America, appointed Thomas Fenwick Drayton as a brigadier general in September 1861 and placed him in command of the military district at Port Royal, South Carolina. Drayton subsequently used his wife's family's plantation, "Fish Hall," as headquarters in the defense of Hilton Head Island until 1861.
At the Battle of Port Royal later that year, troops under his command at Fort Beauregard and Fort Walker came under attack by ships of the Union Navy, including the USS Pocahontas, commanded by his brother, Percival Drayton. Thomas Drayton's son, Lieutenant William Drayton, also fought in defense of the forts. After a lengthy bombardment, both forts fell to the Union attackers, who subsequently occupied much of the region, giving the North its first deepwater port in coastal Carolina.
Where the North met the South during the Civil War, Americans paid close attention to one another's loyalties and tried to explain what induced people to take one side or the other. Marriages between Union and Confederate sympathizers were more accepted than similar courtships. Practical and personal reconciliation were two different things. Practical reconciliation constituted material aid being given to family members of opposing sides and began before the war ended. However, a more difficult, relational reconciliation was not always achieved among family members.
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