“BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER”
The American Civil War was largely characterized by the saying “brother against brother.” Both North and South were fighting for what they believed in; and what was once a whole country was now divided. The term was used both symbolically and literally. Family members, friends, neighbors, and former classmates found themselves on opposite sides of the great issues of the day.
Even among the nation’s leaders, there was discord. Lincoln’s wife, the former Mary Todd, had close relatives who aligned themselves with the Confederacy; her sisters all married Confederate officers, and four brothers served in the Confederate Army, three died in battle. Beyond blood relatives, most of the higher ranking officers of both sides were either classmates at West Point or served together in the earlier Mexican War. They were on a first name basis and usually knew each other’s families.
“I had a sergeant Driscoll, a brave man, and one of the best shots in the Brigade. When charging at Malvern Hill, a company was posted in a clump of trees, and kept up a fierce fire on us, and actually charged out on our advance. Their officer seemed to be a daring, reckless boy, and I said to Driscoll, ‘if that officer is not taken down, many of us will fall before we pass that clump.’
“As we passed the place, I said, “Driscoll, see if that officer is dead - he was a brave fellow.’ I stood looking on. Driscoll turned him over on his back. He opened his eyes for a moment, and faintly murmured ‘Father,’ and closed them forever.
“I will forever recollect the frantic grief of Driscoll; it was harrowing to witness. The man was his son, who had gone South before the war.
“And what became of Driscoll afterwards? Well, we were ordered to charge, and I left him there; but, as we were closing in on the enemy, he rushed up, with his coat off, and, clutching his musket, charged right up at the enemy, calling on the men to follow him. He soon fell, but jumped up again. We knew he was wounded. On he dashed, but he soon rolled over like a top. When we came up he was dead, riddled with bullets.”
If you want to read some letters telling of families divided by the Civil War, Kentucky Educational Television has made several available at this link: