Family Conflicts…and not
Sunday, July 24, 2011
BY BOB HURST
War is unlike any other event of humankind. There are those who try to equate politics, business, athletic competition and other endeavors to war but there is no comparison. War can bring out the absolute best in some individuals and the horrific worst in others. The expression "war is hell" best describes this most visceral of human interactions so it is not surprising that war can tear families apart and can also create unique and ever-firm bonds.
The great American epoch, the War Between the States, has sometimes been described as a conflict of brother against brother. This can be interpreted several ways. Since individuals from the several states had banded together to defeat the British in the American Revolutionary War of 1775 to 1783, it could be said, and has, that they fought as "brothers". That conflict did result in independence for the thirteen individual states that comprised the America of that time.To me, it is difficult to apply this broader interpretation of "brother" (people whose forebears had banded together to fight the British) to those individuals who fought in the War for Southern Independence from 1861 to 1865. The differences in worldview, religion, politics, origin and other areas were too great to not consider the people of the North and the people of the South as different entities.
There certainly were, though, instances where families were split by the loyalties of individual members to the Cause of either the South or the North and this did indeed result in war between family members and even brothers by blood. One of the most interesting of these family splits, to me, involves the legendary Confederate cavalry hero, General J.E.B. Stuart.
James Ewell Brown Stuart was a son of Virginia. Like many other young men from good families in the South, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point to pursue a military career. He graduated in the Class of 1854. In the summer of 1855, while serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Military, he was stationed at Fort Leavenworth in the Kansas Territory. It was here that he met a young lady, Flora Cooke, who stole his heart.
Although she had been born in Missouri, Flora’s family had deep roots in Virginia. Her father, Colonel Philip St.George Cooke, was a military man who had a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Army. Jeb and Flora were married and the next four years were spent primarily on the frontier.
By early 1861 it was obvious that the Union was dissolving although Virginia had not yet followed the lead of other Southern states and passed an Ordinance of Secession. Jeb knew it was inevitable that his state would eventually leave the Union and wrote to several officials informing them that as soon as Virginia seceded he was casting his lot with his native state. Jeb’s brother-in-law, John Rogers Cooke, made the same decision and would eventually rise to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate Army.
The family problem, though, was that Philip St. George Cooke would not leave the U.S. Army despite the fact that he was a Virginian and his son and son-in-law had given their allegiances to the Confederacy. In addition, his nephew, John Esten Cooke, was one of the great writers of the South and a solid Confederate. This situation constantly bothered Jeb Stuart and he declared often to Flora that he had a great desire to capture her father (who, by now, had been promoted to the rank of general) and put him out of the War. Sadly, General Stuart was killed in the War before he had the opportunity to fulfill his goal.
Another interesting conflict arose in the Terrill family of Virginia when one son, James Barbour Terrill, sided with the Confederacy and another, William Terrill, decided to stay with the Union army. This resulted in their father disowning William. Both brothers achieved the rank of general in their respective armies. An interesting sidebar here is that William Terrill’s mother-in-law appealed to General Winfield Scott, head of the Union army, to have William Terrill transferred out West to eliminate the possibility that he might meet his brother on the battlefield.
Another case of divided loyalties involved Confederate general Ben Hardin Helm of Kentucky and his brother-in-law, Abraham Lincoln. Yes, THAT Abraham Lincoln. Brigadier General Helm was married to Emily Todd who was the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. It was reported that when General Helm was killed at Chickamauga, a moment of silence was observed at the White House and that Lincoln sent a note of condolence to the family. I have also read that a senate special committee considered bringing charges of treason against Mary Todd Lincoln because four of her family members were serving in the Confederate Army. War can certainly bring out the emotions in some people.
Brigadier General Thomas Drayton of South Carolina was the commanding officer at Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island in November 1861 when the fort was subjected to a fierce bombardment by a Union naval squadron. The U.S.S. POCHAHONTAS did much of the damage. The ship was under the command of Commander Percival Drayton, brother of General Drayton. Percival Drayton was a native South Carolinian who had strayed from his roots. I doubt that General Drayton invited his brother to a Thanksgiving dinner at his farm any time after the War.
I would also imagine that family relations were a bit strained in the Buford family of Kentucky. Abraham Buford not only chose to serve in the Confederate Army but also rose to the rank of brigadier general and spent much of his war service attached to Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry corps. The magnificent Forrest was unquestionably the most hated by the North of all Confederate generals. This certainly did not set well with General Buford’s cousins, John Buford and N.B. Buford, who were each generals in the Union Army.
Another family feud over allegiances involved the Crittenden family of Kentucky. The family patriarch, John J. Crittenden, had been a U.S. senator, governor of Kentucky and Attorney General of the United States.He was also a close friend of Henry Clay. He proposed a compromise early in the War that he thought might stop the fighting and end the bloodshed. Not only was his compromise not adopted but his own sons could not reach a compromise. His oldest son, George, sided strongly with the Confederacy and eventually reached the rank of major general. A younger son, Thomas, would reach the rank of major general in the Union Army. Again, one has to wonder what their relationship was after the War.
While these are a few examples of split allegiances involving Southern families, the stories of Southern families supplying multiple members to wear the sacred gray are legion. There are some well-known examples that deserve mentioning which involve some of the better-known Confederate leaders.
An example that stands out is that of the Lee family of Virginia. Robert E. Lee, of course, was the greatest hero of the Confederacy and served as the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, one of the three major elements of the Confederate Army. He was also one of only eight Confederate generals to attain the rank of full general. Two of his sons, George Washington Custis Lee and William Henry Fitzhugh "Rooney" Lee,reached the rank of major general as did his nephew, Fitzhugh "Fitz" Lee. Fitz Lee was also a nephew on his mother’s side of General Samuel Cooper, the senior ranking Confederate general.
John Hunt Morgan, the legendary cavalry leader, had a family just full of Confederate generals. His fellow Kentuckian, Brigadier General Basil Duke, was married to a sister of Morgan and Lieutenant General A.P. Hill of Virginia was married to another sister. Sadly, Basil Duke was the only one of the three generals in the family to survive the War.
There were a number of sets of brothers who served as Confederate generals. Among these are Thomas and Howell Cobb of Georgia, William Wirt Adams and Daniel Weisiger Adams of Kentucky, William Henry and John Forney of Alabama and James E. and Thomas Harrison of Texas.
A loyal Southern family indeed was that of Reverend R.H. Morrison. No less than three Confederate generals – Daniel Harvey Hill, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and Rufus Barringer – each married one of the six pretty daughters of the Reverend.
This exercise could continue much farther but I must conclude now. I do want to mention before ending, though, that Brigadier General Joseph Robert Davis was the nephew of President Jefferson Davis. His confirmation by the Confederate Senate came only after an exhaustive discussion concerning nepotism was settled.
This article has dealt almost entirely with general officers and their family relationships (and not all the generals that could have been included). It would take volumes to detail all the familial relationships within the Confederate Army. Included within this study would have been my great, great grandfather (on my mother’s side) Edmund Hooker Ogletree and his five brothers from Talladega County, Alabama. Of the six going off to war to wear the sacred gray, only four returned . This story was repeated in families throughout the South. God bless them all.
While I admire and revere those brave men who fought for independence and self-determination for the South, it always angers me to realize how many died before their time and how many Southern civilians lost everything because of Mr. Lincoln’s War. This is why I believe, and always will, that Abe Lincoln is the worst war criminal ever produced in this country. It’s painfully obvious that he never read the opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. The reprobate would just not allow the Southern States to live in peace. How sad.