Brother against brother

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"Brother against brother" is a slogan used in histories of the American Civil War, describing the predicament faced in families (primarily, but not exclusively, residents of border states) in which their loyalties and military service were divided between the Union and the Confederacy. There are a number of stories of brothers fighting in the same battles on opposite sides, or even of brothers killing brothers over the issues.

The term Brother Against Brother is also the name of a popular rules set for miniature wargaming recreations of Civil War skirmishes.


  • December 26, 1861, Confederate Lt. Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest was ordered to probe the strength of Union troops in and around Camp Calhoun, Kentucky. Two Confederate forward scouts, Adam R. Johnson and Robert M. Martin, each had brothers stationed at the camp.[1]
  • On May 23, 1862, at the Battle of Front Royal, Capt. William Goldsborough of the Confederate 1st Maryland Infantry captured his brother Charles Goldsborough of the Union 1st Maryland Infantry and took him prisoner. The battle is also notable for being the only time in United States military history that two regiments from the same state with the same numerical designation have engaged each other in battle.
  • The Crittenden brothers were brigadier generals on opposite sides of the conflict: George Bibb Crittenden within the Confederate Army and Thomas Leonidas Crittenden within the Union Army.
  • The Terrill brothers were also brigadier generals on opposite sides of the conflict: James Barbour Terrill [2] within the Confederate Army (killed at the Battle of Totopotomoy Creek) and William Rufus Terrill within the Union Army (killed at the Battle of Perryville).
  • On November 7, 1861, at the Battle of Port Royal, Union Navy Commander Percival Drayton of the USS Pocahontas battled Confederate forces on shore commanded by his brother General Thomas F. Drayton.
  • The historian and genealogical researcher Chad Clifford Davis of Tulsa, Oklahoma uncovered the first known set of brothers to fight against each other in the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern on March 7, 1862. Private John Virgil Barnhart from Company B of the 24th Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment (USA) fought his brother Private Thomas Henderson Barnhart of the Missouri State Guard 3rd Brigade (CSA). Their brother Alfred S. Barnhart also served Confederate Missouri as a Partisan Ranger, and their brothers David and Henry fought as Unionists. Davis is a direct descendant of their brother Robert Daniel Barnhart, who stayed out of the war altogether.
  • As cited in the book, "A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky", brothers Anthony and William McBeath fought on opposite sides of the Civil War, Anthony for the Confederate Army, and William for the Union Army. At the end of the war, both brothers returned home the same evening, William in a "resplendent uniform of a Major in the Federal Army", and a several hours later, Anthony in "rags with a 'taterhill' hat." [3]


  1. ^ The Battle of Sacramento Battlefield history - Address of local history site: P.O. Box 245 | Sacramento, KY 42372
  2. ^ VMI Civil War Generals Biographical information from the VMI archive
  3. ^ Johnson, A. P. (1939). A Century of Wayne County Kentucky, 1800-1900. The Standard Printing Co.: Louisville, KY, p.32 and p.166-167.