The Civil War was a messy affair.  It broke down families, made widows and orphans, and was a catastrophic loss of life.  Many times you will hear people discuss how the Civil War made enemies of brothers.  For some, this sounds like just a way to describe how some extended families were separated by the war.  Unfortunately, it was actually the truth.  Many siblings did fight on opposite sides of the war.  Families were truly divided.  

One interesting story happened with two brothers from Indiana.  John and Henry McLaughlin were born and raised in Marion County, Indiana.  The brothers had six siblings and came from a close family.  Henry moved to Alabama sometime between 1850 and 1860.  In 1861, he married a young widow, Sarah Cannady, who already had a daughter, and began expanding their family to having seven more children.  John married Louise Morehouse and began their family of eleven children in 1851.  Prior to John’s marriage, he fought as a sergeant in Mexican-American War.  

The brothers’ lives were going well until the Civil War caused them to fight on opposite sides of the war.  John enlisted with the Union Army as a lieutenant and was promoted to colonel by the end of the war.  Henry enlisted as a private in the Confederate Army and was promoted to second lieutenant.  In May of 1863, the brothers fought on opposite sides of the same battle, the Siege of Vicksburg.  Henry was captured and sent to a Union military prison.  There he wrote to his sister, Susan McLaughlin Brown, for help.  

Susan was a nurse during the Civil War and her husband was a surgeon.  When she received the letter from her brother she flew into action.  Susan went to Governor Morton to plead her brother’s case.  He, in turn, wrote her a letter of introduction to President Abraham Lincoln on 7 January 1865.  Susan traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with the President five days later to state her brother’s case.  The President deemed to have Henry released once he took the oath to the United States of America.  Henry took the oath on 24 January 1865 and was released five days later due to Susan’s determination.  

Henry went home to his family in Alabama after the war.  Sarah and Henry’s second child as a couple was born a year later.  Henry died sometime between 1876 and 1880.  John moved his family to Kansas and died on 15 Apr 1890.  Susan McLaughlin Brown moved first to Kansas and then to Georgia, Chicago, Illinois, and lastly to Los Angeles, California, where she died on 1 February 1928.  

This is just one example of how families were torn apart during the Civil War.  These types of stories can be fleshed out with research at a facility such as The Genealogy Center.  You can even find some Civil War records digitized on The Genealogy Center’s Our Military Heritage.  This could lead you to discover a Civil War ancestor or to learn more about them.  

While the basis of this story was taken from a collection at the Indiana Historical Society, the research used to flesh it out was used at The Genealogy Center.  Everything from books to databases were used.  Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, GenealogyCenter.org, nps.gov/civilwar, newspapers.com, and Newspaper Archive were among the databases used on this posting.  The subscription based websites are available for free when visiting The Genealogy Center.  Check the websites out to see what information you can glean from them.  Make sure to also look at Our Military Heritage on The Genealogy Center website.