Another major Civil War figure whose family life buttresses my fictional division between Unionist Parthenia Leila Ellis and her Confederate husband Clayton Ellis, was Gen. Lafayette McLaws.
McLaws, whose division was the first in the attack on Fort Sanders, joined Gen. Robert E. Lee (sister) and Gen. Stonewall Jackson (sister) in having a close family relation who chose the Union side of the war.
The novel’s historical figure, Elisa Brownlow, wife of Unionist Parson William Brownlow, had her own real conflict in the form of her younger brother, Col. Alfred George Washington O’Brien of the Thirteenth Mississippi which was in McLaws division.
In McLaws case it was Richard Hancock Taylor, his wife Emily’s brother who was breveted a Union lieutenant colonel after Antietam. On Nov. 10, 1862, McLaws suggested in a letter to his wife that “Rich” might help secure a pass through the Union lines for Emily’s sister Margaret to join her at the McLaws home in Georgia.
Of course, the most famous fractured family of the war was that of President Lincoln himself. Most of his wife’s family were Confederates, including his brother-in-law, Benjamin Hardin Helm, a Confederate infantry officer of the 4th Alabama Regiment who was killed at Chickamauga.
Thus the war-of-brothers (or brothers-in-law), as the Civil War was sometimes called in the newspapers and fiction of the day, was not entirely romance.