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Brother Against Brother: The Lost Civil War Diary of Lt. Edmund Halsey

By Bruce Chadwick
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Book Details
  • Author: Bruce Chadwick
  • Publisher: Brand: Citadel
  • Edition: First Edition
For over a century, lost in the inner recesses of a New Jersey library, lay the diary and letters of a young man who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Lt. Edmund Halsey, a college graduate, fledgling lawyer, and accomplished writer, kept one of the most comprehensive diaries of the war. From 1862-1865, he wrote hundreds of letters to his father, sisters, brothers, and girlfriend, Mary. The letters were a lifeline, a buffer against the horrors of war, and they also provide a rare portrait of army life.

Yet Halsey's diary is more than a recounting of events; it is the compelling struggle of a family fighting against itself. As the Civil War divided a nation, so it divided a family: Lt. Edmund Halsey fought against his brother, Joseph Halsey, who sided with the Confederacy.

The papers of Edmund and Joseph Halsey offer a rare glimpse into the lives of two brothers, north and south, tossed into a conflict that destroyed families and tore apart an entire nation. Bruce Chadwick has vividly recreated the lives and put into context the events so dramatically described in the brothers' letters.

Edmund, at age 22, went to war with the idea that he could help free the slaves and preserve the Union. As he quickly grew to manhood, he found himself wallowing in muddy ditches, marching in 100-degree heat, and fighting for his life in Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Petersburg, the Shenandoah, Gettysburg, and numerous other battles.

His older brother, Joseph, became a captain in a Virginia cavalry regiment and a friend of Gen. Robert E. Lee. His letters to officers, friends, and his spunky wife, Millie, offer a unique look at life in the Confederate Army as well as the harrowing lot ofwomen and children alone at home as marauding armies of both North and South threatened their safety.

Brother Against Brother puts the Civil War into perspective, not as just a series of battles or political decisions, but from the viewpoint of two men struggling to maintain ties to country, friends, and most important, to family.l