The American Civil War: Brother against Brother

One of the most puzzling things to me about that 1856 passenger ship manifest for the ship that brought my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein and his family to America was the entry for a sixteen year old boy named Heinemann Mansbach.  I am quite sure that this was Gerson’s nephew, son of Hannchen Katzenstein and Marum Mansbach, since the age matches the age Heinemann would have been in 1856 and the residence (Maden) matches the place where Marum and Hannchen Mansbach and their family lived.

Ship manifest close up Year: 1856; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 164; Line: 1; List Number: 589

Ship manifest close up
Year: 1856; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 164; Line: 1; List Number: 589

But why was Heinemann going to “Libanon,” which I assume referred to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, a town about 90 miles west of Philadelphia? In 1850, Lebanon had a population of 2,184.  By 1860, the population had more than doubled—to 4,449. Thus, if Heinemann was headed there in 1856, he was headed to a place that was in a period of remarkable growth.

It is in Lebanon County, and according to the county website, “The original German settlers tilled the valley’s fertile soil, creating an economic base that continues today and blends with the residential, commercial and industrial development presently occurring.  Also reflective of Lebanon County’s “Pennsylvania Dutch” heritage are its pastoral landscape, attractive farms and outstanding dairy and pork products, especially Lebanon Bologna.” Even today Lebanon County is thus not an urban area. I can’t find any explanation for the huge population growth between 1850 and 1860 except that it was a place where German immigrants settled.

Farmstead, Heidelberg Township, Lebanon County.

Farmstead, Heidelberg Township, Lebanon County. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I searched the 1860 census records for Lebanon for anyone in the Mansbach or Katzenstein family, but did not find anyone, so Heinemann obviously did not settle there for long.  But according to a profile written about him in the Piedmont Herald (West Virginia) newspaper in April 1893 (when he was known as H.H. Mansbach), Heinemann did spend some time in Lebanon to learn English.  I’ve no idea why he had to go to Lebanon to learn English, as opposed to living with his brother Abraham and the Katzensteins in Philadelphia.  The same profile, however, did say that he had early in his years in the US also lived in Philadelphia and Baltimore as well in Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia.[1]

When the Civil War came, Heinemann enlisted in the Confederate Army in Macon, Georgia, in March, 1861, using the name Henry H. Mansbach.

harry-h-mansbach_s-confederate-page-001 harry-h-mansbach_s-confederate-page-002

According to the 1893 Piedmont Herald profile, Henry served four years in the Confederate Army.  His obituary in the Norfolk-Ledger Dispatch (April 1, 1912) reported that he had been wounded twice during the war, first in the Battle of Shiloh (Tennessee) and then in the Battle of Murfreesboro (Tennessee).

The Battle of Shiloh occurred in April, 1862, in western Tennessee. described the battle as follows:

Also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, the Battle of Shiloh took place from April 6 to April 7, 1862, and was one of the major early engagements of the American Civil War (1861-65). The battle began when the Confederates launched a surprise attack on Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85) in southwestern Tennessee. After initial successes, the Confederates were unable to hold their positions and were forced back,resulting in a Union victory. Both sides suffered heavy losses, with more than 23,000 total casualties, and the level of violence shocked North and South alike.

Chromolithograph of the Battle of Shiloh, Amer...

Chromolithograph of the Battle of Shiloh, American Civil War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whatever injuries Henry Mansbach suffered in this battle did not keep him from continuing to serve in the Confederate Army.  Not too long after the Battle of Shiloh, he was injured in the battle at Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

There were actually two battles at Murfreesboro, the first in July, 1862. The National Park Service website provides more insight into the battle:

The major objective was to strike Murfreesboro, an important Union supply center on the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, at dawn on July 13. The Murfreesboro garrison was camped in three locations around town and included detachments from four units comprising infantry, cavalry, and artillery, under the command of Brig. Gen. Thomas T. Crittenden who had just arrived on July 12.  Between 4:15 and 4:30 am on the morning of July 13, Forrest’s cavalry surprised the Union pickets on the Woodbury Pike, east of Murfreesboro, and quickly overran a Federal hospital and the camp of the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment detachment.  Additional Rebel troops attacked the camps of the other Union commands and the jail and courthouse. By late afternoon all of the Union units had surrendered to Forrest’s force. The Confederates destroyed much of the Union supplies and tore up railroad track in the area, but the main result of the raid was the diversion of Union forces from a drive on Chattanooga.

The second battle at Murfreesboro, also known as the Battle of Stones River, was in December, 1862. It has been described as one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.  The website described it as follows:

On December 31, Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s 35,000 troops successfully attacked the 42,000-strong Union force commanded by Major General William Rosecrans. Union troops withstood the assault, but retreated to a defensive position, which they would hold against repeated attacks over the next two days. On January 2, 1863, another Confederate assault was repelled by overwhelming Union artillery fire, forcing Bragg to order a Southern retreat. With approximately 23,000 total casualties, Stones River was one of the deadliest battles of the war. Rosecrans claimed victory and the battle provided a much-needed boost to Union morale following their defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Illustration of the Battle of Stones River, wh...

Illustration of the Battle of Stones River, which occurred on December 31, 1862 and January 2-3, 1863. Commanding the forces were General Rosecrans for the Union and General Bragg for the Confederacy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know in which of these two battles Henry H. Mansbach participated and was injured, perhaps both.

Although it was surprising to me that I had a cousin who fought for the Confederacy, what made it particularly disturbing was knowing that Henry’s brother, Abraham, had enlisted on September 11, 1862, in Company E of the Pennsylvania 3rd Infantry Regiment and thus was serving on the Union side just a few months after his brother was injured in battle for the Confederacy in Tennessee.

Although Abraham’s unit was discharged two weeks later, and I’ve no idea whether he joined another unit, just the idea that two brothers had enlisted on opposite sides of the war is mind-boggling.  I’ve read that this happened in many families—especially where families lived in border states like Maryland or Kentucky.  But here we have two young men who had only recently come to the US and who voluntarily joined opposing sides of the war.

I wondered what the long term implications of that were for them and for their families. I decided to search a little more deeply into the post-Civil War lives of Henry Mansbach and Abraham Mansbach. What I learned will be discussed in my next post, after Thanksgiving.

May all of you who celebrate have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Let’s all hope for and work for better things to come in this country and this world. And let’s hope we can find a way to understand each other better so that we never have brothers fighting for opposing sides in a war ever again.


[1] I thank John Fazenbaker from FindAGrave for publishing images from the Piedmont Herald and the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch about H.H. Mansbach as well as the many headstone photographs he took and posted on FindAGrave.

30 thoughts on “The American Civil War: Brother against Brother

  1. While I have several ancestors who fought in the Civil War and for both sides, I have yet to find brothers against brothers. It must have been horrific for the parents and families to know their sons were not only fighting battles but could have, perhaps, been starting through their gun at their brother. I’ll be anxious to learn more about these brothers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy, here is a possibility. Once our immigrant ancestors came to the U.S. they felt more free emotionally, spiritually and mentally than they did back in Europe. Here they had hope to choose where to live, how to work and set their sights in directions not limited by the family’s status or background. This is what people believed although the reality was much different.

    It might be that Abraham and Henry made these choices based on their own decisions and view of what they held to be true. They would not risk their lives if they didn’t feel that deep down. It is very difficult to square some choices ancestors made with what we know now and the conceptions we hold today about equality and social justice. Back in their day our ancestors had very different conceptions and beliefs. I think this is a real challenge for all family historians because whatever we think and believe today we have to put that on hold to enter into the mindset of the past if we are to understand the choices our ancestors made. It’s not easy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • These are valuable insights, Emily. Thank you. I could speculate here that for whatever reason, Henry felt a need to be independent of his brother. He did not live with my great-great-grandfather when his brother and cousin did; he struck out on his own. And he happened to be in Georgia when the war broke out, so he enlisted there. We never really know what goes on in families.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy, this is so very, very true. It happened in my paternal Grandmother’s family, the Flashenbergs and Rosenbaums. One thing I try to keep in mind is that in Europe the sense of identity was tied to a collective of sorts. Here in the U.S. individualism was celebrated and encouraged. It is a clash that is still going on. Yet from it we are challenged to develop as people and a society that will accomdate both in a positive rather than negative expression.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, we certainly see that right now. How many families will feel divided this Thanksgiving because of the election? And we do need to find a way to work and live together.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It is terrible to think of close relatives fighting on opposite sides. I have a cousin who is researching his Ukrainian ancestry (his grandfather was a WWII POW who married my mother’s sister), and he told me that his grandfather was one of four brothers. When the German army invaded Ukraine two of the brothers joined the Red Army to fight them, the other two “joined” (or were conscripted into) the German Army. My uncle was captured in Italy and sent to the UK. He never left and never spoke about his life in Ukraine. It seems his family there never knew what had happened to him until about 10 years ago when my cousin managed to visit the village and meet relatives. Of course, the older generations had all passed and so died without knowing their son/brother’s fate. So sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy~I learn so much from your posts, and with out a doubt this one is high on my list. What a history lesson! I am wondering if enlistment could possibly have something to do with where one found them selves living at the time, the side of the line so to speak they were on, added peer pressure to enlist at the moment and less to do with a conscience belief? Just wondering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sharon. I wonder about that also. Henry/Harry was likely just living in Georgia, pursuing his business there while his brother was in Pennsylvania doing the same. Just one more example of the absurdity of war.


  5. It would be very difficult to imagine two siblings fighting on opposite sides in a war–imagine being their parents–but, this holiday may find many families in the same political position. Geography may well play into your family history dilemma, but, the parallel stops there with our current situation. My wish for this year and those to come is that we find common ground, find ways to better understand each other as you stated. It’s the only way we’ll move forward. Happy Thanksgiving, Amy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Karen. Yes, I may be one of the luckier ones whose family is not divided on today’s situation. And as for common ground, yes, it would be great, but for those who spew hate, I will never find common ground. Have a wonderful holiday!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I woke up today, Amy, wondering how I might be able to contribute to further understanding. I have a venue–we all do, really (admittedly, some are used better than others)–and was thinking of how I might invite conversation, polite conversation, with rules that anyone who curses, demeans, shows anger, would be eliminated. We need to move the conversation forward, all of us, but I am at a loss how to start. I am left simply saddened it has come to this.

        Liked by 1 person

      • As am I. I wish I had a suggestion, but I think that actions will be more helpful than words at this point. People need to work together on something and see what our common goals are. Words seems just to bring out the anger and the hate, especially when we communicate online. People, well, most people, are much more civil in person than they are in cyberspace.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That may well be true, that we must wait and see how this plays out. I’ve seen enormous amounts of anger and hate on social media sites and it leaves me heartsick, a lot of it among sibling groups, all in public. That alone amazes me, but it’s how we communicate now it appears. What ever happened to a long walk along the beach, coffee cup in hand, with a good friend?

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Your finding information in a West Virginia newspaper had me searching This is my all time favorite site for West Virginia. I don’t have Jewish ancestors so I was surprised to find the Rabbi mentioned in two Mansbach marriage records I found.


  7. As I read your post I found myself thinking about the families divided today over our contentious political environment. Obviously war is another matter entirely, but the sentiment carried forward all these years later. Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: After the Civil War: Did the Mansbach Family Come Together? | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  9. Pingback: Another Mikveh, A Castle, A Museum, and A Search for Stones: Trendelburg, Hofgeismar, and Gudensburg | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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