The sons of thunder – A story of two brothers separated by war

As we mark the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War, we look back on the event whose history is still as popular and as controversial today as it ever was. Perhaps the saddest war in history, it impacted families on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, as it pitted brother against brother.

Our grandfather Manson Camp’s brothers, James and John, the sons of Lawson Camp, served on opposite sides of the conflict. Born in Cleveland County, the family moved to Hendersonville, when James and John were just boys. A span of eight years and — later — ideology separated them.

John Movas Camp served in the Confederate Army as a member of the 35th NC Infantry Regiment, Company G, Henderson Rifles. They fought at New Bern, Seven Pines, Malvern Hill, and Sharpsburg/Antietam. In December 1862, John was wounded at Fredericksburg, and had his leg amputated. He died from his wounds a month later.

James Jefferson Camp was a member of the Confederate Army 62nd NC Infantry Regiment, Company E, organized in Waynesville. This unit worked in the west along the North Carolina/Tennessee borders. James was captured at Carter’s Depot, Tennessee and a prisoner at Camp Douglas. He was exchanged and deserted in 1863.

James joins Union

A month later, he joined the Union Army as a member of the 2nd NC Mounted Infantry, organized in Knoxville, Tennessee. Most of this unit formerly served in Confederate regiments. They did not fight in major battles, but worked in East Tennessee as patrol duty and scouting, and did a lot of cavalry raids around Boone and Asheville.

James was attached to the Union Army 3rd NC Mounted Infantry during Gen. Stoneman’s Raid, whose goal was not to fight in battles, but to rob civilians and devastate and destroy communities. This unit did quite a bit of damage to Western North Carolina, angering residents so much, that when the first North Carolina historical markers commemorating Stoneman’s Raid were installed over seventy years afterward, citizens tore them down and threw them in a river.

Daddy did not mention that his “Uncle Jim” fought for the Union Army too. He just said that family seemed to think he might have stayed in Tennessee or gone to live in Texas after the war.

Hearts broken over division

Hearts must have been broken over this family division. James’ brother, his brother-in-law, as well as many of his cousins, had been killed fighting for the Confederacy. Many family members who survived the war were maimed for life. The Southland lay in devastation. Emotions were raw, and there must have been harsh words said when he returned to the family after he was discharged from the Union Army.

He soon left home again and went back to Tennessee to live. He got married in 1869, in Tennessee, but they div

orced in a couple of years and had no children.

He stayed in Tennessee until 1884. He moved to Georgia in 1885, to Louisiana in 1886, and lived in Arizona over twenty-two years, working in mining towns wherever he went.

“Left because of adverse southern sentiment”

James lived into his 90s, and spent his last years in Veterans Homes. He died in Los Angeles in 1937 and is buried there in Los Angeles National Cemetery. The administrators of the Veterans Home tried to send a telegram to his brother, Abner Camp, in North Carolina, but it was returned due to incomplete address. By this time, Abner had been dead for 17 years.

James Camp’s personal effects consisted of his clothing and a box of letters he had been saving. They were disposed of by the administrators of the Veterans Home. We’ll never know who the letters were from, but we know that someone kept in touch with him after he left, or family wouldn’t have known that he went out west.

James Camp left North Carolina because he fought for the North. His pension application states that he “left because of adverse southern sentiment in his family and among his neighbors. He was obliged to leave home shortly after being discharged and has had no communications with friends and relatives since.” On another document he says he left after “finding confederate sentiment too strongly adverse to federal soldiers.”

He must have lived out his life as a lonely existence, exiled from his family. In looking back at the Civil War and calculating the loss of property and lives, we are reminded that emotional trauma was immeasurable collateral damage, and to many families, perhaps a fate even worse than death.

Brendan Camp LeGrand is the granddaughter of Manson Camp and Col. James L. Miller is his great-great-grandson. They have been working together on the family genealogy about two years. LeGrand published a Camp genealogy book in 2009.

[By Brendan Camp LeGrand and Col. James L. Miller]