The Neal Brothers During the Civil War

War Between the States

I was shocked to learn that my ancestor Thomas Neal had at least two sons, Jesse and John, who served during the War Between the States. One in blue, one in gray.

John, my great great grandfather, did serve with in the Confederate Army, with the 3rd Forrest’s Tennessee Cavalry. I had the records to prove it.

John Neal

Grandpa Kenneth Neal knew that his grandfather had been in the Civil War, but was stunned to learn that he’d fought with the rebels. John Neal’s military records did reveal that he’d deserted.

Grandpa insisted that his grandmother Rhoda received a pension after John died, as a Union veteran. I sent an application for records of John Neal, this time with “Union” on it. He had indeed joined the 9th Regiment of the Indiana Cavalry.

John and Rhoda Neal are buried, with his parents, in the Dexter Cemetery. His brother Jesse is buried in the remote Roberts Cemetery in Adair County, Iowa. He served in Co. C 1st Tennessee Cavalry. I’ve never found a picture of Jesse Neal.

Rhoda (Marshall) Neal’s 1920 obituary said that she was “part of the most perplexing periods in the history of this country.”  A very perplexing period indeed.



  1. Your story is yet another evidence of just how divided the nation was during that time, dividing even family members as intimate as brothers. I have a similar situation in my own ancestry, although not of brothers. The ancestor in my direct line, Joshua, was in the Confederate army, but the records are conflicting. One says he was captured and then escaped. Another says he deserted. The Appalachian region of East Tennessee-Western North Carolina was a haven for deserters, draft dodgers, and generally a criminal element, all of them preying on residents, if not for political animosity then for simple subsistence (i.e., theft and plunder)!

  2. You keep coming up with the most interesting information – and it’s part of your own family!! Fantastic!

  3. Civil war tears families asunder – and not always because of differing beliefs. Who one ends up fighting with can also be laid at the door of circumstance. It is not for us to condemn actions from the past but to see them within the context of the time. Families here were torn asunder during the Anglo-Boer War (now called the South African War) and these rifts are still not fully healed decades later. Meanwhile many an English soldier married a Dutch girl. South African families (including my own) are often a mix of cultures and languages now.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.