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Brother Against Brother
A century ago this month began the war that set These unpublished letters show how one family was bitterly split
April 1961 | Volume 12, Issue 3
8 In February, 1861, traveling from Illinois to Washington, Lincoln made a series of speeches in which he tried to allay excitement. In one of these he remarked that although several states had announced their secession, nobody had actually been hurt—a remark which both friend and foe often quoted in the weeks ahead.
9 The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston was a dress-parade, high-society inilitia outfit that was prominent in Boston before the war.
Boston, 6th May, 1861 My dear Brother: I have just mailed your letter and forgot to enclose the slip from the newspaper therein referred to. I guess you won’t feel bad when you see it in print. As I told you in my letter, you may print every line of every letter I have written on this subject in every paper in Baltimore and put my name to them, and I will meet all the “particular vengeance” it brings with it in Baltimore or anywhere else. I ought to have said in my letter in reply to your remark that we of the North were “praying for blood, flames, murder, and the violation of women and children” that no such prayers are offered this side of “Mason and Dixon” line. Our first prayer is that the misguided people of the South may see their folly and come back to their allegiance to the best government that the sun ever shone upon, a government without whose protection they cannot exist. Our next prayer is that the leaders in this rebellion, your Yanceys, Floyds, Davis, etc., may be arrested and hung. The next is that God would give success to our armies in crushing out the most infamous rebellion that the world ever saw. Your women and children are safe from all except the vile creatures that horde in the South. Yours affectionately John C. Pratt
So the story ends. Like so many human stories, it ends in uncertainty. We do not really know whether the two brothers were fully reconciled after the war ended —whether the heated words they exchanged during the early months of the war were later buried in brotherly affection and deeper understanding. The record closes with the letters printed above.
Jabez Pratt, the Baltimore brother, appears to have died in March of 1866. His Boston brother, John C. Pratt, lived until 1888. With both brothers, the hot fires of controversy apparently died before death made the final separation. But whether the two men adjusted their differences and struck hands once more as brothers and fellow citizens … this, like so many other questions arising out of the Civil War, goes off into mystery.