One of the most painful aspects of America's Civil War was the way families could find themselves with conflicting loyalties. All started out as Americans, but brothers sometimes chose different sides when Confederates faced Yankees. In the story of the events leading up to the Battle of Secessionville, two such sets of brothers make an appearance.
I have no pictures of the Campbell brothers, but their story contains a heart-stopping moment. Alexander Campbell was a recent immigrant from Scotland. He found work in New York City as a stone cutter, while his brother James went on to Charleston and became a drayman (a driver of a heavy-duty wagon). Alexander had tried his luck in Charleston for a few months, but the attraction of a certain lovely young lady drew him back to New York. When the war broke out, he joined the 79th New York Regiment and accompanied it when the regiment was sent to South Carolina as part of the force to take control of Port Royal Sound. His brother James joined a local Charleston militia, which was called to active duty in March 1862 in the 1st SC Infantry, Charleston Battalion. The two brothers were both involved at Secessionville in June 1862. Private Alexander was a flag bearer, who planted the regimental flag near the Confederate fort. Lt. James Campbell was one of the gunners behind that fort. When the Rebels ran out of ammunition, James helped to roll logs down the breastwork aiming to take out the flagbearing Yankees. Neither brother was wounded in that battle, but they corresponded with each other afterward, both hoping they would never again be forced to fight against one another.
The Drayton brothers were better-known. Their family owned a huge rice plantation outside of Charleston along the Ashley River. The plantation house and gardens are still there and are popular tourist destinations. But in 1861, the two brothers chose different paths. Captain Percival Drayton was a commander in the U. S. Navy and remained loyal to the USA. In the South Carolina Expeditionary Force, he was the captain of the gunboat Pocahontas
. As such. he was one of those firing on Fort Walker during the Battle of Port Royal. Later, at Secessionville, he sailed into the Stono River and led the small group of gunboats in the bombardment of the Confederate fort.
His brother, General Thomas Fenwick Drayton, was a classmate and lifelong friend of Jefferson Davis. He was the commander at Fort Walker who surrendered to the Union attack. During the Battle of Secessionville, Thomas was in command of a large army stationed just north of Savannah and was awaiting orders to march to the defense of Charleston, should the Yankee attack on Secessionville succeed.
It was widely recorded that Ann Drayton, the mother of these two opposing commanders lay mortally ill during the Port Royal battle. Her dying words were quoted as mourning the tragedy in which "Percy fired at Tom. Tom fired at Percy."
Her sons both survived the war, although Mrs. Drayton did not live to see it. Percy had a distinguished naval career, but he died in late 1865 of an obstructed bowel -- not a war-related injury. Thomas was less distinguished. After several other lost battles, he was removed from command and assigned administrative duties. After the war, he was unable to regain his South Carolina property. He moved to North Carolina and became an insurance salesman until his death at the age of 81.