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Brother Against Brother - The Kentucky Terrills

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Some readers of this blog may know of the Terrills of Virginia, two brothers who would serve on opposing sides, both of whom who would be killed in action during the war. Their memorial stone simply states "This monument erected by their father. God alone knows which was right." However I am willing to bet that you do not know of the Kentucky Terrill family, five brothers who would also serve on opposite sides during the War of the Rebellion, and who were fourth cousins to their more famous Virginian namesakes.


About one mile east of the sleepy Ohio River town of Petersburg, Kentucky, along Kentucky Highway 20 (the Petersburg-Burlington Pike), is the stately home of George W. Terrill. The large brick Italianate house was the heart of Terrill's farm, now hemmed in by modern houses on either side. George Terrill was born in Boone County, Kentucky on July 19th, 1827 (or July 18th, 1828 as records do not correlate) to John and Nancy Terrill. John and Nancy would have five sons that would serve in the Civil War.

George would become captain of Company G of the Fifth Kentucky Cavalry (C. S. A.), mustering in at Lexington, Kentucky on September 2nd, 1862. His service records are a bit of a conundrum, as they indicate that he resigned his commission due to poor health on June 6th, 1863, and yet was also listed captured at Adam's Mills in Ohio on July 19th that same year, the latter date just happening to be the battle of Buffington Island.

George's resignation request was written on May 16th, 1863 while in camp in Clinton County, Kentucky. He would write, "Sir, in the consequence of my declining health & the smallness of my company, numbering now only fourteen privates & there being no prospect of its increasing, I tender my resignation as Capt. of Co. G, Col. D. Howard Smith's regiment, 1st Brigade, Morgan's Division...." The request was signed off by a veritable "Who's Who" of Morgan's command, including Smith, brigade commander Basil W. Duke, and by Morgan himself (signed as Jno. H, Morgan - notice the lack of "Hunt") on May 20th. It was then sent to the cavalry corps headquarters, where it was approved by Joseph Wheeler. Yet for some reason Terrill did not leave the command.

On the early foggy morning of July 19th, 1863, George Terrill was in Ohio in what is known as the Portland Bottoms. Just across the Ohio River was West Virginia, and a chance to escape the Federals that were closing in on Morgan's command at Buffington Island. By the end of the day, some Confederates escaped across the ford, some dozens lying dead or wounded in the field, some hundreds were captured while the remainder with Morgan fled the field. George Terrill was captured on July 19th, at a place called Adams Mills on his service record (at the time there was an Adams Mills in Meigs County, Ohio, the county where battle took place). He would be sent first to Johnson's Island, then was sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary, joining many of the other captured officers of Morgan's command (including Morgan himself). But unlike Morgan, Terrill would be released to Cincinnati on August 14th, taking the oath of allegiance to the United States the next day. His father would post a $5,000 bond to ensure his son's faithful observance to the oath.

His Civil War career now over, George would live out his days on his farm in Boone County. Having married Amanda Walton in Mason County before the war, his family would grow to include ten children. George found time to serve in the Kentucky State Senate for one term, but his primary focus was farming. Amanda would die in 1884, and George would marry again three years later. George Washington Terrill would die on February 5th, 1894, and is buried in Petersburg Cemetery.


William H. - Born on August 27th, 1829, William would marry Norah Cooper and had three sons with her prior to the war. On the 1870 United States Census his occupation is listed as a physician. One source mentions that he served in the Union Army as an officer and a surgeon in the Sixteenth Indiana Infantry (roster showing the last name of Terrell), residing in Manchester, Indiana, which is just a few miles northwest of Petersburg. William, who was a doctor after the war, would die on October 18th, 1885 and is buried in the Petersburg Cemetery.


Robert Q. - Born on July 30th, 1834, Robert would enroll for duty on August 13th, 1862 in Aurora, Indiana (which is just across the Ohio River from Petersburg). He would muster into service as a first lieutenant in the Eleventh Kentucky Cavalry Regiment (U. S. A.) on September 22nd. He was captured at Hartsville, Tennessee in December 1862 and after parole would be at Camp Chase near Columbus awaiting exchange. Due to ill health (suffering from muscular and nervous prostration from rheumatism) Robert would resign his commission on May 15th, 1863 and his resignation was signed by Mahlon D. Manson and Jeremiah T. Boyle, a pair of interesting men in their own right. Robert would die in an altercation on June 29th, 1867, leaving behind his wife Catherine and three children (three other children had died in infancy). It is unknown where Robert Quincy Terrill is buried.


Joshua Cornelius - Born on the first day of December, 1840, he, like his older brother George, would enlist in Company G of the Fifth Kentucky Cavalry (C. S. A) on September 2nd, 1862 in Lexington. He was captured on Morgan's Great Raid, sent to Camp Chase, and after being transferred to Camp Douglas made his escape, returning first to Boone County before fleeing to Canada where his fiancée joined him. He would return to Boone County after the war, sire at least two children, move to Indiana, and would die on December 10th, 1909, being buried in Spencer County, Indiana.


Simeon (Simon) F. - Born in 1843, and like older brothers George and Joshua he would also serve in Company G, Fifth Kentucky Cavalry (C. S. A.), also enlisting on September 2nd, 1862 in Lexington. Simeon would be captured on April 3rd, 1863 at Snow Hill, Tennessee, and sent first to Louisville, Kentucky, then was in transit to City Point, Virginia as a prisoner of war. However, he did not reach Virginia, being paroled at Fort McHenry, Maryland on April 30th. His last record of military service indicates that he was on the "Register of Officers and Soldiers of the Army of the Confederate States who were killed in battle, or who died of wounds or disease," being dated June 29th, 1863. One source shows that he was exchanged on May 2nd and killed in action on June 29th (if true then perhaps in the earliest portion of Morgan's Raid into Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio). It is unknown the date and cause of Simeon's death, or the location of his grave.

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