Book Review: "God Alone Knows Which Was Right": The Blue and Gray Terrill Family of Virginia in the Civil War


by Richard L. Armstrong

Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2010. Pp. x, 289. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $38.00 paper. ISBN: 978-0-7864-4622-3

The idea that the Civil War was a struggle of “Brother against Brother” is perhaps no better illustrated then by taking a look at the Terrill family of Virginia, and "God Alone Knows Which Was Right" takes that look.

Armstrong, who has written several works on the Civil War, including The Battle of McDowelland The 25th Virginia Infantry and 9th Battalion Virginia Infantry, gives us a collective biographical and military account this family and the war.  The family patrioarch, William H. Terrill of Bath Country, Virginia, a successful attorney and politician.  During the war, he saw three sons and a son-in-law don Gray and one son wear Blue.  Two of Terrill’s sons rose to brigadier general in the war, William Rufus Terrill and James B. Terrill, the first in Union service and the second in Confederate, and both were killed in action, as was a younger son, Philip Mallory Terrill.  Armstrong gives us a good account of the lives, service, and deaths of these young men.  And in telling their story, he also gives us a look at nineteenth century American family life, the complex forces that tore apart many the Terrill family, and many other families, and much about soldiering in the war, including an excellent lesson in how to work a light battery in the field. 

A good read for anyone interested in the Civil War.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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