The Unusual Bunker Brothers

A

aphillbilly

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They were as close as brothers could be.

Asian immigrants who had decided to make their home in North Carolina, they quickly overcame local prejudice, married sisters and settled down into a prosperous agricultural lifestyle. An avid proponent of states rights, one was drafted to fight in the Civil War and eagerly sought to serve, but was ultimately unable because of a serious congenital condition. But they each sent a son to fight for the South, and the young cousins were both wounded and captured before they eventually were returned home to their families. After the war, the brothers faced the loss of their slaves, property, and most of their means of making a living. In short, they were much like thousands of other brothers in the American South during the 1860s, with one singular exception: a five-and-a-half-inch band of cartilage and flesh connecting them at the chest.

By 1839, Chang and Eng Bunker, the "original" Siamese Twins, had saved some money from their years of travel with various museum curiosity tours and exhibitions. They decided to settle down in North Carolina, purchasing 110 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They married sisters, after persevering through the initial outrage and prejudice of the locals and the girls’’ parents, and became respected members of their community. Though they had been fishermen in Siam, they studied agriculture and soon had a very successful farming business. They were among the first to produce the "bright leaf" tobacco which was much prized for manufacturing cigarettes, and grew grains and raised livestock, with the help of their slaves. The brothers' ownership of slaves during the antebellum period was highly ironic, given the fact that they had themselves been sold into slavery as children.

Both brothers became devoted Confederates. After becoming Naturalized citizens, they took an oath of allegiance to the state of North Carolina and were avid supporters of states rights. During the War, in 1865, Union Gen. Stoneman came through North Carolina. Putting all of the names of the males over 18 into a draft lottery. Eng’s name was drawn. He resisted the draft and since his brother’s name was not drawn, the Union finally decided not to force him to serve. The brothers did the best they could to aid the war effort, however, offering shelter and food to Confederate troops and helping to nurse the wounded.

They also raised their children to be staunch supporters of the Confederacy, and the eldest sons of each enlisted as soon as they were of age to serve. Chang's son, Christopher, fought in Company I of the 37th Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry under BG McCausland. In July 1864 he was wounded and captured at Moorefield, WV, and served time in Camp Chase until he was released to his family in April 1865. His cousin Stephen had a similar experience, having enlisted in the same cavalry battalion in July 1864. He escaped the ambush at Moorefield but went on to be captured and wounded near Winchester, VA. The two cousins settled down after the war and became farmers as their fathers had done.

The Civil War devastated but did not destroy the Bunker families. Chang and Eng both lost slaves and property, though Eng was hardest hit. Before the war, the brothers had divided up their fortunes, with Chang choosing the bulk of the land and Eng the slaves. While Eng had the financial upper hand during the antebellum period, losing his slaves after the war cost him most of his assets. To this day, his descendants consider themselves to be the "poor side of the family." Chang and Eng returned to touring for awhile and managed to earn a little money, but never to the standard of living that they had enjoyed before the war. But when they died, they were remembered not as a freakish monster cursed by their very birth, but as dignified, respected men, who had made full and comfortable lives for themselves and their families within the southern culture that they had come to love.

*pronounced "Chun" and "In"
 

dawna

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Tommy:

Thank you for the amazing story on the Bunker brothers and the interesting site on Chinese serving in the Civil War.

Dawna
 
A

aphillbilly

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Dawna
I'm glad you liked it. The ultimate 'brother against brother' story of the war. Pun intended naturally.
 
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I cannot watch a photo of any Siamese twins without being reminded of an old thread we once had here. Those were different twins, but their story is ... remarkable ... also.
Enjoy!
 

James N.

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… Both brothers became devoted Confederates. After becoming Naturalized citizens, they took an oath of allegiance to the state of North Carolina and were avid supporters of states rights. During the War, in 1865, Union Gen. Stoneman came through North Carolina. Putting all of the names of the males over 18 into a draft lottery. Eng’s name was drawn. He resisted the draft and since his brother’s name was not drawn, the Union finally decided not to force him to serve. The brothers did the best they could to aid the war effort, however, offering shelter and food to Confederate troops and helping to nurse the wounded...
Unfortunately, this paragraph is so garbled it's basically worthless - typical of so much "popular" pulp composed by writers who know little about the actual course of the war. Somehow, I find it impossible that Stoneman would be drafting local Confederates to serve in his cavalry!

There are several other facts omitted from this short biography: One of the brothers was supposedly an alcoholic, the other a teetotaler; when the one insisted on drinking to excess, both would get drunk since they shared a bloodstream through the cartilage that connected them. When they died it was because only one became deathly and fatally ill, but when they were separated postmortem, the living one went into shock at the novel experience and followed in a matter of hours. They were originally employees of P. T. Barnum in his famous Museum.
 

Lubliner

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I had read of these twins in Guinness Book Of World Records in the 1960's. If I remember right, I marveled at how they could sire offspring, and even more so when the book said they married another Siamese Twin. I never heard anything beyond that, and teenage imagination took me far from delving deeper. The story on the Sanderson Twins @FarawayFriend posted above was humorous and it is a shame when they assisted the photographer at Big Bethel, no picture included themselves. But then, what pictures and photographers were at that battle in October of '61? James N. here is another story that plays on audacity to overwhelm a reader from digging deeper.
Lubliner.
 
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It's always so amazing to see how Google works. I know in theory that everyone gets different hits, depending on former searches and the cookies on your machine, but to see it work is something special. Often we had different hits in the past or different nimbers of hits and once or twice I could not even find something when you had given me a hint!
Even when I had found that book on archive.org and searched inside with "silver engine" I did NOT get a hit. Then I searched with Besuregard and that lead me to that paragraph. Odd, really!
 

Blessmag

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View attachment 329045

They were as close as brothers could be.


By 1839, Chang and Eng Bunker, the "original" Siamese Twins, had saved some money from their years of travel with various museum curiosity tours and exhibitions. They decided to settle down in North Carolina, purchasing 110 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They married sisters, after persevering through the initial outrage and prejudice of the locals and the girls’’ parents, and became respected members of their community. T

*pronounced "Chun" and "In"


Can you imagine the courting ritual in that house? First even finding sisters who could accept the unique nature of a relationship with them. And that is not even discussing procreation process.
 

lupaglupa

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Can you imagine the courting ritual in that house? First even finding sisters who could accept the unique nature of a relationship with them. And that is not even discussing procreation process.

I have to admit this whole aspect of the story has long fascinated me. I guess you just develop a different expectation of personal privacy.
 

James N.

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I had read of these twins in Guinness Book Of World Records in the 1960's. If I remember right, I marveled at how they could sire offspring, and even more so when the book said they married another Siamese Twin. I never heard anything beyond that, and teenage imagination took me far from delving deeper. The story on the Sanderson Twins @FarawayFriend posted above was humorous and it is a shame when they assisted the photographer at Big Bethel, no picture included themselves. But then, what pictures and photographers were at that battle in October of '61? James N. here is another story that plays on audacity to overwhelm a reader from digging deeper.
Lubliner.
Can you imagine the courting ritual in that house? First even finding sisters who could accept the unique nature of a relationship with them. And that is not even discussing procreation process.
I have to admit this whole aspect of the story has long fascinated me. I guess you just develop a different expectation of personal privacy.
I'm pretty sure that's another example of garbled "popular journalism" - they married sisters, but NOT conjoined ones! They were the subject of an entire book-length biography back in the 1960's or 1970's by a famous author, the names of which and whom I unfortunately no longer remember. As I recall, they lived in separate but adjacent houses and took turns spending nights with each spouse - but not as a "foursome"!
 

lupaglupa

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I'm pretty sure that's another example of garbled "popular journalism" - they married sisters, but NOT conjoined ones! They were the subject of an entire book-length biography back in the 1960's or 1970's by a famous author, the names of which and whom I unfortunately no longer remember. As I recall, they lived in separate but adjacent houses and took turns spending nights with each spouse - but not as a "foursome"!

Still, the other brother would have been awfully close by at, ahem, intimate moments
 
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