“Two Brothers” by Chris Stapleton

It would appear that for whatever reason, the Civil War is generally remembered more in the southern part of the United States than it is in the north. For instance, just off the top of the head, it’s not easy to think of any musician from the northern parts of the country ever making a song based on said event. 

Meanwhile the subject is regularly covered musically Down South, most notably by country artists, even in modern times. And to note Chris Stapleton is a country singer who comes from Kentucky, which is part of the Upland South region of the United States.

“Two Brothers”

Also interesting to note, considering the narrative of “Two Brothers”, is that Kentucky declared neutrality during the American Civil War. And verily, the two titular characters one in the same, though with one warring on behalf of the Union and the other, the Confederacy. 

So logically, they may not be brothers in the blood sense of the word. But they do come from virtually identical backgrounds/livelihoods anyway.

Verse 2

For example, in the second verse it is revealed only one of them actually returned alive from the war, with the other falling victim to a cannonball. But both of them had similarly “gentle” and “kind” personalities. 

Also the last line of the passage can be poetically stretched to allude to the notion that regardless of which one of them has passed, the respective family is bereaved nonetheless.

Verse 3

Also in the third verse, the cannonball itself is depicted as an indiscriminate killer. That is to say that if one is in fact headed your way, it’s not going to change course all because you’re a good guy, as illustrated in the example above. Nor does it have any regard for your family back home.

Verse 4

Indeed the fourth and final verse focuses on the “two brothers” respective lovers, who themselves are depicted being indistinguishable. One of them, upon the battle ending, is receiving her sweetheart joyfully. However, the other is wearing black, presumably tasked with taking his body home or to the morgue. 

And it should be pointed out that throughout the entire song, Chris never identifies which – the Confederate soldier or his Union counterpart – is the one who was killed. Indeed it doesn’t matter, because either way the story is tragic.

“All on a Beautiful Morning”

In fact concerning the aforementioned final line of the second verse, said phrase “all on a beautiful morning”, is featured at the end of all verses actually. And what that would mean, in the overall context of the piece, is that the two brothers were at each other’s throats for nothing. 

And we do not mean this in a literal sense, as we know there were certain issues behind this historical conflict. But it reads more akin to both, indeed even everyone on the battlefield, being blessed with “a beautiful morning”. So under such circumstances, then why are they trying to kill each other in the first place?

Or put more macrocosmically, perhaps we can say that Chris Stapleton is criticizing the act of war in general. In other words, human life in and of itself – being able to be “kind” and “gentle” and enjoy the company of your loved ones and prosper in nature – doesn’t intrinsically present such issues. Rather these incidents, such as the Civil War, are most simply based on men, brethren even, going at it for their own contrived reasons.

Lyrics for "Two Brothers"

“Two Brothers” Facts

Artist(s): Chris Stapleton
Release: 2013
Album/EP: “Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War”

What Genre(s) is “Two Brothers”?

It is a folk song.

Was “Two Brothers” a single release?


"Two Brothers"

Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War

Two Brothers is the 13th song on the disk, one part of ATO Record’s 2013 album, Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War.  

The projects is a collaborative album full of American Civil War music recorded by a variety of artists including the following:

  • Loretta Lynn
  • Vince Gil
  • Dolly Parton
  • John Doe
  • T Bone Burnett
  • Del McCoury
  • Karen Elson

The entire album is a combination of country, folk, and bluegrass genres of music. In addition, some of the songs contain deep cultural American history. The album’s theme makes many regard it as one of the greatest history-based albums.

The album is a 32-track album divided into two parts, disk 1 and disk 2. Each part has 16 different civil war songs. American music producer, Randall Poster, produced the entire album.

The album ranked number 190 on the Billboard 200 chart. It peaked at number 32 on Billboard’s Top Country albums chart. Furthermore, it also reached number 11 on the Billboard Top Folk Albums. It was also number 25 on Billboard’s Independent albums chart.

The American Civil War

The American civil war was a war fought from April 12, 1861, to April 9, 1865, by citizens of America from the Southern and Northern states. Slavery, States and Federal rights, the Abolitionist Movement, and the election of President Abraham Lincoln were some of the factors that triggered the civil war. The main cause, however, was the status of slavery in the United States.

President Abraham Lincoln stood for the cause of anti-slavery. After he was elected in November 1860, he began facing opposition from slave states. These slave states withdrew from the constituent states to form their own confederacy.

The Confederacy grew large as slave states such as Maryland, Tennessee and Kentucky joined. Soon after, America became a division of the confederates and the Union. The Union was made up of the states that remained loyal to the U.S and its laws.

The Confederate States were legally unrecognized and found protesting through war as the ultimate solution to their grievances.

They raised armies that fought the Union continuously for 4 years. In 1865, a record number of military deaths between 620,000 and 850,000 and an unsuccessful protest led the Confederacy to adjourn. The Confederate states surrendered and disbanded by 1865.

One of the major effects of the American Civil war was the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC by Confederate Sympathizer John Wikes Booth on April 14, 1865.

The war ended on April 19, 1865, after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses Grant.

4 Responses

  1. JackD says:

    The song implies that the Union soldier is the one who survived, because one wife wore blue and one wire black. This parallels the two brothers, one of whom wore blue and one wore gray. The wife in blue is greeting her husband, the wife in black is receiving a body.

  2. LisaD says:

    What a great synopsis to highlight the Civil War in a nutshell; From an individual who struggles with remembering World history, having had a lack of interest, and being more in tune with Social impacts, this helped refresh my relevant knowledge of vital historical matters related to humanity. Well done, Chris Stapleton and the producers of United &Divided. I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the album for lyrical reasons and appreciation of the given artists to learn more about American History.

  3. Caedge says:

    You and play the song was written by Chris Stapleton. It may have been PERFORMED BY him, but this song was WRITTEN BY Irving Gordon. The same man who won a grammy for “Unforgettable.” Pretty big fact to leave out!

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