On a new episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, Sunday night, actor Bradley Whitford, who is best known for his Emmy award-winning performance in the political drama The West Wing, was surprised to learn that his two-times great-grandfather, Frederich Neu, and his two brothers served together under General Ulysses S. Grant in 1863 at the Siege of Vicksburg, which has become known as the battle that won the Civil War.
After learning that Frederich and his brothers were present with the 83rd Indiana, which was known as the Army of the Tennessee and was commanded by Ulysses S. Grant in the campaign to take Vicksburg, Whitford decided to travel to Vicksburg, where he found himself standing on the battlefield exactly where his ancestors fought.
"It's so weirdly serene, and it is amazing to think that these three brothers were here, and if they had died that day, nothing that follows them would have happened," Whitford contemplated. "You know, it's amazing to think of the lives cut off here and the branches that would have gone on from that, but they were standing five feet away or a foot away from somebody who did make it."
Fortunately for Whitford, his two-times great-grandfather and his two brothers all survived the battle at Vicksburg, and the actor was also happy to find out that, later in life, Frederich's legacy was that of a "prominent soldier" and "a wealthy farmer," who was a "genial, whole-souled man," which ultimately made Whitford emotional as he read out loud his great-great-grandfather's obituary.
"My great-great-grandfather's life was a classic immigrant success story," shared Whitford. "He came over as a kid, fought in these incredible battles in the Civil War, and then he ends up here, this kind of well-respected, procreative, pillar of the community."
In the end, Whitford stated, "The thing I'm most struck with is the feeling that came out of these immigrant communities that you had to fight for the country that you wanted, and it's really interesting to me that literally the same issue that I feel obsessed with was something that was very much on his mind – this idea that everybody should be able to vote. It makes me the most proud to be Frederich's descendant."
Watch Zachary Levi finding out his ancestor narrowly avoided being killed in a witch trial:
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