Actor , who is best known for his Emmy award-winning performance in the political drama The West Wing, appeared on this week's new episode of , and 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 in the Siege of Vicksburg, which has become known as the battle that won the Civil War.
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. After learning this important piece of history in his ancestry, Whitford decided to travel to Vicksburg himself, where he found himself standing on the battlefield, 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."
Whitford's 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."
- At this particular point, January-February 1863, the 83rd Indiana is with-- its known as the Army of the Tennessee. That is the army that is commanded by Ulysses S. Grant.
- Oh my god.
KYLIE MAR: On "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 in the siege of Vicksburg, which has become known as the battle that won the Civil War.
- Fred and his brothers are out on the side of the redan waiting and waiting, until finally it was cover of darkness. And with darkness out there, they were finally able to slip back to Union lines without being shot.
KYLIE MAR: While standing on the battlefield in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Whitford was relieved to learn that Frederich and his two brothers survived the war.
- For Fred and his brothers, this would be the battle they would talk about that won the Civil War.
- Right. So this was the pivotal battle. But Abe showed up at the other one, gave a short speech, and they got all the attention.
- They got a lot more attention.
KYLIE MAR: The former "West Wing" star 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 old man, which ultimately made Whitford emotional as he read out loud his great, great grandfather's obituary.
- Uh, I was unable to go to my grandmother's funeral. So it's-- it's incredible that was here.