Although the famous conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker were not Civil War soldiers, the war still had a major effect on their lives.
The twins owned a large plantation in North Carolina, which they purchased in 1843 with money they made off of their Barnum and Bailey sideshow act in the 1830s.
Shortly after they purchased the property in North Carolina, Chang and Eng married and started a large family that would eventually include 21 children. The twins set up two separate households for each family and spent three days a week in one house and three days in the other.
By 1860, their growing families and increasing expenses led Chang and Eng into money problems and forced them to return briefly to show business. Yet it was the effect of the Civil War on their farming business in the years that followed that really hit the twins hard.
A series of factors caused the twin’s fortune to slowly dwindle away throughout the war. One was the weak economy caused by the ongoing war, which greatly reduced the twin’s income from their farming business. Another factor was the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which freed all of the Bunker’s slaves. Yet another factor was the Union raid on Wilkes County in 1865 that destroyed part of their homes.
As a result of all the tension and money problems, the two families began fighting, Chang began drinking heavily and Eng developed a gambling problem. By 1868, the twins headed for Europe. Several sources indicate the brothers were there to look into separation surgery while other sources state they were touring Europe to raise some desperately needed cash.
In 1870, after war broke out between Prussia and France, Chang and Eng Bunker headed back to the United States. During the journey Chang suffered a debilitating stroke, possibly a result of his heavy drinking. A few years later, in January of 1874, Chang succumbed to a chronic bronchial infection and Eng followed a few hours later.
“Memories of Carolinian Immigrants: Autobiographies, Diaries, and Letters”; Andreas Lixl; 2009
“Carolina Journeys: Exploring the Trails of the Carolinas–Both Real and Imagined”; Tom Fowler; 2004
“Carny Folk: The World’s Weirdest Sideshow Acts”; Francine Hornberger; 2005