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Finding Your Tribe: Why Joining a Fatherhood Group Can be a Game-Changer for Dads

Organizational structures permeate our culture for discernible and poignant reasons. From our battlefront tactics and preparedness to our corporate framework, the billion-dollar industry of creating a stalwart union has proven its worth. Therefore, the same benefits afforded to the aforementioned are available to us as fathers and come with a myriad of benefits.

Guidance and direction come to us in two major vehicles, solicited and unsolicited. Depending on the timing, life events, and mind-state, either can be equally impactful, and thus exposure to external sources of unsolicited guidance holds great importance in helping us on our fatherly journey. It is for this reason that the individuals and influence that surrounds us is so crucial to the direction we take.



In a venerable cemetery, tucked into the contemporary, bustling concrete jungle known as Brooklyn, New York, lies the weathered tombstones of two brothers. Clifton and William Prentiss, side by side as brothers should be in their eternal memorial. From a visitor, standing in the open-air breeze, which seems to permeate through all cemeteries, the image would conjure a belief of life long connectedness between the two. The voices from those graves would whisper a very different story. The real story shows us the impact a community can have on one's life and how impactful the individuals around us can be in charting our course.

In the mid to late 1830’s, William and Clifton Prentiss were born just outside Baltimore Maryland, a few years apart in age with Clifton forever holding the eldest son designation. As with many families living near a dividing line of slavey beliefs, William and Clifton eventually found themselves surrounded by groups of opposing beliefs. As tensions grew these organizational beliefs created a fracture line in their relationship and in the early 1860’s, with war unfolding, older brother Clifton attached himself to the Union army, while younger brother William migrated south to attach himself to the Confederate army. As the war raged on and armies marched themselves towards an impending battle the brothers unknowingly traversed a path of destiny. On April 2nd, 1865 the Union forces, commanded by heralded General Ulysses S. Grant, brought a full on assault on General Lee’s Confederate forces. At the battle's end, two brothers lay gravely wounded on the battlefield, within closer distance than could have ever been crafted had this been written into the dramatic twist of a fictional theatrical performance.

Knowing through intel that there was a chance his brother was part of the defending Confederate forces, Clifton had his brother brought over and laid next to him. With life-giving blood draining from his shattered leg, William reached out to the hand of his brother, who lay unable to speak with a devastating wound to his lung. On May 14th both brothers were transferred to Armory Square Hospital in Washington DC. A month after arriving, William succumbed to his wounds. Two months later his brother would pass away at home from his battle injuries. To add one more note of infamy to this story, one of the greatest poets in the history of our country, Walt Wittman, was providing support to the injured soldiers at Armory Square Hospital. The weight of the Prentiss brother tragedy led to the composition of the following story:

May 28-9. — I staid to-night a long time by the bedside of a new patient, a young Baltimorean, aged about 19 years, W. S. P., (2d Maryland, southern,) very feeble, right leg amputated, can’t sleep hardly at all — has taken a great deal of morphine, which, as usual, is costing more than it comes to. Evidently very intelligent and well bred — very affectionate — held on to my hand, and put it by his face, not willing to let me leave. As I was lingering, soothing him in his pain, he says to me suddenly, “I hardly think you know who I am — I don’t wish to impose upon you — I am a rebel soldier.” I said I did not know that, but it made no difference. Visiting him daily for about two weeks after that, while he lived, (death had mark’d him, and he was quite alone) I loved him much, always kiss’d him, and he did me. In an adjoining ward I found his brother, an officer of rank, a Union soldier, a brave and religious man, (Col. Clifton K. Prentiss, sixth Maryland infantry, Sixth corps, wounded in one of the engagements at Petersburg, April 2 — linger’d, suffer’d much, died in Brooklyn, Aug. 20, ’65.) It was in the same battle both were hit. One was a strong Unionist, the other Secesh; both fought on their respective sides, both badly wounded, and both brought together here after a separation of four years. Each died for his cause.

The story of the Prentiss brothers illustrates the impact the people and ideas around us can imprint on our life actions. If your overarching goal is to move in the direction of paternal involvement, then these groups are an essential step in staying the course. There are a number of groups you can connect with. I will refer a few to you but a simple google search can guide you down a number of valuable roads. In addition, getting a group together among your friends is also highly recommended. Here is a list of some good places to start in no particular order:

If you enjoyed this content you can read more stories like this in our book Paint By Numbers - The Art of Fatherhood. Now through the month of August 2023 for every book sold we will be donating a book to a Military Member and Incarcerated Father who are transitioning back into the life of their child. Purchase your today!

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