They were born in western Massachusetts, near Springfield, to Stephen Lyman Whitaker and his wife, Emaline Kentfield (Kantfield). Both parents were from deeply entrenched New England families. But after their father died in 1852, their mother moved her boys west - first to Illinois and then by 1858 to Pardee in Atchison County, Kansas Territory.
Atchison County is on the northern edge of the area known as Bleeding Kansas where free and slave state forces struggled over land and power in the years leading up to the Civil War. No documented deaths occurred there related to these struggles and the worst of the violence had abated when the Whitakers settled there. But it could not have escaped their notice that the Kansas-Missouri border was fraught with tension.
In 1860 the brothers were living with their mother and new stepfather, Joseph Trueax. Frank may have been elsewhere at the time of the census enumeration. He's listed as a gold seeker and I'm not sure there was much gold panning, mining or seeking in Kansas.
On 16 Jul 1861, six months after Kansas achieved statehood, the brothers enlisted in the Army at Fort Leavenworth. They are recorded as serving in Kansas's 10th Infantry Regiment, Company B. One regimental history states that the 10th was formed from the 3rd & 4th Regiments in 1862, however the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, Vol. 1. - 1861-1865 lists the Whitakers on the Company B roster from enlistment. (Of note is another Whitaker from Atchison County also enlisted in Company B (as an officer) - David Whitaker/Whittaker. I know of no relationship between this Whitaker and my husband's family.)
The brothers spent the war close to home, chiefly in Kansas and Missouri. They took part in the Battle of Cane Hill, skirmished with Quantrill in 1863 and guarded the military prison across the Mississippi River in Alton, IL. Both were discharged after three years, mustering out on 19 August 1864 back at Fort Leavenworth. Frederick served as a private for the duration of his service, but his older brother Frank was promoted three times, ending his service as a First Sergeant.
Following the war both married and started families. Their lives following the war are full enough to demand another post.
For further information see
Bleeding Kansas: Behind the Legend (www.youtube.com)
Border Disputes and Warfare, Territorial Kansas Online, 1854-1861 (www.territorialkansasonline.org).
Civil War, Kansas Historical Society/Kansapedia (www.kshs.org).
Watts, Dale E. How Bloody Was Bleeding Kansas?, Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains; Vol. 18 (2) (Summer 1995): pp. 116–129 (www.kshs.org).