Enemies Can Pass Notes & Barter!

I’ve heard stories before of enemies acting cordial with one another during times of war.  It typically happens when fighting has stopped for the day and both sides desire momentary rest from the constant grind of battle.  Perhaps in no other war, however, has their been such seemingly pleasant banter between foes as in the American Civil War.

Lt. Jared Y. Sanders of the 26th Louisiana Infantry records this on June 22, 1863 at Vicksburg, MS:

Yankees have dug up close to our works all around our lines – so close that they throw over notes & put them on wild canes & hand them to our boys. (Source: Flora & Fauna by Kelby Ouchley, pg. 31)

I wonder what must have been on those notes.  Were they taunts saying, “Confeds suck; Yankeez fo’ life!” or where they notes of concern from familial brothers on the other side (obviously not true brothers in arms)?  I know when I read this, I wrote in the margin, “Like sending notes in class eh!?”


Photo Credit: Dungeon’s Master

Aside from throwing notes over enemy lines, soldiers met face-to-face to battle it out in other ways.  Pvt. George Michael Neese of the Confederate Horse Artillery writes in his 3-year diary how enemies bartered with one another when he was stationed at Raccoon Ford, VA.  He says this on October 9, 1863:

To-day the pickets were friendly and talking to each other like brothers, and, I think, doing some trading, bartering tobacco for coffee, and exchanging newspapers; to-morrow they may be shooting at each other like savages, for such are the possible amenities and incongruities of intestine war. (Source: Daily Observations from the Civil War)

In case you’re wondering, Neese was not referring to intestine in the sense of it being the long tube in our bodies that helps us to digest food.  That’s actually what I first thought.  That would be quite a pun if the tobacco or coffee being traded had been poisoned.  Nevertheless, Neese referred to the nearly obsolete phrase “intestine war,” which means “of or relating to the internal affairs of a state or country,” i.e. the American Civil War. (Source: Merriam-Webster)

I wonder if the soldiers who met during these times of ease had great laughs with each other.  I can see these guys kicking back by a fire, telling funny stories, sharing life with one another, and processing through the effects of the war.  Apart from their different stances on slavery or the “united” states, they had much in common.  They spoke the same language (unlike soldiers who fought wars across continents), they may have graduated from the same military school (West Point), they might have even served in a previous war with each other (Mexican War), or they may have had the same occupations back home (if they were volunteers)!

Until next time, Pass on but not out…


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