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…

Sweet Home Louisiana

I live in Louisiana!  Now that you know this, I’m sure one of your next thoughts is:

(Does he know anyone from Duck Dynasty?)  I actually don’t, even though I live literally right across the river from them.  But, I always sarcastically answer that question with “Oh yeah, Willie and I had lunch last week!”

(I wonder if he lives in the swamp.)  Not even Swamp People live in the swamp; they live on it.  Boo-Ya!  Seriously though, some people think that all of Louisiana is swampland.  Not true.  But, I have a great story about this; just ask.

(He’ll probably mention something about alligators…)  You’re right!  Yet, I want to talk about blackberries and the American Civil War some too.

I’ve been reading a book lately by a local author named Kelby Ouchley.  What a great name, and what an amazing book!  Flora and Fauna of the Civil War was a gift signed by Kelby and given to me by my friend, Nancy.

In his section on blackberries, Kelby inserts a diary post from Corporal Rufus Kinsley (another great name) of the 8th Vermont Regiment on June 5, 1862.  Stationed near Des Allemands, LA, CPL Kinsley writes this: “Not much to eat but alligators and blackberries: plenty of them.” (Page 26)

Though short, I resonated with this entry tremendously.  Let me tell you why.

I lived in Des Allemands for a few years when I was a boy.  It brings back fond memories.  One is how I got into a somewhat cordial argument with a college roommate and dear friend over what “des allemands” means.

I knew that it was French and argued with Jacob that it translated to the plural “Germans.”  I mean, come on!  Des Allemands seems to be plural with the “s” on the end, right?  According to Google Translate, however, I’m wrong.  “Des Allemands” does mean “German” in English.  Oh well.

Another memory I have of Des Allemands is a story my mother told me.  She was a teacher at Allemands Elementary when we lived there; hence why we moved there in the first place.  Anyway, she said they would actually have alligators come up to the school sometimes.  Imagine shooing an alligator away…

We later moved to Luling, which is only 11 miles away.  Alligators certainly are abundant in that area.  One spring and summer season, my friend Dane and I fished like crazy.  We would throw fish scraps in a canal behind his house.  In the fall, the local news reported that an 8-foot alligator was found in a nearby drain off.  Oops!  I’m sure we contributed a little to that.

Ah yes, blackberries.  Those were also vast in our area.  We used to walk to a pond behind my subdivision (infested with marshes and alligators of course) to go fishing.  Along the railroad tracks that we walked on to get to the pond, there were a whole slew of blackberry bushes.  To say we got sidetracked with picking blackberries over fishing the day we discovered them is an understatement.  Raw or thrown into homemade cobbler, those puppies were the bomb!

All these stories make me proud of my home state and even hungry!

Until next time, Eat up troops…