‘We became quite friendly with the enemy’s pickets’

I’ve run across more than one Civil War account of soldiers on opposite sides getting friendly with one another between battles. It seems a strange thing to me, but humans are humans, and perhaps we are naturally drawn to one another even in the worst of situations.

Berry Benson. Photographic History of the Civil War, 1911. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In the winter of 1862-1863 after the battle of Fredericksburg, the 1st SC regiment of the Army of Northern Virginia was in winter camp several miles downstream of Fredericksburg along the Rappahannock River. Cpl. (later Sgt.) Berry G. Benson of Co. H wrote of that winter in his memoirs:

We picketed the Rappahannock at Moss Neck Church, one’s turn to picket coming every few days, 24 hours being the term. We became quite friendly with the enemy’s pickets posted on the opposite side, and used to talk with them and exchange newspapers. The exchange was made by taking a piece of board or bark, fixing a stick upright in it as a mast, with the paper attached to this as a sail. By setting the sail properly, the wind would carry it across from one side to the other, as it was wanted to go. Once a Federal band came down the river and played “Dixie.” We cheered them vociferously, of course. Then it played “Yankee Doodle,” and the enemy cheered. Then “Home, Sweet Home,” and the cheer went up loud and long from both sides of the river.

Berry G. Benson; Susan Williams Benson, ed. Berry Benson’s Civil War Book: Memoirs of a Confederate Scout and Sharpshooter. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press. 1991. Page 35.

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