Yank to Reb at Gettysburg: ‘All of us should be in better business.’

I don’t know how often these friendly interactions actually occurred between Civil War combatants, but I do find myself drawn to stories of kindness and fellow feeling.

This is from a 1913 reminiscence by John Coxe, of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers, who fought in the engagement at the “Bloody Wheatfield” in the afternoon of 2 July 1863, the second day of the battle of Gettysburg:

“I felt sorry for the wounded enemy, but we could do little to help them. Just before dark I passed a Federal officer sitting on the ground with his back resting against a large oak tree. He called me to him, and when I went he politely asked me to give him some water. There was precious little in my canteen, but I let him empty it. His left leg was crushed just above the ankle, the foot lying on the ground sidewise. He asked me to straighten it up in a natural position and prop it with some rocks, and as I did so I asked him if the movement hurt him. “There isn’t much feeling in it just now,” replied he quietly. Then before leaving him I said: “Isn’t this war awful?” “Yes, yes,” said he, “and all of us should be in better business.” He wore long red whiskers and was large and fine-looking. I shall never forget his profuse thanks for the little service I was able to render him.”

(John Coxe, “The Battle of Gettysburg.” Nashville, Tenn: Confederate Veteran, Vol. 21, Sept. 1913. Page 435.)

Image Source: Jacob H. Cole, Under Five Commanders. Patterson, N.J.: News Printing Company, 1906. Page 198.

A.R. Bredenberg — 27 May 2021

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