Discussion The Picket Stories That Bind Us, Yet More Voices Of Our Ancestors

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
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Waud seemed fascinated, or maybe just badly needed to record moments where Union and Confederate troops weren't trying to kill each other. I've never been able to discover exactly what he witnessed here in a sketch " Checking Passes ", at Fredericksburg- the description states Union/'Rebel' pickets are depicted. Maybe not a misprint or misread.

Sometimes, as in frequently, we need the reminder we're just fine or will be. ' Picket Stories ' aren't just feel-good, warm fuzzie breaks in the war. We can be temporarily divided, sub-divided, shoved into one corner or another, persuaded there's some threatening shadow behind the other guy,sold various drivvel from the back of whichever snake-oil salesman's wagon currently dropped anchor in the town square and identify each other as enemies to the point where ' blue ' and ' gray ' were once barriers, not the color of a jacket. But it doesn't stick.

A ton of these are just paragraphs, snippets, part of some report or letter. No one made this stuff up to romanticize or dress up a front page. This is from a North Carolina newspaper.
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For one thing hate is exhausting for another I'm a little convinced, for all the evidence otherwise, we're not very good at it. Left to ourselves I'm pretty convinced we'd take our differences and rub shoulders together in comparative peace anyway. It's why picket stories can't be overlooked or allowed to gather archival dust. For all the thread already on the topic, these are ' new ', meaning a stream of stories sent home in letters to newspapers or family are so numerous the harvest is never-ending. Which means we were still there behind blue and gray barriers. Which means we haven't gone anywhere.

This one's longer, well worth reading. Honest. So are they all. This man is merely describing ' war ', a day in the rifle pits- it's 1864, death, war and hate have become terribly, terribly old.
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Please no one go up a wall over the mention of Confederate deserters- this is from March, 1865. Gosh war was old. A lot of these mentions do not take swipes at which side was which, or why one guy ' came over '- seem to all be just awfully tired of war, that's all. We were not there.
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From Bermuda Hundred, the 104th PVI
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We're still ordering take-out mostly, a long thread isn't the snore it was back in January. Besides, BOY do we need to hear from our ancestors. It'll be ok.

Staunton, Virginia, a Confederate newspaper
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Next post, they're still at it.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Struck by Trooper George Peck's , 14th Wisconsin Cavalry, progressively anti-war, anti-killing anyone at all musings in his memoirs. You run into more and more of those or at least men increasingly aware there were men exactly like them at the receiving end of what they were doing.

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Story caught my eye- it was in the middle of one of those half-page ' letters ' back to a home newspaper. Worth reading- the ' rebels ' continually made themselves responsible for a wounded Union solider named Smith.

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poorjack

Corporal
Joined
Jul 17, 2015
Location
NC
I like the one in 4 Years Under Marse Robert. There was a revival service going on in spring of 1864 just before the Wilderness campaign. Pickets were on each side of the river watching for enemy movements. The new converts were to be baptized immediately and where better than an old fashioned river dunking. So they formed up and marched to the river. The Yankee pickets thought a crossing was in the makings, sounded an alarm and took up arms. Then the Yankess realized it wasn't a crossing but a baptismal service at which point they laid down their arms and joined the congregation. And as Stiles says, the private was baptized to the satisfaction of all present.

It wasn't all killing and there are examples in nearly every war. Fast forward to the November Truce of 1914. When allowed, people are still people.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I've always liked the expression the men of both sides employed during the siege of Vicksburg, just before opening fire.

"DOWN REB!"

"DOWN YANK!"


My favorite bit is always where everyone is just fine, exchanging goods, swapping stories, taking a break from war and some officer generally rides up and ruins the whole thing. I realize officers had a war to run but I'm also convinced it's really hard to continually generate the kind of hate required to view another guy as the enemy. Obviously, looking at history, it's doable- just can't be easy.
 

Grant's Tomb

Private
Joined
Apr 4, 2020
In the companion book to the Ken Burns documentary just before Fredericksburg, it said that picket lines were so close they could hear one another. A Union picket reported that a Confederate on the opposite said "Before you Yanks can get to Richmond, you'll have to wake up Early, go up a Longstreet, get over the Lee of a Stonewall and climb two Hills." I don't know if this something one of the Confederate pickets actually said
 

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Joined
Jan 16, 2015
In the companion book to the Ken Burns documentary just before Fredericksburg, it said that picket lines were so close they could hear one another. A Union picket reported that a Confederate on the opposite said "Before you Yanks can get to Richmond, you'll have to wake up Early, go up a Longstreet, get over the Lee of a Stonewall and climb two Hills." I don't know if this something one of the Confederate pickets actually said

That was apparently a rather common saying in the armies, with slight variations. For instance, it showed up in separate letters from officers of the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps just after the battle of Gettysburg:

(4 July letter of Major George Benson Fox, 75th Ohio) A captured Rebel says when the war commenced we had a stone wall (Jackson) to climb, a long street (Longstreet) to travel, and two hills to go over (D. H. and A. P. Hill).

(4 July letter of Captain William N. Hall, 78th New York) We have got over the stone wall and got to the end of the long street, and now we have the hill to climb, and the army under Lee is ended. [False rumors of Longstreet's recent capture were circulating at the time.]
 

Pat Answer

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Oct 8, 2013
Location
“...somewhere between NY and PA”
My criticism of the scene in Gods and Generals is that it seemed wooden: two men wade out on the stream, swap a pull or two on a pipe and a few sips of coffee, and don’t talk (all the soldierly banter was at shouting distance beforehand). The whole thing came off as just awkward. At the very least each should have come with a sack of the desired commodity and exchanged that with a handshake.
 

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