Time For More Picket Stories, Or, We Can DO This

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JPK Huson 1863

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kind picket fred union conf.JPG

Another eyewitness view of the shattered bridge at Fredericksburg. The famous photo of Mississippi troops staring at the photographer from across a chasm seems only part of the story. From Alfred Waud's "Union soldiers exchanging salutations with the Confederates at Fredericksburg, Va." LoC

It's past time for another thread about how given the chance we could and did rub elbows beautifully during the war, given the chance. Because these accounts appear with reassuring frequency throughout the war, seems to me both readers and men looked for reasons not to hate each other. Given various accounts it appears that once everyone had met they also had a hard time viewing the other as enemies.

When posting these it's been a good idea presenting them as-is, meaning straight from 1861-1865. They can't be dismissed as romanticized recollections by veterans, something we hear them accused of.

Several of these accounts originate from the Rappahannock, seemed perfect for this work of war art.

kind picket sca coat.JPG

From a South Carolina newspaper

kind conf coat conversation rappahhanock.JPG

I'm truncating most for brevity. Please ( pleasepleaseplease ) no one go up the nearest wall because this article implies the Confederacy suffered shortages. Missing the point.

This one's awesome. Humor was rife on both sides- these pickets shared the same joke.
kind howard.JPG


Soldiers and war correspondents seem safe from charges they faked anything in writing at all.

kind ely ford 1863.JPG

Just a snip from one of those lengthy letters soldiers sent home to local newspapers. Unobnoxious men, friendly good will, longings for peace.

kind pickets new 1864.JPG

" The rebel officer of the picket came over to our line "

kind pickets shared breakfast 1864.JPG

Again, please do not misinterpret as some agenda where one side is ' bad ', another ' good '. They shared a breakfast. It's nice.

kind picket 1863 fire high.JPG

This kind of event wasn't singular, according to men sending home these accounts.

One of my all-time favorite ' caught moments ' inside one of LoC's giant tifs. Also from the Rappahannock, these two animals of different species are noticing each other for the first time. It's a little boring waiting for boats. Horse seems surprised, cow interested. " Soooo, 'sup horse. How's the weather up there? "
Hooves, elbows, who cares? We got this.
kind port rapp horse.JPG
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Part of an 1864 letter sent to another local newspaper.

kind picket 1864 atlanta band.JPG


It's so odd. I'm always struck by these because current narrative on the war seems intent on widening the divide between us. Thread after thread goes up in smoke, like determined animosity is a form of entertainment. Dangerous entertainment. The fact there are so many of these just attached to pickets means around a gazillion accounts beyond these are out there. Seem a terrific starting point. If they could do it 150 years ago, we can.
 

SWMODave

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Not everyone approved of these little mid war get together's ......

Aug. 21st, 22nd [1864]. All quiet in front. When the fog cleared up about nine thirty we found out that the picket lines had made a truce and both sides had met on half way grounds and were having a jolly good time together. It was reported to Gen. French, and he rode up to my battery, took out his field glasses and looked long and steadily upon the Christ-like scene, and then told Lieut. Murphy to fire a shot or two over there and make them get to their places, the two shots were fired from my gun. As the first shell passed over them, they all jumped up shook hands and told each other goodbye, then made a break for their rifle pits.

I believe that a permanent peace could be made in twenty-four hours if left to the fighting men of both armies.

Memoir of the Civil War by William L. Truman [Guibor's Battery]
 
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lelliott19

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Hilary Herbert, Colonel 8th Alabama was later a Congressman from AL (1877-1893) and US Secretary of the Navy under Grover Cleveland (1893-1897.) Amos Jay Cummings, was a New York Congressman (1887-1893) and Medal of Honor recipient who had served as Sgt Major 26th New Jersey Infantry. In 1891, the two veterans exchanged stories of their time on the Rappahannock, as reported in the New York Sun, and reprinted in The (Savannah) Morning News, March 20, 1891, Page 5.

For weeks afterward the pickets were confronted each other with the Rappahannock between them. There was very little firing, and the utmost good feeling existed.

Cumming tells about the picket reserve on the Union side of the river:
...A confederate officer of the day appeared early in the morning on the opposite bank. His rank and duty was indicated by his sash. The instant the officer in charge of the union picket saw him, he shouted, "Turn out the guard, officer of the day!" The reserve fell in line and presented arms to the confederate officer, who acknowledged the complement with a graceful salute.

Herbert tells about riding along the picket line:
...A week or so afterward the colonel was again riding along the picket line. He saw in the river a little boat, a foot or more long, exquisitely molded, It had no sail but bore a tiny mast from which a little confederate flag floated. It came across the river slowly, and reached the exact point occupied by a confederate picket. "What is that?" the colonel asked, as the picket lifted the boat from the water. The soldier somewhat hesitatingly passed it to the colonel. Upon the flag was the word "Dixie." Within the boat was a little package of sugar and coffee, with a note saying, "Please exchange tobacco for these."
The boat had a little rudder canted to the right. The tiller was lashed to the gunwale with twine. With this arrangement, the current of the river held the little craft steady, kept her upon her course, and carried her direct to the point of destination.
Nobody seemed to know anything about the boat. The confederate picket was dumb. But the colonel readily understood where it came from. Some of his soldiers were from Mobile, and were experienced naval architects. It was a rebel craft designed to run the blockade. It had done so successfully for many days, and its cargoes of sugar and coffee were highly appreciated. The lines of the little craft were so beautiful that the colonel carried it to his tent and placed it among his camp equipage. He intended to keep it as a souvenir, but when he awoke the next morning it was gone. No one could tell how it disappeared. Whether it reentered the service or not is not known. Many years afterwards the Colonel was telling the story while on a visit to Fredericksburg. A Virginian heard him and burst into laughter. "I know what happened to that boat," he said. "It is now in the house of wealthy gentleman living in Washington, and I don't believe $500 would buy it."
[Reprinted from the New York Sun, inThe (Savannah) Morning News, March 20, 1891, Page 5.]
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Well, all I can say Annie, is the Rebs I've met, I've had no desire to kill. We've eaten together and talked together and I'll shoot high and over them. It's much harder to kill people you've met and break bread with.

That's just IT. Thank you! We had a wonderful couple who became close friends- Lutheran pastors who married when they met as in the usual setting, grad school. Loved their southern stories, their warmth, and boy could he do a sermon. Seriously, always reminded me of Shelby spinning a narrative. Their roots in the South were deep alllll the way back so the stories were too. North Carolina. They did flee back down there, missing it too much and it was a blow.

Weirdly, I hadn't encountered many southerners until going all the way to England, quite a few at the school I went to. It's funny. That's a lot of years ago and at the time I can genuinely say my idea was they were just more Americans.

I'm never sold on how much we all hated each other.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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...A confederate officer of the day appeared early in the morning on the opposite bank. His rank and duty was indicated by his sash. The instant the officer in charge of the union picket saw him, he shouted, "Turn out the guard, officer of the day!" The reserve fell in line and presented arms to the confederate officer, who acknowledged the complement with a graceful salute.

This made me laugh out loud. I understand all about the war's setting, ' us v them ', the ravening hoards, the ' why we were there '. But. Just re-read the account of the Union soldier at Gettysburg, wounded and laying in a hot fight. Confederate men built a little stone ' house ' for him, before another attack. He said he lay there listening to the ping ping ping of bullets on stone. Survived the war to tell it. Bet he never bought into the divisive stuff.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Great thread! I would love to pick apart the details in the Waud drawing; it has such energy.
I think the war got meaner, more bitter and hateful in the last year and a half or so. It had just gone on too long for civility to endure.

Someone else posted something like this, it may have been you? How the early ' polite ' war went away and we really lost our minds. I can see that. Must have felt so desperate after so long, too much killing, too many friends lost, too long away from home. Read a British account of a man who survived the trenches in the first war- he said it was all a big haze afterwards, he was just numb. I'm not apsychologist or neuro psych for that matter but maybe the human animal just, plain isn't cut out for it?
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I believe that a permanent peace could be made in twenty-four hours if left to the fighting men of both armies.
Gosh. Chills. Yes, thank you- written by someone who was there? Most profound thing I've read by any of them.

I especially appreciate the opportunity to see a journalistic sketch at the top of this thread. Thank you, Annie!
This stupid thing called Time keeps getting in the way- really want to get much, much more into the war as seen by these artists. Read a lot on Frank Leslie's approach and the men he sent. It's all eye witness, and we lost some artists. Waud writes of burying a fellow journalist/artist while with cavalry on the way to Gettysburg. There'd been an ambush- he stopped long enough to give his friend a grave.
 
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