"My Friend, the Enemy"
by Mort Kunstler
"We talked the matter over and could have settled the war in thirty minutes had it been left to us.” So said a Southern solider after he and a Northern counterpart sat on a log between the lines and enjoyed an unauthorized but friendly chat. As Americans, Johnny Reb and Billy Yank had far more in common than typical combatants. That familiarity was frequently revealed in friendly contact between the lines. Countless episodes of enemy soldiers helping each other occurred during the war. During the battle of Kennesaw Mountain in 1864, a ground fire threatened wounded Northern soldiers lying between the lines — until a Confederate officer stood up, exposing himself to enemy fire, and shouted, “We won't fire a gun until you get them away.” An impromptu cease—ﬁre followed immediately while Federal troops removed their wounded — then the battle resumed.
Following the battle of Second Manassas, two Confederate soldiers were carrying a wounded friend through the darkness when they were challenged by a sentry who demanded identification. “We are two men of the Twelfth Georgia, carrying a wounded comrade to the hospital,” they shouted back, only to learn they had accidentally crossed into Federal lines. "Go to your right," the Northern sentry called out, directing the men back toward the Southern lines. "Man, you've got a heart in you," hollered one of the retreating Southerners.
When the opposing lines were close enough, and the shooting had temporarily stopped, army musicians sometimes engaged in battles of the bands. On the banks of the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, Virginia, Southern soldiers listened admiringly to a Northern band performance during the winter of 1862. When it concluded, a Johnny Reb called out, “Now give us some of ours” — and the Yankee band obliged with a rendition of “Dixie.” When the band concluded, soldiers from both sides broke into a melancholy chorus of "Home, Sweet Home.”
The lines were so close on the Rappahannock during the winter of 1862-3, that contact between Northern and Southern soldiers became commonplace. They often met on an island in the river, where Confederate troops exchanged Southern tobacco for the coffee ration issued to Northern soldiers. When officers discouraged contact, they would make their exchanges by small, hand-made boats that the soldiers called "fairy ﬂeets.” Sometimes they met to play cards; other times they just exchanged stories. The war was the real enemy, they concluded, and not each other — and if they had to go back to shooting at each other the next day, it wasn't personal for many of them. For most, the camaraderie became genuine reconciliation at war’s end, and when Johnny Reb and Billy Yank chanced to meet after the war, it was often with obvious friendship and mutual respect. "My friend, the enemy," veterans of the war came to call each other — with the understanding that, Northern or Southern, they were Americans all.
|Archival Paper||18" x 26"|
|Signature Edition||17" x 24""|
|Classic Edition||22" x 32"|