Coming of their trenches, Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers often exchanged chewing tobacco and other items.
I'm sure it was not true in all places, but I have heard my grandfather tell about Union and Rebel soldiers being friendly with each other, when there was no battle being fought.
They would come out of their trenches, when the lines were close, lie in the sun and talk to each other, sometimes exchanging chewing tobacco. Then someone would say, "Well, it's about time for the battle to start; everyone hunt his hole." Then the shooting would start.
It was not unusual for civilians to come out and watch the fighting. Occasionally a man would bring his musket, get in a few shots and go back home.
In some cases, under a flag of truce, each side would pick up the dead and wounded, then resume the battle. Sometimes they would even borrow shovels from each other to bury their dead.
The Rebels also dug trenches and rifle pits while they had the shovels. It wasn't unusual during a lull in battle for both sides to pick blackberries, gather wild onions or get anything else they could find to eat between the lines.
Often a stream divided the battlegrounds and during a "quiet," men from each side would bathe in the stream at the same time. All this was forbidden by the officers but there probably has never been another army where individuals made as many decisions for themselves.
There was an often-told story of a Rebel chaplain baptizing some soldiers in a stream when the Yankees came down on their side and joined in the singing.
To listen to the oldtimers, it would seem that soldiers respected each other as individuals but hated each other as armies. It wasn't unheard of for Yankees and Rebels to meet in a "sheltered spot" and play cards, and it wasn’t unusual for a Rebel to return to his lines with a coat, blanket or knife that he had won. When they had nothing else left to gamble with, they were sometimes known to steal a chicken to get in a card game.
At one time when the Rebel and Yankee trenches were real close together, the Yankees were throwing some type of mortar shells into the Rebel trenches, so two men would hold a blanket over the heads of the riflemen down the length of the trench. When the shells fell on the blanket they would "flip" them back toward the Yankee trenches. It was about as serious as any encounter could be.
After several hours when most of the men were wondering if any of them would come out of it alive, one of the blanketmen, Matthew Fulgham, said, "Boys, if this keeps up it's going to get real dangerous." That started the men to laughing and they "went over the top" and routed the Yankees.
An excerpt from As I Remember It Stories of Civil War Times.
B.C. Harpole, author
West Point, Mississippi
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