Friendly Enemies


Friendly Enemies

Soldier Fraternization throughout the American Civil War

Lauren K. Thompson

Studies in War, Society, and the Military Series

240 pages
4 photographs, 8 illustrations, index


August 2020


$55.00 Add to Cart

January 2023


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2020


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2020


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

During the American Civil War, Union and Confederate soldiers commonly fraternized, despite strict prohibitions from the high command. When soldiers found themselves surrounded by privation, disease, and death, many risked their standing in the army, and ultimately their lives, for a warm cup of coffee or pinch of tobacco during a sleepless shift on picket duty, to receive a newspaper from a “Yank” or “Johnny,” or to stop the relentless picket fire while in the trenches.

In Friendly Enemies Lauren K. Thompson analyzes the relations and fraternization of American soldiers on opposing sides of the battlefield and argues that these interactions represented common soldiers’ efforts to fight the war on their own terms. Her study reveals that despite different commanders, terrain, and outcomes on the battlefield, a common thread emerges: soldiers constructed a space to lessen hostilities and make their daily lives more manageable.

Fraternization allowed men to escape their situation briefly and did not carry the stigma of cowardice. Because the fraternization was exclusively between white soldiers, it became the prototype for sectional reunion after the war—a model that avoided debates over causation, honored soldiers’ shared sacrifice, and promoted white male supremacy. Friendly Enemies demonstrates how relations between opposing sides were an unprecedented yet highly significant consequence of mid-nineteenth-century civil warfare.


Author Bio

Lauren K. Thompson is an assistant professor of history at McKendree University. Her work has been published in Civil War History and in the edited volume A Forgotten Front: Florida during the Civil War Era.


"Friendly Enemies is an excellent addition to the voluminous historiography of the Civil War soldier. An interesting and fast-paced read, it stands tall and deserves a space on the bookshelf next to the giants in the field."—Nathan A. Marzoli, Army History

"The fascinating themes, good writing, and evocative quotations Thompson provides will make Friendly Enemies a very useful book."—Sarah J. Purcell, Journal of Southern History

"Lauren Thompson’s book has wonderfully brought the meeting of enemy soldiers on picket lines and battlefields into full view. . . . Anyone interested in the Civil War soldier experience and its lasting effects on war memory will find this book an invaluable resource."—Andrew Turner, Civil War Book Review

"In effectively weaving together the wartime history of fraternization with its significant role in remembrance, Friendly Enemies is a major contribution to the scholarly literature of the common Civil War soldier."—Civil War Books and Authors

“A magnificently researched book. . . . Lauren K. Thompson goes straight to the letters and diaries of the rank and file, allowing the reader to see how grisly veterans sought truces to cope with the brutalities of war. Friendly Enemies is both a poignant and practical story of men asserting their humanity in the relentless and unforgiving struggle of survival.”—Peter S. Carmichael, author of The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies

“This first study of fraternization during the American Civil War reveals that the topic yields more than anecdotes to color campaign narratives—it provides much-needed insight into soldier resistance and survival, trade networks, and veteran memory.”—Lorien Foote, author of The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army

“Lauren Thompson explores Civil War episodes shrouded by myth—those moments when Billy Yank and Johnny Reb exchanged banter, coffee, and tobacco instead of lead. Surveying the entire war, she explains that brave and otherwise dutiful soldiers fraternized with the enemy to assert their individuality. Significantly, she stresses the racial dimensions of these meetings. Only white soldiers fraternized, vowed they could restore peace, and recalled their exchanges years later to foster reunion and white supremacy.”—Jason Phillips, author of Looming Civil War: How Nineteenth-Century Americans Imagined the Future

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Fraternity and Resistance
2. Discourse
3. Trade
4. Information
5. Ceasefires
6. Memory

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