Friendly Enemies

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Friendly Enemies

Soldier Fraternization throughout the American Civil War

Studies in War, Society, and the Military Series

228 pages
4 photographs, 8 illustrations, index

eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

August 2020

978-1-4962-2164-3

$55.00 Add to Cart
Hardcover

August 2020

978-1-4962-0245-1

$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

August 2020

978-1-4962-2162-9

$55.00 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.

Praise

“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