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.