Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Recently, I have been reading Wiley Britton’s The Union Indian Brigade In The Civil War (1922). Britton, a veteran of the 6th Kansas Cavalry, misnamed his book as it is really not a unit history, or at least it is certainly missing some elements that I typically see in unit histories. In the book, there is only a limited discussion of the creation of the brigade, no insider’s view of the brigade, no listing of officers, hardly any discussion of casualties, and no roster. Britton, though, observed the Indian brigade, participated in some of the same campaigns, and did include some valuable eyewitness material. His account of fraternizing with the enemy in the Indian Territory reveals that trans-Mississippi soldiers did share some attributes with their eastern counterparts. Couldn’t the following have happened in Virginia? Or Tennessee?

“There was heavy timber on both sides of the Arkansas below the mouth of Grand River, and many fallen trees which afforded good protection to the pickets of both sides, very few of whom exposed themselves to the point blank range of the rifles then in use. The river was fully half a mile wide from bank to bank, and the Sharp’s carbines of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry, the best cavalry arm then in use, even with raised sight, was not always effective at that distance.

In some instances the pickets of each side came down to the water’s edge of the river and took deliberate aim at each other, which resulted in some casualties. Later the pickets communicated with each other and declared a truce and came down to the river and talked with each other from a sandbar to the opposite shore; they then went in swimming, each party keeping to their own side of the river, near enough, however, on several occasions for the Confederates to exchange tobacco with the Federal soldiers for coffee, which was not then issued to the Confederate forces in the west. Several substitutes, however, were used in the Confederate army and by the Southern people” (p. 228).

1 comment:

  1. I think this is common in war. We hear of the Christmas truce during World War One, and the less famous "live and let live" of trench warfare.
    In the Trans-Miss there were numerous incidents of soldiers recognizing an enemy prisoner and saving them from execution. When Cole Younger was riding with Quantrill, he saved his former teacher from execution at the hands of the bushwhackers.