2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Fredericksburg Campaign - December 1862
The Calm Between the Storms

Soldiers with toy boats
 
Oft times, when the opportunity presented, soldiers from both sides would talk or trade desirables such as coffee, tobacco, and even letters from home. In this drawing, soldiers build toy sailboats from lumber scraps and torn shirts with which to send articles to trade off towards the opposite bank. Combatants would also fish while watching each other from opposite shores, shouting taunts or playing songs. [C]

Confederate soldiers posing for Union photographersMilitary bands often played a role in joining the adversaries in a common, non-lethal engagement. D. Augustus Dickert of the 3rd South Carolina spoke of these patriotic musicians prior to the battle.

"Bands of music enlivened the scene by their inspiring strains, and when some national air, or specially martial piece, would be struck up, shouts and yells rended the air for miles, to be answered by counter yells from the throats of fifty thousand "Johnny Rebs," as the Southern soldiers were called. The Confederate bands were not idle, for as soon as a Federal band would cease playing, some of the Southern bands would take up the refrain, and as the notes, especially Dixie, would be wafted over the water and hills, the "blue coats" would shout, sing, and dance-hats and caps went up, flags waved in the breeze-so delighted were they at the sight and sound of Dixie. The whole presented more the spectacle of a holiday procession, or a gala day, rather than the prelude to the most sanguinary battle of modern times. [58]

In another instance involving military bands before the battle, Confederate Major General Lafayette McLaws would relay the following story.

"Two or three evenings previous to the Federal attempt to cross, I was with General Barksdale, and we were attracted by one or more of the enemy's bands playing at their end of the railroad bridge. A number of their officers and a crowd of their men were about the band cheering their national airs, the "Star Spangled Banner," "Hail Columbia," and others, once so dear to us all. It seemed as if they expected some response from us, but none was given until, finally, they struck up "Dixie," and then both sides cheered, with much laughter." [59]

A similar incident occurred after the Battle of Fredericksburg but of a much different tone. A Northern band on the east side of the river played a series of patriotic Union songs. After a while, Confederates on the other side shouted over requests for Southern songs. The band obliged, finally ending with "Home Sweet Home". The seasoned soldiers of both sides tried to sing along. But perhaps choked by the emotion of missing home, or by the thought of those who would never again see home, neither side could finish and the band ended in somber silence. [K]

Painted sword scabbard showing dreams of reconciliation.

On the eastern banks of the Rappahannock River, Chatham Manor served at headquarters to Union Major General Edwin Vose Sumner during the Battle of 1st Fredericksburg. In the conflicts devastating wake, the stately home would become a military hospital serving some of the over 8,000 wounded during the conflict of December 13, 1862. Like the countless thousands sheltered elsewhere, the union wounded at Chatham would bear terrific suffering lasting weeks if not longer. Soldiers endured the recovery period after surgery which typically included infection and disease, both of which would prove two times as deadly as the battles themselves.

Under these conditions and after enduring the hell of the battle at Fredericksburg, one soldier at least did not harbor bitterness or thoughts of vengeance towards the enemy who had shattered so many lives. To the contrary, without words, this one man eloquently left for all posterity his hopes for both Northern and Southern men alike. As he convalesced, this recent combatant used his time to express his fraternal wishes by painting the scabbard of a soldier's sword. Clearly, he repeated the theme of reconciliation, friendship, and peace, a feeling that comfortably graces this former housing of an instrument of war. Although this conflict would bear many names, from such magnanimous sentiments grew the gentlemanly and occasionally fitting label of "The Brothers War".