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A war hallowed and human page 3
Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Frederickburg: Coming Together: Fredericksburg, 1862

 Re-enactors exchange a 'handshake across the wall.' Prior to battle, the soldiers had declared an informal 'truce.'
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Date published: 12/9/2012


Above all, they grumbled about how tired they were of everything connected with the war. They couldn't hate men they sat around the campfire with, smoking their tobacco, drinking their coffee, wishing they could all see their families one more time. Was that so much to ask? If they had a choice, they would all go back to their normal lives and let the politicians who talked about glory and victory and noble causes settle it for once and for all.

"Let's just pick up and go," they said to each other. But they knew it was just talk. They realized they would never have any say in what happened to them; that many would never go home or see their families again. They would die trying to cross an open field, storm a stone wall, or fall in some place like Cemetery Ridge or Cold Harbor. The war would go on tomorrow and the next day and the week and month after that, and maybe even for years.

But for those fleeting moments around Fredericksburg, they could smile and joke and tell tall tales like buddies gathered around the campfire. For a brief time, they came together in peace and goodwill. Not a shot was fired, no man feared for his life, and no officer ordered them to charge up some hill against impossible odds.

Tomorrow, however, would be another day. Tomorrow they would be enemies again on opposite sides of a stone wall overlooking an open field. Tomorrow was Saturday, Dec. 13, 1862.

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Duane Schultz taught in the psychology department at Mary Washington College in the 1960s. Since then, he has written more than two dozen books in psychology and on World War II and the Civil War, including "The Fate of War: Fredericksburg, 1862" (Westholme Publishing, 2011).