The Amenities of the War
Providence Daily Journal, June 27, 1861
If we may believe the telegraph, War is not always a "grim-visaged monster." It has its gentler expressions,—its amenities and euphemisms. There are times when bearded soldiers meet not as enemies, but as pleasant neighbors,—unbuckling their belts, laying aside their hostile weapons, and striking hands on a platform of amity. At the last accounts the pickets of the northern and southern armies were hob-a-nobbing at Chain Bridge on the Potomac, exchanging civilities, and taking drinks together. This seems far better than exchanging bullets and spilling blood. There is something fraternizing in a gin-sling, and the cool smell of crushed mint percolating the air from an apple-jack julep softens while it cheers the heart and is very refreshing in a hot day.
In revolving the horrors and dangers of war, we have always considered the post of a picket a post of peculiar peril. And when we have read in the papers of brave fellows scouting about and dodging among trees and rocks, miles away from the camp,—on the very edge of the impending battle,—we have shuddered at the risks they ran, not only from their own rifles, but also from those of some hostile ambush. The mind is somewhat relieved by the telegraph. The pickets take drinks together. They meet not in deadly strife with clashing bayonets,—but with clinking cannikins in a contest of hilarity and good feeling. They warm up mutually over icy beverages, and salute each other not with the loudmouthed guns of inimical batteries, but with the gentler artillery of popping bottles.
We do not quite understand this interchange of chivalric courtesies. War, like everything else, we suppose, has its pleasant side,—and it would not be strange in a civil war to see some of the amenities of life. This taking of drinks together among the out-posts may be a step toward conciliation,—a masked battery of compromise. Before we are aware the genial spirit may pervade the camps as well as the pickets, and fifty thousand men may be pledging their fifty thousand enemies in mutual and fraternal apple-jack. We trust that Gen. Scott sees his danger. He will probably be warned in season by a multitude of counsellors, who will show him what to do in this emergency, as in every other, and exactly how to do it. We are willing to leave the matter to his judgment. We believe that the old hero has his eye open,—and that these silken meshes of pleasant amenities, like the net spread in sight of a bird, will fail to entangle him, and will be spread in vain.