Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hal Bridges and Alan Guelzo on camaraderie amongst enemies

I have been reading Hal Bridges, Lee’s Maverick General, a military biography of Daniel Harvey Hill, 1961, and as appears in a number of books I’ve encountered, some West Point friends are captured.  And invariably they are embraced warmly.

“’Hill, old fellow, how are you?’

"To the surprise of his staff, Hill embraced the enemy officer like a brother.  His prisoner was Henry B. Clitz, a friend of West Point and the Mexican War.  Generals Anderson and garland also knew Clitz well and greeted him warmly.  Hill had the knee examined by his surgeon and was greatly relieved to learn that Clitz would not lose his leg.  he and his friend slept on the same overcoat that night, and early the next morning he made preparations to send Clitz to Richmond in an ambulance.

I hadn’t thought deeply about this matter, but didn’t it happen in all modern wars?  I recall that Germans and British soldiers in trenches in World War One were friendly to each other when the shooting stopped -- just as occurred within the lower ranks in our Civil War.  Alan Guelzo had some interesting things to say about this matter in his C-Span Book TV discussion about his book, Gettysburg, the last invasion, broadcast in June and July of this year:  Guelzo thought this immediate camaraderie after the shooting stopped was the result of almost all the combatants being citizen soldiers.  They weren’t hardened “regulars.”  And just because an officer had graduated from West Point didn’t mean he was a “regular” either.  West Point was and is primarily an engineering school.  Many Civil War officers took their West Point degrees, left the army or stayed in for just a few years and then went to work in the private sector.  D. H. Hill worked as a college professor, and I found this record of Henry B. Clitz:

[There seems to be some confusion over his death.  The first part says he died October 30, 1888.  The second part says he left his home for no know reason and was last seen October 30, 1888.]

Clitz was more of a “regular” than Hill was, and the camaraderie of friends from West Point isn’t what Guelzo was emphasizing, so there were two reasons for this camaraderie: old friends meeting up in time of war, and citizen soldiers ready to make friends after the shooting is over; which to some extent must account for the relative ease with which the Union came back together after 1865.

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