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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

June 17, 1861

Distinguishing Friend from Foe Could be Difficult

While the Blue/Gray distinction amongst Civil War soldiers’ uniforms had not yet come into being, the Richmond Times Dispatch noted that distinguishing from friend from foe on the battlefield could be difficult.

An important consideration. There is said to be very little difference between the uniform and appearance of the Southern and Northern soldiers, and hence it becomes of the highest importance that some measure should be employed to distinguish them. The Enquirer says: “At first, there is danger, that when the forces meet upon the field of battle, and after the first shock are broken up into small fighting squads, who will roam here and there in search of enemies, many a brave man will fall by the hands of his comrades, who, in the excitement of the moment, will fall to recognize him as a friend. “Americans, to a great extent, strongly resemble each other, and where the volunteers of both sections have been equally exposed to the sun, the Southern soldiers, except as regards intelligence, cannot be separated from those of the North. Let steps be therefore taken to remedy this defect at once. “Attach a badge, a stripe, or a mark of some description to your coats or shirts, which will be known to all by a generally disseminated order from headquarters. Take pains to maintain a distinction between your true blooded Southerner and your mercenary enemies, and when upon the field of battle you draw your bead upon a man, or plunge a Bowie-knife in his heart, you will not have the melancholy thought, affecting you like a nightmare for a lifetime afterwards, that you killed a friend instead of an enemy. “Let this subject be agitated by the press of the South, until it receives the attention of those who have the remedy in their hands.–Mistakes enough have already occurred to furnish a warning”