Saturday, November 26, 2016

American Civil War Humor and Jokes

Brady's National Photographic Portrait Galleries
A political cartoon depicting Uncle Sam arguing with a woman while a slave on the right tiptoes by the couple. Uncle Sam holds a newspaper marked "united", the woman has a newspaper behind her back marked "states".

Humor (even if somewhat grim) made its appearance early during the American Civil War.  When President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers in April 1861 to put down the rebellion, rebel jokers published advertisements for “75,000 Coffins Wanted.” Bill Arp, a popular Georgia humorist, wrote a letter to President Lincoln thoughtfully worrying that the Union’s military strategy might be, “too hard upon your burial squads and ambulance horses.” 

At first jokes in camp were relatively tame. Some soldiers wondered how many court-martials a barrel of rum held. Others joked that draft exemptions were only open to, “dead men who can establish proof of their demise by two reliable witnesses.”  Spirits were high and men engaged in practical jokes.  In the winter, one of the favorite tricks that the soldiers would play on the bugler was to put water in his bugle at night and let it freeze. The next morning the bugler would be unable to blow reveille until he thawed out his bugle.

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