Flanking movements: Dark Humor and sarcasm from the US Civil War

June 22, 1864 edition of The Soldier’s Journal

Originally posted here: Fog and Friction. Follow me there, if you’re into military history.

I stumbled across this last year while doing research for a paper. Soldiers often develop a dark humor as they cope with the exasperating extremes of a military campaign…from the intensity of combat, to the boredom in-between battles, and often in the face of perplexing leadership decisions.

This article was printed in the June 22, 1864 edition of The Soldier’s Journal, a Union-sympathetic newspaper, toward the end of the war. It demonstrates very well this dark humor, and the amazing resilience of the soldiers fighting the war. Below is a close up of the relevant portion. In case you can’t read it, here’s a transcript:

“The rank and file have a pretty good appreciation of the strategy of the campaign. They understand that it has been a series of splendid flank movements, and flanking became the current Joke with which to account for everything from a night march to the capture of a sheep or pig. A poor fellow, terribly wounded, yesterday, said he saw the shell coming,’but hadn’t time to flank it.’”

Bear in mind, this shell took the soldier’s arm off just the day before.

Close up of article.

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