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HUMAN DECENCY DURING WAR "BEYOND BRADY": Photography in the Civil War Era, Pamplin Historical Park, 6125 Boydton Plank Road, Petersburg. The interactive exhibit features more than 130 artifacts and images covering all aspects of photography during the mid-1800s. Runs through September 2009. Adults, $15; senior citizens, $13.50; ages 6-12, $9. 877/726-7546, pamplinpark.org.

 Artist Mort K^BENT^00FC^EENT^nstler's 'My Friend, the Enemy' depicts Civil War soldiers from opposite sides sharing their meager supplies. The scene is downriver from Fredericksburg.
K^BENT^00FC^EENT^nstler Enterprises Ltd.
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Date published: 11/8/2008

PERHAPS THE MOST adverse consequence of any civil war is the division of a population that was once united. Citizens who are born and bred under the same flag, who share the same history and worship the same god, find themselves unable to resolve a political dispute. Debate turns to argument, and the two sides end up destroying each other in the name of their causes. This tragedy of "brother versus brother" was repeatedly played out on battlefields all across America from 1861 to 1865.

Yet when we examine the conflict today, we tend to focus completely on the differences between the Union and Confederate soldiers instead of their commonalities. It's far too easy for us to forget that they were all once part of the same sovereign nation.

Throughout the War Between the States, troops from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line routinely laid down their arms to trade supplies and conversed with the "enemy." Here in Fredericksburg, there are several accounts of weary pickets on opposite sides of the Rappahannock River participating in these temporary truces.

Incidents like these were not at all about military diplomacy. They were about finding a common ground and practicing human decency amid the madness of war. Trading allowed enemies to come together, in peace, between episodes of killing.

The benefits were mutual. Federal troops always had an abundance of coffee and sugar, while Confederate soldiers had a surplus of Southern tobacco. Newspapers were especially popular to exchange, as it was interesting to read the war news from the other's viewpoint.

This sentiment is the backdrop for renowned Civil War artist Mort Künstler's newest snow print, "My Friend, the Enemy." This painting was inspired by a poignant scene in the film "Gods and Generals" and captures Billy Yank and Johnny Reb sharing their meager supplies downriver from the town of Fredericksburg.

The painting depicts two soldiers, one Northern and one Southern, enjoying each other's coffee and tobacco as if the war had stopped, if only for a moment. The skyline of Fredericksburg provides a dramatic backdrop, and the courthouse and church spires are clearly identifiable. Other troops stand among the snow-covered trees in the background, and two subtly rendered soldiers are using a rope to move a hollowed-out log across the river.

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WHAT: Mort Künstler print signing for "My Friend, the Enemy" WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 15, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. WHERE: VFW Post 3103, 2701 Princess Anne St., Fredericksburg INFORMATION: King James Galleries, 888/217-1865