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Things weren't always as they seemed during the Civil War

Quaker Guns
Quaker Guns

At the battle of Cold Harbor, May 31 –June 12, 1864, one might reasonably assume a presence of tactical armed ships. The name Cold Harbor came from two taverns strategic located at a crossroads near east of Richmond where the battle was fought. Old Cold Harbor tavern and new Cold Harbor tavern were from old country references to “harber” and its German origin meaning a way station or inn. It would be reminiscent of today’s vernacular where someone would “harbor a grudge”. Of all things that the soldiers found at the difficult and long battle at Cold Harbor, none saw anything resembling a body of water that could be identified as a “harbor”.

When Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest attempted to induce a surrender from Union Colonel Wallace Campbell at Athens, AL on September 24, 1864, Forrest used a bit of trickery to accomplish his goal. Forrest invited Campbell to review his troops, to determine for himself how much armament Forrest had. As they rode down the lines and Campbell would see an artillery battery, Forrest would move them so Campbell would see them over and over again. Campbell counted 24 cannon. Forrest only actually had 8 cannon. Campbell surrendered under false pretenses.

Union General William Rosecrans used deceptive tactics in his plan to take his troops across the Tennessee in attempting to overtake Confederate Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga. Rosecrans strategy worked, convincing Bragg that he would be attacked from the north. All the while the Union soldiers built fires and hammered and sawed boards indicating a crossing of the river by boat. Meanwhile, Rosecrans men crossed undetected south of the city and took Bragg by surprise.

Often troops on both sides would attempt to make their troops strength look larger to try to delay the enemy advance. Troops would use most anything that could appear as if it were a cannon when viewed from afar to put in strategic places to confuse observers. The false cannons were called “Quaker guns” due to the fact that the Quaker religion was against warfare.

Deception and trickery were of strategic importance in the Civil War and used effectively by each side. After all, it is said, “All is fair in love and war.”

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