Cockfighting also was a popular pastime on all fronts. During the siege of Atlanta, the rear of the Confederate entrenchments had an elaborate pit with seats and benches arranged for the spectators. One gamecock that fought and died in this pit suffered the most ignominious of fates for a Rebel rooster. A Union cavalry raid interrupted the day's cockfighting, and the dead gamecock was confiscated for a Yankee meal.
An enterprising young soldier of General Lee's infantry trained his gamecock to perch on his shoulder during a march and to sally forth to do battle with the head rooster of any convenient farmyard flock. He provided the trooper with many a stew.
Anything for a bet
Horse racing—often for high stakes—was a big sport among the cavalry divisions. The ingenious infantry, however, satisfied its hunger for betting by corralling the likeliest of the ever present louse population for racing and fighting contests. In a regulation louse fight, two gladiators were placed within a small circle drawn on a flat surface, and the pugnacious dispositions of the lice usually guaranteed a duel to the death. The track for louse races was often a small piece of cloth, and the first insect to crawl over the edge was declared the stakes winner. In another version, each entry raced from the center of its own tin plate. One Confederate soldier, who limited his louse to tin-plate races, cleaned out a Mississippi encampment of large amounts of stakes money. The reason for the champion louse's unusual speed was eventually found out. The soldier had hopped up his entry by heating his plate before each race.
Football, cricket, wrestling, footraces, boxing, leapfrog and shooting matches were other diversions reported by diarists and letter writers of both armies. Tenpin games were improvised by rolling cannonballs at makeshift pins or at holes in the ground, and hunting and fishing expeditions often augmented skimpy rations. Occasionally the war was put aside entirely and soldiers from both sides joined each other for some friendly sport. One such incident saw Yank and Reb picket guards stationed on opposite banks of Virginia's Chickahominy River declare an unofficial truce and put in an amiable day of interarmy fishing.