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Great Snowball Fight of 1864

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by dawna, Feb 27, 2005.

  1. dawna

    dawna First Sergeant

    Feb 20, 2005
    Great Snowball Fight of 1864: Dalton,GA
    From: Stonewall of the West Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War

    Occasionaly the unpredictable March weather broke routine of camp life and interrupted the training schedule . On rare occasions it snowed and like children released from school , the troops treated any snowfall as an occasion for play. On March 22 dawn revealed a fresh 5 inches of new snow, and a spontaneous snowball fight broke out all across the camp. The men threw themselfs into the fracas with enthusiiasm. One arkansas soldier recalled, "Such pounding and thumping, and rolling over in the snow, and washing of faces and cramming snow in mouths and in ears and mixing up in great wriggling piles together." (Stephenson, Civil War Memoir)

    In Cleburne's Div. , Lucius Polk's Brigade attacked Govan's Brigade, pitting Arkansas against Arkansas, and Cleburne could not resist getting involved. He placed himself at the head of his old brogade and led the attack on Govan's campsite. The snowballs flew thick and fast , and Govans's men Were getting the worst of it when they desided to launch a counterattack. They charged Forword, no doubt yelling for all they were worth and Cleburne suddenly found himseld a prisoner of war. After some tongue -in-cheek deliberation, his captors desided to parol their commander, and claburne was released.

    The snowball fight contined and claburnes once again entered the fray. Atlas he was captured a 2nd time .. and this time his captors confronted him with mock solemnity about his violation of parole. According to one veteran, "Some called for a drumead court martial; others demanded a sound ducking in the nearby creek. Still others mindfull of Cleburne's reputation as a stern disciplinarian, insistedthat the general be meted out his own customary punishment. The idea caught on and soon the whole brigade took up the familiar order: 'Arest that soldier and make him carry a fence rail!' " Cooler heads prevailed, with Claburne's defenders arguing that after all this was the 1st occasion on which he had been known to break his word and once again his captors granted him parole. When it was all over, Cleburne authorized a ration of whiskey to the troops , and they stood around great bonfires singing and yelling "at the top of their lungs" {Steve Davis "The Great Snowbattle of 1864" CWTI (June 1976) }

    More snow fell on the 23rd of March, provoking yet another snowball fight and rain and snow continued through the rest of the month. On the 31st a more serious sham battle occurred when Joe Johnston organized a mock engagement involving Hardee's Corps. Cleburne's and Bates's Div. Squared off against those of Cheatam and Walker. It was a fine weather for a charge, and the troops entered the spirit of the drill, firing off a blank cartridges each, thrilling the small audiences of ladies who had driven out from Dalton to watch. One veteran recalled, "The noise waas terrific and the excitement intense, but nobody was hurt. . . except perhaps one of the cavalry men who was dismounted while charging a square of infantry." That night, back in camp , it was peaches and cornbread again for dinner. (John S. Jackson Diary of A Confederate Soldier)

    Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.
    Anne Frank

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  3. larry_cockerham

    larry_cockerham Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011

    Feb 20, 2005
    The 48th Virginia claimed victory over the 54th Virginia in a similar event that same winter in Dalton, Georgia. It's a shame there couldn't have been such contests between competing armies or simply a roll of the dice or drawn cards, flip of the coin or some other less brutal technique for settling issues. Bullets and bayonets with big cannon balls flying through the area was not a good choice.
  4. Craig L Barry

    Craig L Barry First Sergeant

    Jan 5, 2010
    Murfreesboro, TN
    A research article about The Great Snowball Fight is slated for publication in the next Camp Chase Gazette.
  5. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

    Feb 20, 2005
    Near Kankakee
    Good news, Craig. Is there a link to the site?

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