One of the biggest snow ball fights in history

NH Civil War Gal

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Feb 5, 2017
Thousands Of Soldiers Held Massive Snowball Fights

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One morning in 1864, the Confederate Army woke up to 13 centimeters (5 in) of snow. The men rushed out and fought what may be one of the biggest snowball fights in history.

Up to 20,000 men were involved. The Tennessee and Georgian soldiers divided themselves into two armies, built up arsenals of snowballs, and
charged at each other. On Tennessee’s side, Colonel Gordon even rode out on horseback, holding up a dirty handkerchief like it was a flag and
pelting his men with snow.

Other fights broke out among the Confederate forces. Men lined up, using all their military training, and launched volleys of snowballs at the
other side. Some who ran too close to the enemy line were dragged over to have their shirts stuffed with snow.

The boys, after all, were young—some only 17 years old. When the snow cleared, they picked up their weapons again and marched for another
battle, where more than just a shirt full of snow awaited.

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Forum Host
May 7, 2016
Great Story. Below is one from the Truman diary April 1864. Since we don't have snow this was the best they could do and it sounds it could be great fun.

April 18th. All the troops of Frensh's division that are here were reviewed a nine o'clock by Gov. Clark of this state. Many ladies were present and a salute of five guns was fired by the "Wooden Battery". Our brigade made a fine appearance as usual, we battery boys had on our best cloths, our horses, harnesses, and guns, were in the best condition, the six fine horses on my gun are hard to surpass. Our battery and brigade have had great fun during the past week, fighting sham battles, with Ector's Texas Brig, each side would gather piles of pine burrs during the day, as we were camped amidst pines, and at night, the officers would take command, form their lines of battle, each man armed with a pine torch in one hand and a haversack full of burrs, or a pile of burrs close by, were ready at command to light the burrs and throw them at the opposing line. The burrs would blaze like they had been soaked in turpentine and as thousands of them were sailing through the air at once on a dark night, the illumination was grand. As those blazing burrs fell into the opposing lines, they were immediately snatched up, and came sailing back again, only to be returned the second and even third time before they were consumed.


Retired Moderator
Nov 20, 2012
In his memoir, Pvt. Philip D. Stephenson of the 5th Company, Washington Artillery, described the same snowball battle while the AoT was winter quartered at Dalton, GA:

But perhaps the most interesting of all episodes was the Snow-ball Battle! A battle indeed! A battle royal! A battle in which ultimately thousands of men engaged. In regular organization too, by batteries, regiments, brigades and divisions. One of those late March blizzards had come upon us, the last compliments of a stern winter. The snow lay deep upon the ground, six inches or so, and things looked dismal, and men felt dismal. The tent flies in the woods, stretching as far as the eye could reach, and the snow over everything, trees, tents, underbrush, streets, and other open spaces of the camps! Not much moving around! A figure now and then. That was all. Depressing picture!

Suddenly, some fellows in Cobb's Battery, next door to us, ran out in the open and began snow-balling each other. Others joined them and more and more! Presently there was a lull and a sort of conference, and then--the whole crowd broke into our grounds and began "shelling" us in our tents! Come out, yelled they, "Come out and fight!" No response. Our Louisiana boys were shivering and demoralized. They were not used to snow, and that was the biggest one most of them had ever seen! It was all very well for Cobb's men. They were Kentuckians and used to snow. As for the Louisianians, they did not see where the fun came in. A few of us (I being a Missourian) ran out and "engaged the enemy," but the rest kept close in their holes. The Kentuckians kept jeering and daring us and bombarding us! "Come out, come out and fight!" At last there was a shout, "I can't stand this any longer! Here boys let's at them!" And out from an officer's tent shot a figure, stooping down as he ran, gathering snow and charging into the midst of the foe. It was Chalaron our peppery little 1st Lieutenant, hatless and his bald head shiny and red, while his Louis Napoleon moustache and imperial beard bristled up like the whiskers of a cat. It needed no second cry! Our men had stood it long enough. Out they tumbled after their leader.

We drove the enemy back to their quarters, but we had a tough time doing it. Such pounding and thumping, and rolling over and over in the snow, and washing of faces and cramming snow in mouth and ears and mixing up in great wiggling piles together. But we drove them back and made them respect us. By that time our blood was up and we wanted other worlds to conquer. We concluded to combine forces and attack the other battery of our battalion, Tennessee boys. Our battalion was made up of three batteries: our own, Cobb's Kentucky, and Mebane's (I think) Tennessee. We pitched into them and "wiped them out" in short order. Then we proposed combination with them and to extend operations on a grander scale. To this they agreed, and so, with increased and formidable front, and tremendous yelling and great stores of ammunition, we went forth to conquer.

This time the onset was upon the infantry, those nearest to us. It happened to be an Alabama regiment and they at first were like our Louisiana boys--no fight in them, shivered and demoralized by snow, moping about the fires or rolled up in their blankets in the tents. But we put life into them! I remember helping to drag one fellow out of his tent myself. We would not let them alone. We yelled and searched, ran through their streets, pelted them in their tents, around their fires, everywhere, until at last, in desperation, they became aroused also and went for us. After a while, a junction of forces was made again and we charged other camps.

By this time other portions of the army had heard what was going on and had caught the infection. Officers and all. Yes, Generals of brigades and divisions! I remember seeing a group of them, with their staff officers, in grave conference together, planning evidently some "big strategy," but nightfall was now near, and so decisive operations were postponed until the next day.

And the next day, we had it sure enough! Brigades and divisions were on either side, and it was a pitched battle, full of vim and dead earnestness. How I wish I could recall the details: the troops engaged, their numbers, and disposition, also the generals who led us. I think it was confined mostly to Hardee's Corps (our Corps) with volunteers from elsewhere. Cheatham and Cleburne led the opposing sides, but I cannot speak positively. Nor can I say who whipped. My impression is both "whipped." Partial advantages were gained by each side. It was an all day fight and everybody covered himself with glory and with snow. The incidental value of this episode is that it shows the rejuvenated spirits of the men, how altogether different they were from what Johnston had found only four months before.

- The Civil War Memoir of Philip Daingerfield Stephenson, D.D.
May 18, 2005
Spring Hill, Tennessee
This is from Like Lions at Bay:

The next night the weather turned cold and a snow fell about three to five inches in depth. All day on the 22nd, they played around snow balling one another. The next day was the famous ‘Dalton Snow Ball Fight.’ Etter recorded in his diary that, “Cheatham’s division has gone to snowball Walker’s division.”[1]

It commenced in a small way but grew to be a big battle with at least a brigade on each side with officers and colors. The snow was five or six inches deep. There was a small branch between the combatants and sometimes one side then the other would have possession of the field. Sometimes the Tennesseans would drive the Georgia men back, then they would rally and drive the other side. They used up all the snow on the field then each side had a detail to bring up big snowballs to be used as ammunition.[2]
The field officers mounted their horses and ordered our side to charge, which they did with a yell in fine style, and captured Walker’s quarters.[3]
Our Tennessee side finally charged the Georgia fellows and ran them back to their camp. I never got there for at the branch a Georgia fellow rolled up a snowball with a lot of ground with it and struck me in the eye, coming very near to knocking my eye out, so I got knocked out and went back to the rear. I understood that several lost an eye in the fight.[4]

Whipping the Georgians or “Goober’s grabblers” back into their huts was quite an accomplishment, but the well known snowball fight of March 23rd was not the only one. The next day, the boys of the Sixteenth and Eighth Tennessee regiments had not had their fill of fun yet. The attacked the 28th and 51st Tennessee regiments, but “…they got whip and drove our boys in they tents.”[5]

[1] Etter,p. 24.

[2] Carden, May 10.

[3] Thompson, p. 21.

[4] Carden, May 10.

[5] Etter, p. 24.



May 12, 2017
Long Island, NY
Of course it wouldn't be a snowball fight unless very intricate brest works were created first. We would lob snowballs at each other from across the street until someone decided on a frontal assault.

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