The Great Snowball Fight of 1863

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#1
Howdy y'all :smile:

I've just done some looking up on Wikipedia and found out that the 15th Regiment Alabama Infantry took part in a snow ball fight on January 29, 1863. They, along with about 9000 other soldiers from other regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia attacked each other with snowballs during a day-long free for all. This seems to be one of the more cheerful events to occur in the American Civil War in my opinion. And I'm just wondering if anyone would be able to help me pin down any further accounts of this, since all I have to go on is what was written on the Wikipedia article.

Thanks!

~ Buff
 

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Bonny Blue Flag

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#3
Here's another snowball fight:

The Great Snowball Battle of

RappahannockAcademy, February 25, 1863



Two back-to-back snowstorms in February of 1863 provided the ammunition for a friendly snowball battle amongst rival divisions of Confederate troops near Fredericksburg, Virginia. On February 19, eight inches of snow fell on the region. Two days later, nine inches of snow fell. On February 25, sunny skies and mild temperatures softened the deep snow cover, providing ideal conditions for making snowballs.

During this time, the Confederate Army was camped near Fredericksburg. Some of the Divisions of the army had been reorganized, which had created friendly rivalries between the Confederate brigades and regiments. This helped spark a huge snowball battle near RappahannockAcademy in which approximately 10,000 Confederate soldiers participated. One soldier who participated in the snowball battle described it as one of the most memorable combats of the war.”

The battle started on the morning of February 25, 1863, when General Hoke’s North Carolina soldiers marched towards Colonel Stiles’ camp of Georgians, with the intent of capturing the camp using only snowballs. The attacking force, composed of infantry, cavalry and skirmishers, moved in swiftly. Battle lines formed and the fight began with “severe pelting” of snowballs. Reinforcements arrived from all sides to assist the brigade under attack. Even the employees of the commissary joined the snowball battle. Soon, the attacking soldiers were pushed back.

Hoke’s beaten soldiers retreated back to their camp. Colonel Stiles then held a Council of War on how best to attack the retreating force. He decided to organize his men and march directly into their camp, with snowballs in hand. When Stile’s forces finally arrived in Hoke’s camp, they were quite surprised to find that their adversaries had rallied and filled their haversacks to the top with snowballs. This allowed Hoke’s soldiers to provide an endless barrage of snowballs “without the need to reload.” The attacking force was quickly overwhelmed and many of their soldiers were captured and “whitewashed” with snow. The snowball battle came to an end and both brigades settled back into their respective camps. The captured prisoners were quickly paroled and returned to their camp, to much heckling from fellow soldiers. It was noted that General Stonewall Jackson had witnessed the snowball battle. One soldier remarked that he had wished Jackson and staff had joined the fight so he could have thrown a snowball at “the old faded uniforms.”

The weather turned mild and rainy in the following days. Other snowball battles were documented during the Civil War – including a snowball fight at Dalton, Georgia – but The Snowball Battle of Rappahannock Academy was unique in size, strategy and ample snow cover. The depth of the snow cover on the day of the battle was documented in a soldier’s diary to be 12 inches

Source:
www.worldturmedupsidedown.blogspot.com
(winter storm civil war snow)

--BBF
 

Bonny Blue Flag

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#4
I believe this is the snowball fight GELongstreet was talking about.
Lucius Polk 's Brigade (Cleburn's division) vs. Govan's Brigade. Arkansas vs. Arkansas


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)

Source:
www.americancivilwarforum.come/great-snowball-fight-of-1864

--BBF
 
Joined
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Germany
#5
So, the 1864 fight I refered to I read in Stonewall of the West some years ago, here are the accounts.

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)
 

Bonny Blue Flag

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#7
More snow flies between units! 27th North Carolina challenges the 46th North Carolina

****************************** FEATURE ARTICLE THE BATTLE OF THE SNOW ****************************** Winter quarters for the troops during the Civil War were often a welcome relief from the constant marching and fighting of the spring, summer, and fall. Soldiers would make log huts and spend their time relaxing, writing letters home, and generally recuperating from a season of battle. Life in winter quarters was also monotonous and boring.

However, on March 23, 1864, while in winter quarters in Virginia, the Twenty-seventh North Carolina broke the boredom of the winter lull by initiating The Battle of "The Snow." The Twenty-seventh challenged the Forty-sixth North Carolina (both regiments in Cooke's Brigade) to a snowball fight. However, just as they were prepared to begin, Kirkland's Brigade appeared and made a challenge of their own. The other regiments in Cooke's Brigade were called to duty and a full-scale battle between the two brigades erupted.

For over an hour, the two brigades pelted each other with snowballs, finally "ending in the utter route of the brave Kirklandites who were driven pell mell out of their quarters. . . ." The victorious Cooke's brigade plunder Kirkland's living quarters, acquiring "all the cooking utensils to be found . . . ."
Company commanders were ordered to retrieve all the ill-gotten cookware and return it, but every man found in possession of any cookware swore "he had owned it for many months."

Kirkland's Brigade, not satisfied with the outcome of the day's results, challenged Cooke's Brigade again the next day, and, in front of "an immense crowd of onlookers, including a number of general officers with their staffs from other commands[,]" the battle continued. This time, Kirkland's brigade prevailed, "capturing" a large number of Cooke's officers and men, holding them for the ransom of cookware.

Night finally put an end to the festivities, "and all hands returned to their hut, good friends."
Thus ended The Battle of "The Snow."
NOTE: At this time of the war, Cooke's Brigade was composed of the Fifteenth, Twenty- seventh, Forty-sixth, and Forty-eighth regiment. Kirkland's Brigade was made up of the Seventeenth, Forty-second, Fiftieth, and Sixty-sixth North Carolina Regiments.
SOURCE: Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-1865. Edited by Walter Clark. Vol. III.
`````````````````````````````````````
Source:
www.armchairgeneral.com (ehistory archive)

--BBF
 

Bonny Blue Flag

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#8
Comments from soldiers about "snowballing"



A Snowball's Chance
Bernadette Loeffel Atkins
During the American Civil War, the winter months gave many troops, both Union and Confederate, an opportunity to rest and recover from three seasons of fighting and marching. In their leisure time, the soldiers would write letters home, play cards and games, read or tell stories. Life in winter camp could become both boring and monotonous. As weeks of inactivity and confinement built up, tempers quickened and quarreling and fighting increased.

To release the tension and boredom of their daily lives, the soldiers sought relief in the winter sport of snowballing. From the first arrival of a few inches of snow until the melting of the snow's remains in spring, snowballing was the most popular sport in camp. It was more than just a sport between the soldiers, at times a minor snowball skirmish turned into a full-scale battle, complete with bruises, black eyes, gashed faces and even broken bones.

Some of the over-zealous soldiers would fill the core of the snowballs with rocks or lead. At times, snowball battles were fought with such vigor that many of the participants were severely injured requiring first aid. Many soldiers would build up a surplus of the frozen white missiles in advance.
Wilbur Fisk, 2nd Vermont Infantry recalled, "We had glorious sport this forenoon snowballing...Snowballs flew thick and fast, some of the foremost on each side getting completely plastered over with them, head, ears, neck and all..."
Albert Harris, a Vermonter, wrote home to his brother, "The Conal broak one Lieutenant's nose." In the journal of E.Mussence in the Washington Artillery Papers, the Louisianian diarist states, " Cap CH Slocomb lost two front teeth-Lieut Challeron a blackeye-Among the privates of the 5th Co was 5 bloody noses a Blackeye all of them more or less bruised..."
A New Hampshire participant observed, "tents were wrecked, bones broken, eyes blacked, and teeth knocked out - all in fun."
General Joseph Hooker, concerned about his dispirited men, even set up formal regimental snowball fights, complete with officers on horseback. Not all of the officers encouraged snowballing. In the diary of Edwin B. Weist at Camp Pitcher, he writes, "Some of our boys and the Zouaves got to snowballing and had a big time of it. It would probably ended in a fight if the officer of the day had not came around and put a stop to it."
William Fletcher, 8th Texas Cavalry wrote, "...All were defeated; all were victorious...with but two reported injured to mar the day's pleasure. There was an order issued prohibiting general snowballing."
Many snowball fights were well documented and written up like an official report as was the Great Snowball Battle of the Rappahannock Academy in February of 1863 and the Battle of the Snow in March of 1864.

As long as there was an abundance of snow and bored, homesick soldiers, a snowball fight was guaranteed to evolve. John S. Jackson, 9th Kentucky Infantry sums up the sentiments of many soldiers, "We have seen more fun today than at any other time during the war."


Source:
--BBF
 
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#10
I attended a rather small elementary school and we had a really cool principal. One winter day he orginized a snowball fight between the fifth and sixth graders. He allowed it to go on well after the bell had rung ending recess. He also participated! It was great. Today I am sure he would have been fired for child abuse or some dam thing. Some tree hugger would have got their back up! He also let us who wanted leave class and watch the last 3 innings of the 1960 World Series in his office....Pirates won....Bill Mazeroski homer! Sometimes some things are more important that readin, writtin, and rithmatic!

O ya...he also let us play "slaughter ball" a lot in phys ed. That's what we called it. The game where ya throws soccer balls or those big red balls at each other and ya return to class with big red welts all over you. Wonderful! The BEST phys ed game ever! Period. I understand many public schools not longer permit slaughter ball. Sigh,,,, the wimping of America.
 
Joined
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#11
I attended a rather small elementary school and we had a really cool principal. One winter day he orginized a snowball fight between the fifth and sixth graders. He allowed it to go on well after the bell had rung ending recess. He also participated! It was great. Today I am sure he would have been fired for child abuse or some dam thing. Some tree hugger would have got their back up! He also let us who wanted leave class and watch the last 3 innings of the 1960 World Series in his office....Pirates won....Bill Mazeroski homer! Sometimes some things are more important that readin, writtin, and rithmatic!

O ya...he also let us play "slaughter ball" a lot in phys ed. That's what we called it. The game where ya throws soccer balls or those big red balls at each other and ya return to class with big red welts all over you. Wonderful! The BEST phys ed game ever! Period. I understand many public schools not longer permit slaughter ball. Sigh,,,, the wimping of America.
He is just the coolest school principal ever Doug :thumbsup:
 
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#12
He is just the coolest school principal ever Doug :thumbsup:
Roger that. My big point was a principal like that, today, just might be in deep doo doo with the utopian "protect our kids" crowd. We all got thru the fifties FINE, and my memories of him are special. Not sure what has happened in this country. There are dozens of explanations for the cultural problems. O well.
 

Harvey Johnson

First Sergeant
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Messages
1,060
#15
I believe this is the snowball fight GELongstreet was talking about.
Lucius Polk 's Brigade (Cleburn's division) vs. Govan's Brigade. Arkansas vs. Arkansas


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)

Source:
www.americancivilwarforum.come/great-snowball-fight-of-1864

--BBF
In Volume 1 of Confederate Veteran former Private Sam Watkins writes a humorous account in 1893 of the snowball fight.

Since he was in Maney's Tennessee Brigade, however, he may not have participated. The article later describes the death of a 14-year-old soldier whom Watkins said had never heard of Jesus. When Watkins explained that Jesus would soon come to get the boy Watkins wrote that the teen asked Watkins to raise his hand into the air so that Jesus would see him. Sam propped the hand up as best he could with available bedding and went to sleep. When he awoke the boy had died but his arm was still propped-up over his body.

His Co. Aytch memoir contains other stories that seem to be his version of events he may have only witnessed as a non-participant or merely heard about. Other episodes—such as a dead arm remaining in the air and a 14-year-old not knowing who Jesus was—may have simply been tall tales. In Co. Aytch, for example, he tells of coming upon a group of regimental sentries frozen and still standing in place during the war's first winter.

The CV article cited, however, is best known as the solitary reference that Watkins makes in all of his writings to his "Negro servant", Sanker. He provides no information about Sanker other than Sanker put the boy noted above—who may never have existed—on a bunk.

While many historians eagerly point to the errors and tall tales in Watkins's writings, they take the solitary reference to Sanker as proof that a slave regularly accompanied him during the war. As indicated in the link below, the National Park Service is one example. Even though the unsigned article mentions Sanker, not one of the sources in its bibliography has any reference to Sanker. Perhaps, like Watkins, the National Park Service sometimes may not let facts get in the way of a good yarn.

https://www.nps.gov/chch/learn/historyculture/sam-watkins.htm
 
Last edited:

jackt62

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#16
I'm thinking that these types of fights were more prevalent among southern soldiers, for whom snow was not as common a winter phenomenon for them as it might have been for soldiers brought up in northern climates.
 

John Hartwell

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#17
Probably more often recalled by the southern men, because of the greater novelty of it. But, the Yankees had their fun, too. I've seen a few brief mentions of snow-balling in various regimental histories, but few real stories. The following comes from Richard Devens' The pictorial book of anecdotes and incidents of the war of the rebellion (1866, p.275):

Battle wlth Snow Balls at Chattanooga.
On the 22d of March [1864], while our army was at Chattanooga, the earth was covered with a beautiful sheet of snow, measuring one foot deep on a level. Such a thing was never known before, at such a time of year and the residents there, including that inevitable "oldest inhabitant," all agreed that such a thing was never known before at the season — indeed, no such depth of snow, at any part of the year, in that region of the "sunny South," had been known for twenty-three years past. The soldiers found an inconceivable amount of fun in it.

Early in the morning the town was alive with the merry shouts of Uncle Samuel's blue coats, engaged in the exhilarating pastime of snow-balling. Gradually the fun assumed immense proportions. The fight waxed hot and furious; and whole regiments were ranged m battle array, opposed in friendly combat. Officers and men partook of the sport; breastworks were formed of the snow, and the boys, led on by their officers, threw out their skirmishers, formed the flanking parties, and opened the fight. The battle, though a sham one, was most exciting.

One regiment had formed behind breast-works, had thrown out its pickets, and was all ready, awaiting the attack of its opponents. Each of the gallant lads was armed with a ball in each hand, and several lying ready at his feet. Soon another body was seen to come over the top of a hill in front of the fort, with skirmishers thrown out, and in a few minutes the skirmishers of the advancing party were engaged with the pickets of the army in the front. They fought for some minutes, when the skirmishers being heavily reinforced, the pickets retired to the interior of the fort, and prepared with the main body for the siege. It was not long delayed, for the besiegers advanced actually to the fort, and with a yell rushed up to the very mouth of the embrasures. Then the fight commenced in earnest. For a time the boys in the fort had the best of it, for they had a good supply of ammunition on hand; but soon this was exhausted, and the army inside had to manufacture their hand grenades of snow, the same as those on the outside. The besiegers climbed up the fort walls, making shot of the walls as they went, and such fun — such a scene for a few minutes! It ended in the attacking party being driven off.

The battle was gone through with a second time, and on the third trial the besiegers were more successful, for, detaching a party from the main body, and winding them around the rear of the fort, they awaited patiently for the signal of the flanking party. The signal was not long in coming, and the two parties attacking the fort simultaneously from front and rear, compelled the garrison to surrender. The surrender was done in good military style, the victors allowing them to evacuate with all the honors of war, and fists and necks and ears full of snow to boot.
 



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