Discussion Weather During the War

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jackt62

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Maybe it's not "extreme" weather, but federal forces en route to Fort Donelson in relatively mild weather, were suddenly caught up in a snowstorm on the eve of the battle. Many of the troops had discarded their overcoats and blankets along the march and were therefore unprepared for the change in weather and temperature.
 

DBF

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On Jan. 20-23, 1863 - the Burnside Mud March - was it a nor’easter? Some say yes. It was reported that 3.2” of rain fell in that storm in Washington DC.

There are some interesting and informative threads here:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/tornadoes-during-the-civil-war.121825/
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/notable-civil-war-weather-events.82667/
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/“expedition-hurricane”-of-1861.138436/

Of course I suppose many times they were not aware of the weather event until it was upon them.

One other weather interest - the ice storm that nearly cost General George Henry Thomas his command at Nashville.
 

Cavalry Charger

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On Jan. 20-23, 1863 - the Burnside Mud March - was it a nor’easter? Some say yes. It was reported that 3.2” of rain fell in that storm in Washington DC.

There are some interesting and informative threads here:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/tornadoes-during-the-civil-war.121825/
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/notable-civil-war-weather-events.82667/
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/“expedition-hurricane”-of-1861.138436/

Of course I suppose many times they were not aware of the weather event until it was upon them.

One other weather interest - the ice storm that nearly cost General George Henry Thomas his command at Nashville.
I've bookmarked your post as weather has always been something that has fascinated me.

Of course, they did not have the state of technology that we have now in order to predict the weather, and even that is questionable at times still in this day and age :confused:

I think weather balloons were one way of predicting the weather back then. How useful they were I don't know :unsure:
 
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ebg12

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https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Weather_During_the_Civil_War

It says weather at the time was in the period of the end of a little ice age, where extreme flux between hot and cold and wet and dry was happening in the country.

here is some of what it says about the effect of these fluxuation:
Weather could not only hinder battles, but could also grant success to risky maneuvers. Stonewall Jackson's famous flanking attack at the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863) was a prime example of weather working in an army's favor. As historian Robert K. Krick has pointed out, the element of surprise, which contributed to Jackson's success, could not have been achieved without the preceding two days of spring showers. The rain had wet the road and prevented a column of dust from giving away the men as they marched on their unsuspecting foes.

My own thoughts:

Lets not forget the delay Hooker had with the engineers building across the river during the campaign because of the weather.
 
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Lubliner

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A twister coming down and striking an encampment or record of some violent hurricane descending on the coastline, swallowing up land and cities, such as Charleston or Wilmington. I had an interest as well on weather patterns and began a thread asking that a project should be begun on such a gathering of information. This thread by @Robtweb1 is an excellent point for beginning such a project. The enquiring minds he speaks of hopefully could be the National Hurricane Center. I would appreciate someone who had the abilities involved with uploading data into a central bank from all points of the compass for weather observations reported stations, such as Coastal Survey, etc. Light Houses, so on... I cannot do it!
I have never read any journal from the time period, nor by reports of major hurricane conditions in cities, or the destructive touchdown of a twister.
Lubliner.
 
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Stone in the wall

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https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Weather_During_the_Civil_War

It says weather at the time was in the period of the end of a little ice age, where extreme flux between hot and cold and wet and dry was happening in the country.

here is some of what it says about the effect of these fluxuation:
Weather could not only hinder battles, but could also grant success to risky maneuvers. Stonewall Jackson's famous flanking attack at the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863) was a prime example of weather working in an army's favor. As historian Robert K. Krick has pointed out, the element of surprise, which contributed to Jackson's success, could not have been achieved without the preceding two days of spring showers. The rain had wet the road and prevented a column of dust from giving away the men as they marched on their unsuspecting foes.

My own thoughts:

Lets not forget the delay Hooker had with the engineers building across the river during the campaign because of the weather.
Good points, a bigger reason may have been that Hooker had sent most of his cavalry off.
 

DBF

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I knew I’d find the answer to my feet/frostbite question - - -

“To these, perhaps, should be added exposure to cold, as the six reported cases occurred during months when frostbite from exposure on active field service was not uncommon, although unknown amid the comparative comforts of camp and hospital life. A degree of coldness of the feet resulting from displaced blankets, which, under ordinary conditions, would have been immediately succeeded by healthy reaction, may in these devitalized cases have sufficed to determine the development of gangrenous phenomena.(+)”

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/frostbite-during-campaigning.10269/

Lots of good information here posted in 2008.
 

Rhea Cole

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In the Western Theater, the Pacific current known as El Niño had a profound effect. When Bragg advanced into Central Kentucky in the fall of 1862, corn had died knee high & pastures were an expanse of dusty bristles. Streams & ponds were mere bare dirt. The corpses of Bragg's cavalry, supply animals & infantrymen littered the countryside; they literally dropped dead from heat prostration. At Perryville, a muddy waterhole was fought over as if life itself depended on holding that ground.

Ironically, El Niño had another card to play. As Bragg's retreating army straggled through Cumberland Gap, the earliest winter in memory set in with a vengence. Pickets were found frozen to death, still standing their posts. Bragg reported to Richmond that he did not know how many men he had or where they were.

At the same time, the union force holding Nashville was not immune to the dire effects of El Niño. The Cumberland River, which runs through Nashville, was the lifeline of the city. Hundreds of steamers nosed onto the bank at the end of Broad Street. Bachelorette parties climb up into their peddle bars on that spot, today. In 1862, the bachelorettes could have waded the river without the water overtopping their new cowgirl boots. Given the clapped out state of the Louisville & Nashville Rail Road & constant breaks caused by man & nature, the Nashville garrison was in real danger of being starved out.

Labor was requisitioned from farms surrounding Nashville. I have copies of requisitions for three men with tools, wheelbarrows & three days rations. Harnessing the labor of the 72,000 slaves in the counties surrounding Nashville was essential. The Nashville & Western Rail Road was driven 70 miles to the Tennessee River at Johnsonville. Not only did the self-liberated blacks build, maintain & man the logistic hub, after the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th USCT Infantry guarded & kept the line open. El Niño played a vital part in enlisting Middle Tennessee slaves to support & take up arms for their own liberation.

The El Niño summer drought & record cold had a direct dramatic & dire effect on Western Operations throughout 1862-63. The description of Mother Bickerdyke's fight to keep thousands of sick & wounded men alive when an arctic front swept over Look Out Mountain is epic. The Mississippi River froze solid downnriver from Memphis. The weather reports from New England read like they were written by Steven King.

In November 1864, after the slaughter at Franklin, John Bell Hood's grieving army dug in on the hills above Nashville. They could clearly hear the jolly calliope music played for the three daily performances of a circus. Bitter, damp cold set in. Thousands of soldiers reported to Confederate hospitals almost blind from eye irritation. The only way to stay even remotely warm was to huddle around smoky wet wood fires.

Just as Union General Thomas was about to order an assault on Hood's army, a front blew in. Driving rain was followed by freezing rain was followed by plunging temperatures. Every twigg, blade of grass & rock was encased in cristal clear ice. Out in the black starless night, it sounded like dinosaurs were grazing through the trees. The next morning, the entire world was a Venetian chandelier. Out in the open, the men of the Army of Tennessee must have been equal parts dazzled & appalled.

In Nashville, the circus bought a half page ad announcing an indefinite extension of their engagement. More than twenty acts would perform three times a day. General Thomas had no choice but to delay his attack order. Thomas had been undercut by disparaging reports sent by General Scofield, an exasperated Grant put Black Jack Logan on a train with orders to supersede Thomas.

In typical El Niño driven Middle Tennessee weather, a warm front blew up from the gulf & the Crystal wonderland made way for pleasant temperatures. While still on his train, Logan learned that his dream of an army command was not to be. Smashed by two days of George Thomas' signure attacks, Hood's men fled south to the Tennessee River. An inspector general reported that the men gathered on the south bank of the Tennessee were nothing but an unarmed mob. El Niño had conspired with Generals Rosecrans, Grant & Thomas to utterly defeat the Army of Tennessee.
 
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lupaglupa

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In counterpoint to the Southern soldiers struggling with cold weather, there are many written accounts of how hard it was for soldiers from the North to deal with the extreme heat of the South. During particularly hot weather it was not unusual for soldiers to pass out. I've spent more time in summer heat than I care to remember and it is tough enough in light clothing! I can't imagine what it would have been like wearing a wool uniform and carrying a pack.
 

Belfoured

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In the Western Theater, the Pacific current known as El Niño had a profound effect. When Bragg advanced into Central Kentucky in the fall of 1862, corn had died knee high & pastures were an expanse of dusty bristles. Streams & ponds were mere bare dirt. The corpses of Bragg's cavalry, supply animals & infantrymen littered the countryside; they literally dropped dead from heat prostration. At Perryville, a muddy waterhole was fought over as if life itself depended on holding that ground.

Ironically, El Niño had another card to play. As Bragg's retreating army straggled through Cumberland Gap, the earliest winter in memory set in with a vengence. Pickets were found frozen to death, still standing their posts. Bragg reported to Richmond that he did not know how many men he had or where they were.

At the same time, the union force holding Nashville was not immune to the dire effects of El Niño. The Cumberland River, which runs through Nashville, was the lifeline of the city. Hundreds of steamers nosed onto the bank at the end of Broad Street. Bachelorette parties climb up into their peddle bars on that spot, today. In 1862, the bachelorettes could have waded the river without the water overtopping their new cowgirl boots. Given the clapped out state of the Louisville & Nashville Rail Road & constant breaks caused by man & nature, the Nashville garrison was in real danger of being starved out.

Labor was requisitioned from farms surrounding Nashville. I have copies of requisitions for three men with tools, wheelbarrows & three days rations. Harnessing the labor of the 72,000 slaves in the counties surrounding Nashville was essential. The Nashville & Western Rail Road was driven 70 miles to the Tennessee River at Johnsonville. Not only did the self-liberated blacks build, maintain & man the logistic hub, after the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th USCT Infantry guarded & kept the line open. El Niño played a vital part in enlisting Middle Tennessee slaves to support & take up arms for their own liberation.

The El Niño summer drought & record cold had a direct dramatic & dire effect on Western Operations throughout 1862-63. The description of Mother Bickerdyke's fight to keep thousands of sick & wounded men alive when an arctic front swept over Look Out Mountain is epic. The Mississippi River froze solid downnriver from Memphis. The weather reports from New England read like they were written by Steven King.

In November 1864, after the slaughter at Franklin, John Bell Hood's grieving army dug in on the hills above Nashville. They could clearly hear the jolly calliope music played for the three daily performances of a circus. Bitter, damp cold set in. Thousands of soldiers reported to Confederate hospitals almost blind from eye irritation. The only way to stay even remotely warm was to huddle around smoky wet wood fires.

Just as Union General Thomas was about to order an assault on Hood's army, a front blew in. Driving rain was followed by freezing rain was followed by plunging temperatures. Every twigg, blade of grass & rock was encased in cristal clear ice. Out in the black starless night, it sounded like dinosaurs were grazing through the trees. The next morning, the entire world was a Venetian chandelier. Out in the open, the men of the Army of Tennessee must have been equal parts dazzled & appalled.

In Nashville, the circus bought a half page ad announcing an indefinite extension of their engagement. More than twenty acts would perform three times a day. General Thomas had no choice but to delay his attack order. Thomas had been undercut by disparaging reports sent by General Scofield, an exasperated Grant put Black Jack Logan on a train with orders to supersede Thomas.

In typical El Niño driven Middle Tennessee weather, a warm front blew up from the gulf & the Crystal wonderland made way for pleasant temperatures. While still on his train, Logan learned that his dream of an army command was not to be. Smashed by two days of George Thomas' signure attacks, Hood's men fled south to the Tennessee River. An inspector general reported that the men gathered on the south bank of the Tennessee were nothing but an unarmed mob. El Niño had conspired with Generals Rosecrans, Grant & Thomas to utterly defeat the Army of Tennessee.
in a recent essay Kenneth Noe uses the same El Nino pattern to explain the wet weather that hampered operations on the Peninsula in Spring 1862. It strikes me as possible that the same pattern accounted for wet conditions in Tennessee that Spring. The Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing was 10 feet above flood stage during the Battle of Shiloh and Buell's Army of the Ohio joined up late with Grant due to road problems and stream crossings.
 
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James N.

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in a recent essay Kenneth Noe uses the same El Nino pattern to explain the wet weather that hampered operations on the Peninsula in Spring 1862. It strikes me as possible that the same pattern accounted for wet conditions in Tennessee that Spring. The Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing was 10 feet above flood stage during the Battle of Shiloh and Buell's Army of the Ohio joined up late with Grant due to road problems and stream crossings.
Not to mention the trouble the muddy roads gave the Confederates as they attempted to concentrate for the attack. The mud caused a delay of at least a day, providing Buell - late or not - with the time needed to come to Grant's support, though as you note, his advance was plagued by the mud as well.
 
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