The Great Snowball Fight of 1863 Civil War Cold War

There are things that are not taught in history class. Maybe they weren’t as necessary as the other details in the story, or maybe it’s an event or detail unknown to many. One such story was called “The Great Snowball Fight of 1863” among Confederate soldiers. It’s literally what it sounds like: fun, cold scoops of ice cream thrown at your face like you’ve probably done with your friends. The only difference was that it was 9,000 men throwing snowballs with their arms and hands used to gripping guns. It was perhaps one of the greatest snowball fights on record.

January 1863 was a freezing season in the Rappahannock Valley of Northern Virginia. It was about a year from the end of the Civil War. The beginning of the year had been difficult for them, as President Abraham Lincoln had just issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” in the rebellious states “are and shall henceforth be free.” “. This would later result in nearly 200,000 black soldiers and sailors fighting for the Union, and the Confederates would fight desperate battles against them at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg. But before all that, the freezing war.

The snowball fight that took place near Dalton, Georgia, in 1864, illustrated by Alfred Rudolph, 1828-1891, from the Morgan Collection of Civil War Drawings (Library of Congress)

It means war

In Confederate soldier Edmund DeWitt Patterson’s diary entry published in Gazette 665, “he mentioned a few things common in winter camps: boredom, picket duty, curiosity about the enemy, snow (and snow “sports”) and disease. In many ways, the winter camps were boring for the soldiers; it was cold and sometimes miserable, their routines did not vary much, and with the enemy army too cold and miserable, there was generally not much chance of combat action.The winter camps were relatively safe – save for disease and the occasional cavalry raid.

This may have been one of the main reasons that sparked the huge battle that started when the First and Fourth Texas Infantry threw a massive barrage of snowballs at the Fifth Texas Infantry, who were taken by surprise. but was definitely ready for a counterattack. They fought back, but because they were outnumbered, they were forced to merge with the First and Fourth Infantry and then join the assault on the Third Arkansas Infantry. They did, and the Arkansas troops quickly surrendered and joined in, their force now 1,500 strong and ready to fight their next victim: the Georgia Brigade.

Things got serious

On the other side, the Georgians were alerted to the coming freezing attack, and they were ready for it. So when the parade of battle flags, drums and bugles arrived, they held the high ground and threw their snowballs with all their might, successfully repelling the combined forces of the Texans and Arkansans with heavy losses.

Not accepting defeat, the Texans and Arkansans immediately called in reinforcements. When the new troops arrived, they again bombarded the Georgians with their slushballs, this time successfully fighting their way up the hill and also forcing their surrender. The combined forces were now led by General Lafayette McLaws, ready to conquer another division. At this point, some 9,000 soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia were engaged in this massive Cold War, throwing snowballs in all directions.

The officers get involved and the formations are organized around tactical assault plans. There was a moment of silence as the men faced each other from both sides, then moments later a huge rebel yell heralded the start of the battle.

After hours of fighting, all exhausted and covered in snow like flour-dusted dough, the Texas Brigade was victorious, with more than a few soldiers lightly wounded.

No more snowball fights

When news of the snowball fight reached Lee’s headquarters, they weren’t thrilled to hear of a massive snowball fight that had thousands of men out of their assigned positions and without their weapons playing in the snow. Confederate General James Longstreet banned snowball fights to the muttered swear words of his own troops who were just trying to let off steam after all.

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