Still Talking About the Weather
Hopefully spring has finally arrived wherever you are, and you’re perusing this issue on a warm, sunny day. This past winter brought record snowfalls to parts of the East, and our offices in Leesburg, Va., were hit by two major storms in a week. The weather made things rough, blocking roads and resulting in power outages for some for days at a time, but the vast majority of folks got through “snowmageddon” in relative comfort.
We did not, for example, really have to worry about starving because of road conditions, as did Confederates in Centreville, Va., in 1861-62 (P. 36). That is, most of us didn’t worry about it. Museum curator Brett Kelley must have been just a bit concerned as he hunkered down in a hut atop Harrisburg, Pa.’s Reservoir Hill while the raging winds piled up snowdrifts outside his front—and only—door (P. 30).
Consider what Private Wilbur Fisk of the 2nd Vermont had to say about picket duty in February 1864: “We built us an awful hot fire….Before me there was intense heat, behind me it was exactly the reverse….If some malicious fiend had been sponging my back with ice cold water the sensations could not have been less desirable….Never did a set of shivering pickets look more anxiously for the next relief to arrive than we did then.”
Dick Simpson of the 3rd South Carolina made it through the Centreville winter of 1861–62 in a winter hut “about 12 ft square, there is not enough plank to finish the floor. A bench with two legs, two old trunks, a hound pup, and a pile of bed clothes in the corner compose the whole furniture.” Simpson recalled that at night all the hut’s residents would pile together on the dirt floor under as many blankets as they could muster, doing their best to get some sleep. Sure hope that hound dog did his part to give off some heat.
Doesn’t make the winter of 2010 seem so bad now, does it?
Originally published in the June 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.