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    Notable Civil War Weather Events

    By By Gina Cherundolo, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
    April 14, 2011, 8:37:43 AM EDT

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    Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War.

    On Apr. 12, 1861, Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter, S.C., eventually leading to the Union's surrender of the base.

    Although weather records and information this far back in history is hard to come by, several notable weather events during the war have survived the decades.

    The book Washington Weather chronicles two particular weather events during the War Between the States.

    On Jan. 20-23, the Union Army encountered a strong nor'easter, one that completely halted the Army of the Potomac. However, it wasn't heavy snow that stopped the troops; it was mud.

    "The weather had been fairly dry and mild for most of January and the prospects for a winter campaign seemed good," the account reads.

    Little did they know a storm was brewing southeast of them. A classic nor'easter moved up the East Coast and hit the army. Since temperatures were in the 30s, rain fell instead of snow.

    It did not take long for General Burnside's troops to be bogged down in mud. Wagons and cannons became stuck, and many soldiers fell in the mud and lost their shoes.

    The troops had no choice but to abandon their mission and return to camp. Upon their arrival, they found their shelters flooded.

    According to Washington Weather, 3.2 inches of rain fell in Washington, D.C.

    A month later, another notable weather event occurred on Feb. 25, 1863, also near Fredericksburg, Va. Prior to this date, more than a foot of snow had accumulated in the area.

    However, on Feb. 25, "sunny skies and mild temperatures softened the deep snow cover, providing ideal conditions for making snowballs."

    This weather catalyst caused the Great Snowball Battle of Rappahannock Academy. During this "battle," Confederate forces from North Carolina marched towards a camp of fellow soldiers from Georgia. Their intent was to capture their camp, and their ammunition was snowballs.

    According to Washington Weather, about 10,000 soldiers participated in the fight, and Confederate General Stonewall Jackson witnessed the battle.

    "Battle lines formed and the fight began with “severe pelting” of snowballs," the book reads. "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."

    After the North Carolinians retreated, the Georgia soldiers decided to plot an attack of their own. However, upon entering the North Carolina camp, they were surprised to find their enemies with an ample supply of ammunition in their haversacks, overwhelming the Georgia troops.

    "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."

    This wasn't the only snowball fight documented during the Civil War, but the Battle of Rappahannock Academy is unique due to the amount of snow, amount of participants and the complex battle strategy the soldiers used.

    The Confederacy surrendered to the Union on Apr. 9, 1865.

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