Civil War Weather – Some Links

It's hot.  (Source)

It’s hot. (Source)

Some folks have been searching for “Civil War Weather,” and while I don’t know a lot about it – it was perfectly miserable for Northerner and Southerner alike at the Siege of Knoxville 150 years ago this month, for sure – I have found a few links to pass along.

These include:


Encyclopedia Virginia: Weather During the Civil War. This is, of course, Virginia specific, but it does mention the “Little Ice Age,” which might go a little way toward explaining the woes in Eastern Tennessee, too (note: Krakatoa didn’t have its big one until 1888). There are also further links included in the article.

C-c-c-c-old.  (Library of Congress)

C-c-c-c-old. (Library of Congress)

Early Weather Events (including the storm during the Battle of Ox Hill in 1862 and the Mud March in 1863). I had forgotten it was a Nor’easter during the Mud March.

The Drought That Changed the Outcome of the War. I don’t know that it changed the outcome of the war, but it certainly messed up General Buell. River levels were still low enough to cause transport problems for General Sherman in 1863, I’ve read. See also Causes and Consequences of Nineteenth Century Droughts in North America, and as you’re looking at that 1894 sandstorm in Texas, recall that a similar storm ended an artillery duel in Peralta in 1862!

Kentucky’s Climate During the Civil War. Kentucky Climate Center.

The Winter Battle (Pea Ridge, winter of 1861-62). Civil War Trust.

Weather on This Day in History. Internet Public Library 2.

It's wet.  (Library of Congress)

It’s wet. (Library of Congress)

Wunderground Atlantic Hurricane Archives. It covers the war years. (I haven’t forgotten Captain Semmes and the CSS Alabama but don’t believe there are any tropical cyclones recorded in the Pacific during the raider’s journey there; I don’t know about the Indian Ocean or South Atlantic, but that’s quite specific, and he certainly kept records, though it’s a question if they survived.)


National Climatic Data Center search page for online climate data. It goes back to April 1, 1842, I think. Here’s more information.

Utah Climate Center. I haven’t used this one, but their blurb calls it “The granddaddy of daily historical weather data. The Utah Climate Center has daily records for at least 5,000 locations (we lost count) spanning the globe, with some records dating back to the 19th century. If it’s not on this site, it’s not on the Internet. Data is current, usually to within six months, so we’d recommend it for data dating before the early 1990s. One important note: this site is not user-friendly, so be patient in wading through the data. It can be tough to use, but once you get the hang of it, it is all at your fingertips.”

It's the "perfect storm."  (Library of Congress)

It’s the “perfect storm.” (Library of Congress)

Basically, I would suggest finding detailed journals or histories of the area you’re interested in. Many people put daily weather observations in their journals, like this officer in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now that we have computers, it would be great if a university or some other big research center collated the information to get a general picture of the weather in all parts of the US during the war (and at other times, too)…oh, wait.

As another example, Earl Hess’s 2012 book about the Knoxville campaign is tremendously detailed about the campaign and also contains incidental detail about the weather, sometimes on a daily/nightly basis.

Certainly they sometimes faced hail, too…hot dogs, not so much:

Categories: American Civil War, Weather

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