Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head
Weather during the Civil War was a constant topic — addressed by soldiers writing in their journals, or more practically, writing home — concerned about their crops or their leaky roofs or the condition of the roads. But the rain, wind, snow and temperature were of special interest to the telegraph operators, because weather could dictate war strategy, and added an extra dimension to the conflict. The Eckert telegraphs include reports on downed lines, weather preventing repairs, and affecting the supplies required by operators in the field. More generally, weather figured enormously in the conflict. “Weather fair moonlight” noted in the telegraph above would have been essential information. Conditions were everything. A snowy field made it possible to approach other troops more quietly, but it also made them much easier to spot at a distance. Rain, on the other hand, could keep dust from rising in the distance and thus give an advantage. Rain-swollen rivers could require lengthy detours. Forest fires could consume bodies lying in fields after bloody conflicts. Provisioning troops in the field was often influenced by the weather, too; food, clothing, and gear could be rendered useless, or made essential, depending on the weather.