In honor of Pvt. Nathan R. Oakes, CSA

150 years ago, my great grandfather, Nathan Richardson Oakes, served as a private in Company D of the distinguished 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment in the Army of Tennessee. He participated in the great Civil War campaigns, including the battles of Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin, Nashville, and Bentonville. I am writing about his engagements as well as some details about fighting for the Lost Cause. I hope to honor him and commemorate the events and individuals that contributed to making this a renowned unit in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The legendary snowball fight of 1864

Late March of 1864 brought an unseasonably large snowfall to the Army of Tennessee encamped around Dalton, Georgia. The storm provided a pleasant diversion for Cleburne's Division at Tunnel Hill. According to historians Howell and Elizabeth Purdue and various other accounts, the men took up a large scale snowball fight which soon swept up participants from several of the regiments including the 32nd. Gen. Cleburne was also caught up in the mock battle. At one point he was "captured" by opposing forces, but soon violated his "parole" and reentered the fight, only to be captured again. The climax came when the general was threatened with "court-marshall" for violating his parole, and a dunking in the creek was being considered as his punishment. However, the victors relented and the fight ended without serious casualties.

More snow fell the next day provoking another snowball fight. Rain and snow continued through the rest of the month. By month's end, apparently Hardee's entire corps was caught up in yet another sham fight.

There were numerous such snow fighting escapades throughout the Southern armies during the war. But the Dalton snowball fight of 1864 is the most famous.

Sketch of the snowball fight in camp at Dalton, Georgia, Winter 1864
Source: Library of Congress

Sources: Pat Cleburne: Confederate General, Howell & Elizabeth Purdue; Fighting Men of the Civil War, William C. Davis & Russ A. Pritchard; Co. Aytch, Sam R. Watkins

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