Early Weather Events

Civil War Weather, War of 1812 Weather, and Revolutionary War Weather

This page is an excerpt from the book Washington Weather

Washington Crossing the Delaware in 1776

George Washington and his Continental Army crossed the ice-clogged Delaware River on Christmas night of 1776 in a snowstorm. Washington and his army were en route to Trenton, New Jersey to attack Hessian forces. Leutze’s painting of the crossing does not accurately portray the poor visibility caused by the blowing snow and sleet. One foot of snow and sleet fell in Trenton, New Jersey, and two feet of snow fell from Northern Virginia to Central Maryland.

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The Tornado and the Burning of Washington in 1814

The British army invaded Washington and set fire to the city on August 24, 1814. A day later, a line of severe thunderstorms spawned a tornado in Washington that killed several British soldiers and caused significant damage to the city. Heavy rain associated with the storm helped extinguish the fires that burned throughout Washington.

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The Thunderstorm and the Battle of Ox Hill

In the rain, the Union Army retreats to Washington the day after the second Battle of Bull Run, August 31, 1862. On the next day, the Battle of Ox Hill occurred near Fairfax, Virginia, during a period of intense thunderstorms. The fighting raged for several hours in heavy rain and strong winds, ending in a stalemate. After the battle, the Union Army continued its retreat to Washington and the Confederate Army marched north, setting the stage for the Battle of Antietam.

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The Mud March

The Army of the Potomac on their infamous “Mud March” during the Nor’easter of January 21, 1863. The Union Army became hopelessly bogged down in mud and aborted their march. Several days of heavy rain made the dirt roads impassible for the army’s heavy supply wagons and artillery. Strong winds and temperatures in the 30’s added to the miserable conditions for the soldiers.

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The Great Snowball Battle of Rappahannock Academy

Over ten thousand Confederate soldiers engaged in a spirited snowball battle near Fredericksburg, Virginia on February 25, 1863. Twelve inches of snow cover combined with mild temperatures provided ideal conditions for the massive snowball fight. Combatants employed real battle tactics in the snowball fight, including forming battle lines, charging, skirmishing, use of cavalry, and capturing prisoners.

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Washington Weather - documenting the following early weather events:

1) Summary and Explanation of Colonial Weather
2) John Smith's Accounts of Virginia's Weather, 1607
3) The Native American's Five Seasons, 1608
4) John Clayton describes Virginia's Weather, 1685
5) Benjamin Franklin Documents Coastal Storm Tracks, 1747
6) Thomas Jefferson on Virginia's Climate, 1781
7) Early Themometers
8) The Little Ice Age
9) Global warming in the late 1700's?
10) The Storm of 1586 that Ended Raleigh's First Colony
11) Jamestown's First Summer of 1607
12) Jamestown's Great Frost and Starving Time Winters, 1607-1610
13) The "Dreadful Hurricane" of 1667
14) "The Great Fresh" of 1771
15) The Washington and Jefferson Snowstorm of 1772
16) The Christmas Snowstorm of 1776
17) The Cold Wave of 1780 that froze the Chesapeake Bay
18) Snowbound in 1784
19) A Look Back at 1797
20) The Tornado and the Burning of Washington, August 25, 1814
21) "The Year without a Summer" in 1816
22) The Great Snowstorm of January 1857
23) The Thunderstorm and the Battle of Ox Hill (Chantilly), September 1, 1862
24) The "Mud March" Nor'easter, January 20-23, 1863
25) The Great Snowball Battle of Rappahannock Academy, February 25, 1863

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