Establishing the Weather for Harper’s Donelson Part I

As I wrote Harper’s Donelson, I wanted to get an accurate description of the weather during the months of January to March, 1862 in the vicinity of western Kentucky and western-central Tennessee.  Of course, I had descriptions available from writers of the histories of the major battles, and relied heavily on Volume One of Shelby Foote’s work, The Civil War: A Narrative (Vintage, Sept 1986); as well as Volume One of Battle and Leaders of the Civil War (Castle, July 1983).

But, of course I wanted more.  The issue with the first two sources was that they only covered specific dates in my time period, but did not cover all of the dates in the story.

After searching Wikipedia and the on-line site of the National Weather Service, I had resigned myself to having to go through the documents available in The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.  I felt these would include reports of weather conditions in the various reports from the field.  But I was still not certain that these would give me the day-to-day coverage I desired.  Furthermore, a search of these records would have been quite tedious.  It would be wonderful time-saver if I could read copies of newspapers of the time and vicinity..  The Official Records are now available on-line from the Cornell University Library ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/waro.html.

I visited the website www.sonofthesouth.net/ operated by The Sons of the South.  This site contains collections of many historical documents and images associated with the Civil War, the most important for my immediate purposes being an entire collection of Harper’s Weekly.  This was a national newspaper of the time.  The collection includes all editions published between January 5th, 1861 and December 30, 1865.  Unfortunately, reviewing these news papers had the same limitations as reading Foote’s work.  There was not a complete set of weather data for the time period of the Harper’s Donelson.  Nor did it provide information about the local weather conditions in western Kentucky and Tennessee.

All of these methods led to dead-ends or incomplete data.  Next week, I will describe I how was able to add the weather successfully to Harper’s Donelson.

 

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