Establishing the Weather for Harper’s Donelson Part II

Last week, I described the unsuccessful methods I used at the start of my search to determine what the weather was like during the period of Harper’s Donelson.  This week, I describe how persistence resulted in the ability to add the authentic weather to the story.

I needed to see a  locally-published newspaper .  But not knowing the names of the newspapers, I was stuck.  That is, until I came across the website:  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, available from the Library of Congress,  . This was the final stop in the search.

Memphis Daily Appeal Feb 18 1862The newspapers are catalogued by state and by date.  My first search was disappointing.  Unfortunately, the collection does not include any publications from Kentucky for the period January-March 1862.  I searched those states neighboring Kentucky. For Illinois, I found papers from Joliette and Ottawa.  For Indiana, there were papers from Jasper and Plymouth.  But a search in Tennessee yielded the best results, providing papers from Athens, Fayetteville, Memphis, Nashville, Clarksville, with the Memphis Daily Appeal being a daily.

I looked for papers from cities inside the geographic area of Harper’s Donelson:  Nashville, Clarksville.  Unfortunately the Nashville Union and American and the Nashville Patriot are available for only one date and the Clarksville Chronicle appears to have been a weekly.  But, knowing that weather in the U.S. tends to move generally west-to-east, I did a keyword search within the catalog and discovered what I needed in the Memphis Daily Appeal.  Using keywords ‘rain’ and ‘snow’,  I was able to fill in the blanks for the weather during those days not included in the battle histories with sufficient accuracy to meet the needs of the novel.

1 Comment

  1. Betsy
    Jul 16, 2013

    As a former reporter and recent assistant with my son-in-law’s thesis for his Masters in History, I so appreciate databases like this one! There are others but they can be hard to access or expensive if you aren’t part of a larger organization or school which subscribes.

    Didn’t you just love reading papers from back then? The voices are so different and they are so vivid. When I was researching for J’s thesis, I got lost in article after article, imagining the people who were writing and who were featured. It brought the every day to the big historical moment.

    I’m sure you write this post ages ago but I’m just getting the chance to poke around more now. What a fun blog even for the amateur.

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