Sunday, July 17, 2011

Civil War Sunday - So You Think It's Hot Out?

Welcome again to Civil War Sunday, on a hot sunny day.  We broke 90 today (which isn't unusual but doesn't happen that much) and we are supposed to be in the 90's all week.

So, what does that have to do with the Civil War?

(I don't play "Civil War trivia" for trivia sake, but rather to try to open a window to the way things were.  To understand why things are, you must understand how we got there.)

And so, I am grateful for the cool house I am writing this in.  I got back earlier (much earlier!) from my exercise walk, wearing a shirt made from a modern synthetic fiber.  Gee, I sure did work hard, for that hour. And then I went to a music festival in a Binghamton park, but I didn't like the band, I forgot to bring a lawn chair and the dry grass (our rain has dried up) itched my legs.  Poor me.

Right now we are having record temperatures in the Heartland.  Even Minneapolis has a heat index of 106 as I write this.  Tomorrow it is supposed to get up to 97 (air temperature) tomorrow.   Then there is Manassas, VA.  On Thursday they commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first Battle of Manassas (1st Bull Run), the first major battle of the Civil War.  Let's see:  the weather forecast for Manassas, VA:

Thursday:  high of 100.  (38 degrees Celsius.)

Friday it is 102. (39 Celsius)

Saturday it will be back down to 100.

Now, let's use our imaginations.

You're a soldier.  You don't know it yet, but you are about to fight in the first major battle of the Civil War.  Up to now it has been just skirmishes.  People still think there will be some small fighting here and there, and then both sides will make nice, make up and the Confederates will rejoin the Union.  But that doesn't help you.

You are dressed in a heavy wool uniform.

It is probably not blue or grey.  It is whatever your militia wore, or you put together.  Colors aren't standardized yet, nor are flags.

And now you have to fight a battle.  And not only that but you are the main entertainment for the day.

People are out there watching you, in the stifling heat similar to that of what Manassas will be experiencing on Thursday.  People living in Washington, DC have grabbed picnic hampers and bottles of brandy to enjoy the day.  Some brought umbrellas to shield themselves from the heat.  One person brought sandwiches for the troops from his state.

But there you are, fighting in the 100 degree heat.  And some 1000 of your comrades, both North and South will die, on that July 21 afternoon.

You will fight again and again and again.  And all of it in that heavy wool uniform.  In that heat.  And in that cold.  And everything inbetween.

(if you want a fuller description of this bizarre start to a bloody conflict that would end up claiming some 620,000. lives, read this Washington Post article.)


  1. My brother-in-law is a Civil War re-enactor and tries to be as authentic as possible. Those woolen uniforms are killer!

    **Katy M
    Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at
    Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

  2. Just found this in McSweeney's - Dispatches from Civil War Reenactments, current handwritten accounts of a modern reenactor. This is #2 in series - well-done.

    **Katy M
    Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at
    Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

  3. Katyroo, I checked the Dispatches from Civil War Reenactments. It's a little hard to read but well worth the effort. I read most of dispatch #2 and will come back to it. It's awesome! My husband and I had talked about weather and the Civil War in general (he's an amateur weatherman) this past weekend. I will have to revisit that topic soon. Thank you for letting me know about this!


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