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How fog affected strategic combat decisions in the Battle of Fredericksburg

Tuesday, December 15th 2020, 11:15 am - The Battle of Fredericksburg occurred right around the Little Ice Age.

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The Battle of Fredericksburg Courtesy: Currier & Ives. Battle of Fredericksburg, Va. Dec 13. [New York: Currier & Ives] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress

If you look back at letters written by soldiers during the Civil War, the most recorded events were weather conditions.

From around 1310 to 1850, there was what scholars dubbed the Little Ice Age. Even though there was a general cooling pattern, there were also dramatic weather fluctuations. The Civil War would have likely felt the effects of the weather period.

During the duration of the Civil War, Virginia experienced extreme weather conditions. On top of extreme precipitation, there were alternating periods of unbearable heat and cold.

The Battle of Fredericksburg occurred between December 11–15, 1862, throughout Fredericksburg, Virginia and surrounding areas.

The battle was between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia had about 78,000 men and the Union Army of the Potomac had around 120,000.

Because of these uneven numbers, Gen. Robert E. Lee, the Confederate Army leader, used a high-ground artillery strategy rather than trench work.

On December 15, there was such a thick fog that cavalry commander J. E. B. Stuart suggested that the Confederates launch a surprise attack under its cover. However, Gen. Lee did not give the go-ahead.

Map of the Battle of Fredericksburg Map of the Battle of Fredericksburg of the American Civil War. Courtesy: Hal Jespersen/Wikipedia/CC BY 3.0

The fog eventually lifted and the artillery attack became a duel.

To hear a much more detailed account of this battle, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History", and learn how Gen. Lee's defeat ended up being one of the greatest Confederate victories.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

To learn more about how the weather has impacted battles, watch the video below that discusses the extreme conditions during World War I.

Thumbnail Courtesy: Currier & Ives. Battle of Fredericksburg, Va. Dec 13. [New York: Currier & Ives] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress

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