Monday, March 5, 2012

Battle In The Snow

A great battle was fought near here yesterday, an unimaginable event given the fierce snowstorm that blanketed the battlefield the night before last. The air was alive with missiles of all calibers, and blood stained the otherwise pristine snow. Who could have foreseen this terrible cataclysm? It is reported that one of our generals was captured, and several colonels, majors, and captains have been wounded and some also made prisoners. The cries of the wounded rent the air, mingled with the sounds of terrified and wounded horses, the clatter of flying caissons, and punctuated with demonic oaths of fury! O! What a horrible cacophony of sound! And above it all rose the glorious Rebel yell! Charges were made lustily and with precision, ranks were dressed and gaps closed, the officers cheering and exhorting their men in battle. The fight lasted all day, and drew to a close only at the gathering of dusk. Wet, cold, and tired the armies dispersed, the wounded were helped by their friends and all was forgiven, for you see, the warring parties all belonged to our mighty Army of Tennessee, and the missiles were made of snow! Many were badly injured, broken bones and missing teeth were much in evidence, but the snow had brought forth the excitement of youth in our boys. What wag started it all, or how the battle lines were drawn is a mystery, but the Great Snow Battle of Dalton was over, a spectacular victory for our army!

This account might have appeared in a Dalton, Georgia newspaper in late March of 1864, just prior to the Spring campaigning season but it did not. It is my attempt to report on an actual event, using the writing style prevalent at the time. It is based on an account of the battle by Sam Watkins. Although he touches on the episode in his book, “Company Aytch” he makes no mention there of the following incident.

It seems that there was at least one man killed during the snow battle. Jimmie White, a youngster of about fourteen, had been ran over by one of the captured caissons. With both legs broken and “otherwise injured” the surgeon told him; “Jimmie, you are very badly hurt, and you will have to die. It is impossible to do anything for you.”

Jimmie protested, saying, “Doctor, I don't want to die. I am not prepared to die.”

Watkins, who was also attending the boy asked, “Jimmie. Do you know Jesus?” Jimmie said he did not. “Jesus only is able cure you.” replied Sam.“Well, where is he?” Jimmie asked, which was a legitimate question. Sam told him as best he knew how about the Lord.

The doctor had given the boy a strong opiate to ease his pain, and he soon became drowsy. Fighting to stay awake, for he did not want to die in his sleep, he had Watkins hold his hand up, so when Jesus came, He would see it. The soldier did as he was asked but he was weary and miserable from the snow battle. Jimmie soon fell asleep, and Watkins propped the lads hand up with blankets to keep it raised, and he too was soon asleep. Upon awakening, he saw the little hand still upraised, but the life of Jimmie White had ended. Let Sam Watkins finish the tale:

We wrapped poor Jimmie in a soldiers blanket, dug his grave and buried him
at the foot of the hill 'till the morning of the resurrection. Jesus Christ never lost
sight of poor Jimmie Whites hand that was raised for Him.”
I dare say, neither did Sam Watkins.


 Confederate Veteran, Volume 1, issue 9, September 1893, page 261
 drawing from Confederate Veteran, Volume 2, issue 3, July 1894, page 204

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