The numbers multiply into new questions and ideas for how to think about three days in July, 1863. Count on it!

In early July, 1863, troops from General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia (the Confederates) met up with a patrol of Union cavalry on the outskirts of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Over the next three days, this encounter grew into a turning point of the Civil War. Lee’s forces battled against General Meade’s Army of the Potomac (the Union). When the battle was over, Lee’s army was defeated, and his aim of taking Civil War fight into the north had ended. The war would continue for another eighteen months, but Gettysburg changed the course of the conflict.

Weather

What was it like on those three July days?

Observations

Clothing

Battling Weather

According to Rev. Dr. Michael Jacobs, a teacher and amateur meteorologist at Gettysburg College at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, the conditions were:

The entire sky was covered with clouds all day, cumulo-stratus at 7a.m. and 2 p.m., cirro-stratus at 9 p.m. A very gentle warm southern breeze, (2 mph).

 

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At 8 am, sky still covered (cumulo stratus). At 2pm, 3/10 clear. At 9 p.m. cirrus clouds. Wind same as preceeding day

At 8am, sky again completely covered with cumulo-stratus clouds, at 2pm, sky only 4/10 covered, but with cumulus or the thunderclouds of summer; at 9pm, 7/10 cumulus. Wind SSW, very gentle. The thunder seemed tame, after the artillery firing of the afternoon. Thunderstorm in neighborhood at 6 pm.

Rain showers at 6 am, from 2:15 until 4 pm, and at 4 am on July 5 totaling 1.39 inches .

So, comparing these measurements with what we know about the battle, we know that during Pickett's Charge,
it was mostly sunny, no breeze, muggy due to the impending storm, and 87 degrees.

Questions:
How does this weather compare to early July where you live? How does your weather affect what people do outdoors in July?
What impact do you think the weather might have had on the battle?

Source for this information:
Weather During the Battle of Gettysburg

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Compare the Gettysburg weather to The Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey on June 28 1778, between the British and the American Colonists, when temperatures neared 100 degrees.

Rain also had an effect on battles. Wet powder would not fire guns. Mud made it difficult for troops and horses to march, and for wagons to tow heavy artillery pieces.

Questions:
What other types of equipment and activities are affected by weather?
How have scientists and inventors worked to minimize the impact of weather on various activities and industries?

Sources for this information:
Battle of Monmouth
Weather in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Based on today’s historical accounting, the average temperatures for Gettysburg for July 2, 3 and 4 are:

July 2: Average high is 86, and average low is 62. Record high is 93.
July 3: Average high is 86, average low is 62. Record high is 95
July 4: Average high is 86, average low is 62 and record high is 97.

So, the temperatures at Gettysburg during the battle were not unusual. However, given the nature of what the soldiers were doing and wearing, it would have been uncomfortably warm. Civil War soldiers wore wool coats and pants, and cotton or linen shirts.

In comparison, today’s soldiers who work in hot climates wear uniforms specially designed for the conditions.

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Questions:
If you were designing the ideal clothing for physical activity outdoors in July where you live, what materials and characteristics would be important?
Can you create a detailed drawing of the ideal clothing?

Sources for this information:
Gettysburg, PA Weather
Civil War Union Uniforms
Survey of U.S. Army

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