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Ethan Trex
Brother Against Brother: The Great Confederate Snowball Fight
by Ethan Trex - February 24, 2010 - 8:42 AM

elf_snowball_fightHistory lessons on the American Civil War tend to focus on its depressing aspects: a divided country, rampant gangrene, and Ken Burns appear prominently in most classes. However, despite schedules packed with receiving shoddy medical care and standing still for minutes on end to have their photos taken, some Confederate soldiers found the time to stage what sounds like one of the most strategically sound snowball fights in history.

On January 28, 1863, two feet of snow covered a large contingent of Confederate troops camped in Virginia’s Rappahannock Valley. Rather than complaining about the cold weather, the First and Fourth Texas Infantry put their military training to work.

On the morning of January 29, they launched a major snowball offensive against their comrades in the Fifth Texas Infantry, who somehow repelled their attackers before deciding to join them in a snow assault on the Third Arkansas Infantry, which surrendered quickly beneath a slushy barrage. The conquered Arkansans joined forces with the victors, and together they set out to pelt the encampment of the nearby Georgia Brigade.

This combined expeditionary force rolled into the Georgian camp armed with bags of snowballs and decorated with battle flags, but the Georgia Brigade had received advance notice and managed to put up a valiant fight for over an hour before eventually falling. The defeated Georgians joined their conquerors and attacking another division. By this point, upwards of 9,000 troops were engaged in ice combat that grew increasingly more dangerous as rock-centered snowballs entered the mix.

After hours of this melee, the Texas Brigade apparently won a Pyrrhic victory in which many soldiers sustained slight injuries. In response to the upheaval and the disfigurement of a few troops, General James Longstreet, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, reportedly banned snowball fighting.

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Comments (12)
  1. Awesome!
    Thanks, Ethan.

  2. my honors history class just said no way. i read them your post and they loved it. they are in the middle of praying for snow tomorrow and this lifted their spirits 10 fold.

  3. “By this point, upwards of 9,000 troops were engaged in ice combat that grew increasingly more dangerous as rock-centered snowballs entered the mix.”

    It’s all fun until someone loses an eye.


  4. I vote that readers of Mental Floss get together some time and do a historical re-enactment of this awesome event.

  5. So even in the 1860’s Texans were enamored with snow…

    My state totally owned those other states, hahaha

  6. Best Civil War story ever. I second Jina’s suggestiong. Why do all the bloody battles get re-enactments? Why not this one?

  7. I went to school at Virginia Tech and every year after the first snowfall we had a Corp of Cadets vs. students snowball fight. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is somehow an homage to this event.

  8. Rock-centered snowballs are not fun… I was on the receiving end of one of these once. It’s what caused the stupidity that I still live with today.


  9. Articles like these are the reason why I love Mental Floss. This is awesome :)

  10. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!

  11. @ Troy H.

    I totally agree with you lol.

  12. lol…had to post

    reCaptcha: army goodhue



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