“Snow commenced falling in beautiful Star Crystals”: Snow in Charleston, South Carolina 150 years ago

You can’t escape it.  Snow IS the news.  From the gulf states through the mid-Atlantic all the way up to New England we have news spots featuring reporters standing out in the cold with snow and ice covered backgrounds.

Although Charleston sees its share of ice and snow, as seen here in a NOAA photo from 2000, “White Christmases” are uncommon.  The annual measure is 0.7 inches, with 0.2 being the average for February.  So I’d submit any “snow event” in Charleston, while not a rarity, is worth inclusion in a journal or diary.

Major Edward Manigault, who 150 years ago was serving on James Island outside Charleston, surely would agree:

Thursday, 18 February 1864

Cloudy day, Win N.E. Ice ⅛ in. thick in South piazza at Lebby’s Very cold all day.

At 12 ½ PM. had drill of Batteries at Cos. A & B. At 2 ¾ sent 30 Pndr. Parrott No. 1 to Charleston Arsenal to have Sights adjusted (by order of Genl. Taliaferro).

This morning made Requisition by order of Genl. Taliaferro for Rope, Traces, Halters, &c. &c. for Cos. A & B Siege Train.

Afternoon bitter cold. Wind a little East of North.

At 5.30 P.M. Snow commenced falling in beautiful Star Crystals (5 rayed). After dark a slight fall of snow sufficient merely to make the surface of ground quite white.  Severe night on our horses which have no Shelter from the North wind which is high.

Manigault’s mention of sighting the gun and requisition of replacement equipment is typical of his journal.  “Parrott No.1” is not a registry number, but rather the gun’s assignment in the battery.  Setting aside those military details, there is the snow on a bitter cold day.  Not unlike what has occurred in recent days.  Perhaps a few days off, but at least Mother Nature has offered a bit of that experience to us 150 years later.

If you are among those digging out of the snow, or under threat of more snow, take a moment to consider what it was like 150 years ago.  …. And do be mindful and keep your horses sheltered from the north wind!

(Citation from: Edward Manigault, Siege Train: The Journal of a Confederate Artilleryman in the Defense of Charleston, edited by Warren Ripley, Charleston: University of South Carolina Press, 1986, page 122.)