by Andy Mateja

During the Civil War, not all the fighting in the field was done with muskets and cannon. Some of the more “enterprising” rank and file found ways to pass the time in the dead of winter using a seasonal weapon heretofore enjoyed mostly by children.
In the cold harsh winter of 1863-64, the Confederate Army of Tennessee, now under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston, engaged in a creative endeavor to help keep warm – flinging snowballs at their fellow compatriots. First it began as individual duels, then as small groups and later escalated to the involvement of entire companies. Ultimately the conflict evolved into battles between troops from adjoining Confederate states – in this case between Georgians and Tennesseans.
State pride became the motivating factor, and nearly 2000 combat hardened veterans participated in the mock battle. Snowballs were flying everywhere, with entire ranks lining up and “charging” their fellow Confederates, with cheers ringing out for both sides. Prisoners were taken and exchanged and “ammo dumps” were created in clever spots consisting of stockpiles of pre-made snowballs.
More and more men joined into the winter melee with the Tennesseans requesting their colonel to mount up and lead their battlefield charge. On the Georgian side, a major on horseback decided to lead them into battle. Besides the thousands of men that were engaged in this “epic battle”, there were thousands more on the sidelines watching the whole event from hillsides and other elevated terrain.
When both sides were ready to do battle, the Tennessean colonel yelled “charge” and the fight was on. Hundreds of snowballs filled the sky at the same time with men doing their best to dodge them, ultimately running and tripping over fellow comrades. The Tennessean colonel and his horse were hit with a barrage of snowballs, but that did not stop the determined charge of his men. They outflanked the Georgians, which caused them to flee the battlefield in disorder. The Tennesseans relentlessly pursued them right through the Georgian’s own camp and into the woods beyond. It was a complete victory for the Tennesseans !!!
All told, there were more than 5000 men that participated in this wintertime diversion. The only casualties were a few black eyes and a couple of broken arms. This incident remained in the hearts and memories of the participants and became a fond experience for the veterans to reminisce around campfires and dinner tables, instead of the horrors of real combat they experienced at Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge just a few months before…………..