Thursday, September 13, 2007

Krick: "Civil War Weather in Virginia"

[Civil War Weather in Virginia by Robert K. Krick (University of Alabama Press, 2007) Cloth, tables, photos, illustrations, notes. Pp. 178 ISBN: 0-8173-1577-2 $39.95]

Those who write reference works, even invaluable ones, are a bit of an underappreciated lot. I would imagine most people consider weather to be a decidedly unsexy topic for a Civil War book, regardless of how critical meterological conditions were to the conduct of battles and campaigns. With his latest book, Civil War Weather in Virginia, Robert Krick has performed an immense service to researchers and historians of the war fought within the D.C.-Richmond corridor.

As stated in the prologue, Krick's research is indebted to the tireless, thrice per day weather recordings of Rev. C.B. Mackee of Georgetown. Converting the raw data to an easy to read tabular format, Krick created monthly charts detailing the sunrise/sunset times in Richmond and the temperatures in Washington D.C. at 7am-2pm-9pm for each day for the entire war. Other weather related notes (e.g. snow, rain, spring bloom) are added in the margins. Gaps in Mackee's data are filled with recordings compiled from other observers in the region.

Opposite each table is one to two pages of quoted text from military and civilian diaries [sourced in the endnotes] that mention the weather conditions for a particular time during that month. Krick also adds his own commentary where appropriate, providing useful context.

In his inimitable fashion*, Krick predicts that reviewers will complain that weather readings in Georgetown were not technically "Virginia" weather. It is certainly true that no single reading can be representative of the state (especially a large one with such a varied geography), but the author is most concerned with the aforementioned D.C-Richmond corridor.

Civil War Weather in Virginia is a unique contribution to the literature and a must-have research reference. From now on, at least for military studies of the main eastern campaigns, it must be found in the bibliography of every thoroughly researched book dealing with the Civil War in Virginia.

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* = Krick offers an alternative title, a more complete representation of the content of the book, but expressed in the long-winded convention of the Victorian period book title and subtitle: Civil War Weather in Washington, D.C., and in the Virginia Theater of War, Encompassing Virginia and Maryland and Pennsylvania, and Including Weather Affecting Some Military Operations in What Became West Virginia Halfway through the War.

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