For most of us in the U.S., it’s time for Daylight Savings Time again, that time of year when we move our clocks forward an hour and “lose” an hour of sleep. They didn’t have to do this during the Civil War, which also means that if you want to experience the actual time of day of a Civil War event, you have to take DST into consideration.
Gettysburg is my favorite battle, and there’s something special about standing on the fields of Pickett’s Charge at 3 p.m. on July 3rd. But if I really thought about it, I should be standing there at 4 p.m.
Or, for example, on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek (October 19, 1864), I stood on the battlefield in the dark, trying to figure out what “DST” time would be equivalent to 5:30 a.m. in 1864. For some of us, that takes some mental gymnastics. Still, perhaps it explains why armies tended to head out on a march at 4:30 a.m. Maybe it was because the sun was just beginning to rise, not because the generals had nothing better to do than drag their men out of bed in the middle of the night.
So if, this summer, you try to experience a Civil War site at the right time of day for the battle, remember to factor in DST!