Snowball Fight!!

We at Civil War Tails have already enjoyed two snowfalls this winter. ‘Tis the season of winter quarters and snowball fights! During the war, the soldiers couldn’t resist a snowball fight now and then, sometimes even at the brigade level. Imagine the sight of thousands of men embroiled in lobbing rock-hard snowballs at each other!

One time, two of Confederate General Patrick Cleburne’s brigades engaged in a huge snowball fight. The general could not resist the temptation to lead one of his brigades. However, his other brigade launched a counter-attack and captured him! After some consideration, they decided to parole him, which means he would be released if he promised not to fight anymore.

P1160319 Snowball battle (crop)

Gen. Cleburne on the verge of capture…

That was fine for a while, but then the tide of battle turned against Cleburne’s brigade. He once again entered the fray – but was captured a second time.

This raised the question for his men who had captured him: what to do with their general, who had broken his parole? They discussed options for a suitable punishment. One veteran recalled:  “Some called for a drumhead court martial; others demanded a sound ducking in the nearby creek.  Still others, mindful of Cleburne’s reputation as a stern disciplinarian, insisted that the general be meted out his own customary punishment.  The idea caught on, and soon the whole brigade took up the familiar order:  ‘Arrest that soldier and make him carry a fence rail!'” (The general often punished an errant soldier by making him carry a fence rail for a mile.)

Eventually, however, some of Cleburne’s men brought up the fact that it was the first time their general had broken his word, so they granted him parole again.

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