The Howling Storm
Weather, Climate, and the American Civil War
688 Pages / 6.12 x 9.25 x 1.56 in / 13 maps
- Paperback /
- 9780807180419 /
- Published: October 2023
- Hardcover /
- 9780807173206 /
- Published: October 2020
- eBook /
- 9780807174203 /
- Published: October 2020
Finalist for the Lincoln Prize!
Traditional histories of the Civil War describe the conflict as a war between North and South. Kenneth W. Noe suggests it should instead be understood as a war between the North, the South, and the weather. In The Howling Storm, Noe retells the history of the conflagration with a focus on the ways in which weather and climate shaped the outcomes of battles and campaigns. He further contends that events such as floods and droughts affecting the Confederate home front constricted soldiers’ food supply, lowered morale, and undercut the government’s efforts to boost nationalist sentiment. By contrast, the superior equipment and open supply lines enjoyed by Union soldiers enabled them to cope successfully with the South’s extreme conditions and, ultimately, secure victory in 1865.
Climate conditions during the war proved unusual, as irregular phenomena such as El Niño, La Niña, and similar oscillations in the Atlantic Ocean disrupted weather patterns across southern states. Taking into account these meteorological events, Noe rethinks conventional explanations of battlefield victories and losses, compelling historians to reconsider long-held conclusions about the war. Unlike past studies that fault inflation, taxation, and logistical problems for the Confederate defeat, his work considers how soldiers and civilians dealt with floods and droughts that beset areas of the South in 1862, 1863, and 1864. In doing so, he addresses the foundational causes that forced Richmond to make difficult and sometimes disastrous decisions when prioritizing the feeding of the home front or the front lines.
The Howling Storm stands as the first comprehensive examination of weather and climate during the Civil War. Its approach, coverage, and conclusions are certain to reshape the field of Civil War studies.
“Kenneth W. Noe adds a third combatant to the familiar story of the Blue and the Gray in his innovative survey of Civil War military history: the weather. In lucid prose and deep detail he shows us that regional and national weather patterns repeatedly benefited the Union and hurt the Confederacy. Noe reminds us that the war did not just affect the environment; the environment changed the war.” ~Anne Sarah Rubin, author of A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868
“A compelling and comprehensive study of the American Civil War’s military history, The Howling Storm gives us a new way to understand how the war turned out the way it did. In vivid prose, Kenneth Noe shows how rain, snow, drought, excessive heat and cold, and other natural forces determined tactics and challenged logistics, becoming a decisive element in the war’s campaigns. The Howling Storm is an important addition to the field of Civil War environmental history and a must-read for students and scholars of the conflict.” ~Megan Kate Nelson, author of The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West
“In this lyrical and expansive book, Kenneth W. Noe demonstrates that unusual weather patterns influenced the Civil War, decisively aiding Union victory. The narrative spans the war, encompasses multiple theaters, and provides the first comprehensive look at how weather dramatically shaped military operations, from the private soldier to the general officer.” ~Kathryn Shively, author of Nature's Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia
“Although The Howling Storm is not meant to be ‘encyclopedic,’ it is hard to imagine anyone replacing this invaluable tome any time soon. It will no doubt stand as the seminal work on this topic.” ~The Alabama Review
“‘The American Civil War was fought outdoors.’ Until recently few scholars grasped the full significance of this deceptively simple opening statement by Kenneth Noe. Here, he acutely assesses climate's effects on strategy, combat tactics, troop movements, and logistics. There’s enough narrative to serve as core text in advanced Civil War courses, and copious detail illustrates recurring difficulties of waging war outdoors . . . . Noe situates his research well in both Civil War and environmental historiography; his findings temper criticism of soldiers, civilians, and animals, all struggling within nature’s constraints . . . . This is a necessary volume for Civil War collections.” ~Choice
“After 670 pages of unrelenting heat and rain and mud and ice, The Howling Storm begins to feel like a forced march. But that is the point; Noe's exhaustive account drives home his point that understanding the experience of Civil War combat means understanding the ecological contexts in which it occurred. . . . The Howling Storm is a great reminder that the winds of war are often more than a metaphor.” ~Brian Allen Drake, Journal of Southern History