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Do you know about the epic Confederate snowball battle in Georgia?

So here’s something they don’t teach in history class.

In the winter of 1864, about a year before the Civil War ended, two Confederate troop divisions participated in a legendary snowball fight in Dalton, Georgia. Not the measly spats you may be used to  — we’re talking a day-long battle with 6,000 troops defending their lines and state pride, over a two-mile battlefront.

The Atlanta Constitution recounted the entire event in July 1922. (AJC archives)

True, it’s not like a snowball fight that happened 153 years ago among soldiers on the same side had an effect on the war’s outcome. 

But the journal entries and letters home from Georgian and Tennessean troops describing the battle have become something of folklore. 

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As the story goes, the two divisions were stationed a few hundred yards away from each other across a narrow valley. 

After breakfast one day, a Tennessee solider named J. W. Mewborn was dared to see if he could throw a snowball over the creek. He accepted, and succeeded; the ball hit a Georgia solider in the neck. 

The Georgian tried to return fire with his own snowball, failed and ran to get reinforcements. 

That morning battle raged for a couple hours, with each side charging the other until they’d run out of icy ammo. But the troops grew tired, and the fighting fizzled out.

The real action happened after lunch.

That’s when the Georgians were startled by a gray horse, carrying Colonel George W. Gordon and a dirty red bandana as a flag, running across the field from the Tennessee division side.

Officers were alerted. Preparations and strategies were made. Men took their positions. After some moments of silence, snowballs started flying and the “weird rebel yell” was sounded.

J. W. Mewborn of Ozark, Alabama is “credited by tradition with having started one of the hardest fought bloodless engagements of the civil war.” This photo of him as an older man is included in The Atlanta Constitution in 1922. (AJC Archives)

The fight raged once again.

The Atlanta Constitution recounted the entire event in July 1922, saying the overlooked-by-history snowball battle was “the biggest bloodless battle that was ever fought on American soil, using snowballs instead of shot and shell.”

And in a 2015 New York Times article about Civil War reenactments, a park historian described it like this: “What began as horseplay developed into a full-scale battle as the snowballing went from disorganized tribal melee to full Napoleonic battle array complete with regiments, flags, and officers.”

The Tennesseans, led by Colonel George W. Gordon, won.

Their reward, according to history? 

Bacon.

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