Considered one of the turning points of the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg is said to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil. Fought in Gettysburg, Pa., July 1 through 3 in 1863, historians put the number of causalities and missing Union and Confederate soldiers at 46,286. Bayonets, rifled muskets, cannons and infections all contributed to the carnage. AccuWeather.com reports that the weather, however, created causalities as well. A Gettysburg man, Dr. Michael Jacobs, a math professor at what was then called Pennsylvania College, had a strong interest in weather and recorded his observations three times a day, every day, even during the battle. Ben Neely, Executive Director at the Adams County, Pennsylvania Historical Society, emphasized that the most damaging aspect of the weather actually occurred July 4, the day after the battle. Rain fell across the area for most of the day, Rev. Dr. Jacobs put the total at more than an inch. While wounded still lay on the field, some may have felt welcomed by the break in action. Some wounded soldiers had still not been moved from low-lying areas by the Plum Run Creek, however, which overflowed its banks. The wounded soldiers who were near the flood waters, reportedly all Confederate, drowned. According to Civil Way historian and retired AccuWeather team member, Dr. Lee Rainey, an even larger issue that was faced as a result of the rain was the retreat attempts made by the Confederate Army on July 4. "They had to move a 17-mile long train of wagons filled with wounded soldiers over the dissolving dirt roads back to Virginia, " he said. "And the rains caused the Potomac River - easily fordable on the march north - to flow so high that the army was trapped on the north side with the Union forces in pursuit. The Confederates dug in for a desperate battle, but in the end were able to escape across the river on the 13th, the day before Meade's planned attack." The days leading up to that point were not without tragedy as fighting consumed the fields of the Pennsylvania town. For its part, the weather was more cooperative at the battle's start. July 1, the first day fighting began, had a sky covered by puffy white clouds all day. The breeze was typically southerly at only 2 mph; the afternoon temperature was a comfortable 76 degrees. The second day started with similar cloud cover, but clouds increased by the afternoon, when temperatures went up to 81. Likewise, the cloud cover started the third day and cleared considerably by the afternoon. The clouds that remained, however, was the "massive thunder-cloud of summer." A thunderstorm started around 6 p.m. EDT. "The thunder seemed tame, after the artillery firing of the afternoon," Rev. Dr. Jacobs wrote.
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