Coping with Snow

By Don Hagist

This article is reprinted, with permission, from "The Brigade Dispatch"

Ever wish you could be out enjoying your hobby of playing soldier during those long winter months, instead of shoveling snow? Probably not, but don't start now without researching some of the realities of the situation. If you established a credible impression of a Winter garrison or encampment, you would spend a lot of the time — shoveling snow! Some period writings confirm this timeless need.

Ebenezer Wild, sergeant in the 1st Massachusetts Regiment, mentions duty while serving in Providence, Rhode Island, on December 29, 1778 (Journal of Ebenezer Wild, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, October 1890):

"This forenoon the Bd [Brigade] was turned out and went to shovelling snow."

The soldiers in Providence were guarding against incursions from the British on Rhode Island (Aquidneck Island, popularly called Newport). The garrison on Rhode Island was also busy — shoveling snow. The following orders were given early that same year (W. O. 36/2, Extracts of Orders given by the different British General Officers who Commanded on Rhode Island..., Public Record Office, Surrey, England):

"6th January
The Regiments to send parties immediately to clear the Snow from such parts of the lines as are alloted to them, which is to be done as soon as possible."

The same document gives us a useful clue as to the nature of the shovels in the orders for December 17, 1777, although perhaps not enough information to reproduce one with any confidence:

"The Barrack Master to issue to each Regiment, 3 boards of 16 feet long, and 12 or 13 inches wide, of which they are immediately to make 12 Snow Shovels."

Rather than curse the need to clear the snow, we can be thankful that we need not first make the shovel.

Don Hagist is a member of the 22nd Regiment of Foot, a past commander and principal researcher for that organization.He offers for sale a number of books concerning the Revolutionary War, including diaries and journals, period cookbooks, and other primary and secondary source materials. Request a complete list from: Don N. Hagist, 905 Slocum Rd., Saunderstown, RI 02874.

Copyright © 1996 Don Hagist. All rights reserved.