Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 21, 1862 (Sunday): Ice on the Potomac

U.S.S. Ice Boat (

Washington City, December 20, 1862.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington City:
GENERAL: I respectfully request that the Navy Department be requested to cause a powerful gunboat to be ordered into the Potomac, to assist in keeping open the river, which the cold weather threatens to obstruct with ice. I made verbal application, some time since, to the Secretary of the Navy, suggesting the propriety and necessity of such a precaution. I have been informed that the boat formerly known as the Philadelphia City Ice Boat, probably the best boat fitted for this purpose, is now in the Navy, employed as a gunboat. I have given orders to endeavor to charter two steamers in New York or Philadelphia, but fear that it will not be possible to procure efficient vessels for this purpose, and, if the cold continues to increase, there will be full employment for all that can be collected in transporting supplies through the ice to Aquia Creek.
    I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

   M. C. MEIGS,


DECEMBER 21, 1862.
Respectfully referred to the Secretary of War.
It is deemed important that this application be made immediately.

     H. W. HALLECK,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 21, Part 1, Page 868

It was 12 degrees at 7 a.m. on December 21, ("Civil War Weather in Virginia"-Krick) and the Potomac had begun to ice over.  Supplies to the Capital generally came up river to Washington, so keeping the river open was essential.  Unfortunately, the U.S.S. Ice Boat had just been returned to the City of Philadelphia, which had loaned it to the war effort.

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