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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/608

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE WAR AND THE WEATHER DURING THE FIRST THREE MONTHS OF THE FIGHTING
By Professor Robert DeC. WARD

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

WAR and the weather seem, at first sight, to have no relation to one another. Set in motion by human forces apparently far beyond the control of our ordinary physical surroundings, military campaigns seem likely to go on unaffected by such more or less "accidental" conditions as cold or heat; rain or snow; wind or cloud. Yet all through human history, as far back as we can secure accounts of wars and of military campaigns, the weather element stands out as one of the great controls, a control to be reckoned with by every commander, and one which, when powerful enough, has had consequences of far reaching historical importance. The weather factor in war is not a joke. It is a perfectly serious subject for study on the part of military and naval strategists. It must be taken into account in laying out a campaign or in organizing troops for a battle. To disregard the weather factor in warfare is almost, if not sometimes quite as serious an omission as to forget to provide food, or clothing, or ammunition. The weather has, time and again, turned the scale, for victory or for defeat. Written large in history, as events of the greatest significance, we have the retreat of the Turks from Vienna in 1529, their siege artillery having been left behind in Hungary on account of heavy rains which made the roads impassable, and the besieging army being hampered by inclement weather and by the scarcity of provisions, which were both difficult to secure, and almost impossible to transport. All three of the Spanish Armadas (1588, 1597, 1719) suffered from hostile winds and storms. In 1719 the Spanish fleet was scattered off Cape Finisterre by a violent storm which raged for twelve days. Only two ships succeeded in reaching the coast of Scotland. To take an illustration from our own early history, the closing chapter in the evacuation of Boston by the British would probably have been quite different if a severe storm had not frustrated General Howe's plans. The Americans had begun the fortification of Dorchester Heights during the night of March 4, 1776. The morning of the 5th dawned clear and mild, with a bright sun and a warm southerly wind. General Howe and Admiral Shuldham, realizing that their own positions were insecure as long as the Americans remained on the heights, sent between 2,000 and 3,000 men in transports across the Bay, the plan being to have them land and attack the enemy in the rear. But a violent