As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.
I am fascinated with climate conditions from a historical perspective, as in the 1800's America was frequently rent by savage storms, as George and Libby Custer recorded on the Great Plains.
In Col. Richard Irving Dodge's Expedition to the Black Hills in Dakota Territory in 1875 AD in the year of our Lord, his scientific observations are priceless, due to the fact in what he records in that summer is nothing of what is weather in America, especially the Black Hills region in any of the 20th century or 21st century.
We know from George Custer's diaries of being in the Black Hills in 1874 and the year of his murder in Montana in 1876, that there was not the kind of meteorological activity as that which Dodge writes of. It should be noted that in his personal journal he does not touch on like material, so this published account of horrific lightning storms and tornadoes in the Blacks Hills region, reveal a most puzzling recording of actual history, in pondering exactly what was taking place that summer.
The stories are most interesting and Dodge tells the account best.
Note* July and August are supposed to be the most arid of months on the Great Plains, and the Hills region, and it incessantly was raining.
A series of observations (not 60 regular as might be wished) gave a mean temperature of eixty-two degrees, and a daily varia- tion of fourteen degrees. A few similar observations at Camp Crook, on Rapid Creek, in the latter part of July, resulted in a mean temperature of eighty-four de- grees, with a daily variation of twenty degrees. On the 2ith of July, on Rapid Creek, a severe hail-storm sent the mercury from eighty-four to sixty-two degrees, twenty-two degrees in half an hour. Camp Crook is at least a thousand feet lower in altitude than Camp Harney. The rainfall in the Hills proper, seems to be suffi- cient. Showers were very frequent, and we bad some regular storms, during which the rain came down in a steady pour for all day, and even for two days. The following are the dates on which we had rain ; the steady pours are marked x : May 35, 26, 29, June 1,9,11, )S'd',13, 17, 18 x, 22, 25,26, and 30 X, July 4, 5, 9 X , 10, 12, 13, 16 x ,17, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31. August 7, 12, 14, 15, 19, 24, 25, 26 x, 27 x, 30. 60 THE BLACK MILLS. September 1, 8 x , 9 x , 12, 30. October 4, 5, 6. From June 4th to September 15th, we were either in the mountains, or so close as to have the same cli- mate. Thunder-storms are quite frequent, terrific in force and power, and fearful in the Vividness — the nearness of the lightning. They are often accompanied by wind, and sometimes hy hail. Scarcely a day occurs in summer, that there is not a thunderstorm in some part of the hills. One afternoon, from the top of one of the high mountains near Harney's Peak, I saw five separate and distinct storms, occurring at the same instant in different parts of the Hills. One of these struck a portion of our party with very nearly fatal results, three persons and several horses having been pros- trated by one lightning-flash. Most fortunately only one horse was killed, though two of the persons struck were seriously injured ; one, the young son of an olE- eer of the expedition, did not entirely recover for some months. The lightning in this case acted most curiously : A heavy rain-storm coming on, two soldiers and the boy took refuge under a tall pine. All three were seated on a rock about six feet from the trunk of the tree, and each held in his hand the reins of his horse's bridle. At the flash the three persons and horses were thrown to the ground, one of the soldiers THE BLACK BILLS. 61 being pitched quite a distance, alighting on his head. The surgeon was promptly on hand. Each person bad been struck on the eheet bone, just under the eye. The fluid passed down the person of each, going out at the bali of the foot, boring a hole in the shoe-sole as clean and round as if made by a bullet, and raising a large blood-blister on the bottom of the foot. All were bruised under the eye and blistered on the foot. Neither had any other mark whatever. Skipping from the men to the horses, the flash prostrated all, striking each just over the eye. Two soon recovered their feet, the third, the farthest from the tree, was killed. This bolt came down the pine tree, cutting a deep groove ia the bark, and entering the ground with the roots of the tree, yet, on its way down, it parted with sufficient of its power and de- structive force to do the damage described. During this storm, which lasted scarce half an hour, more than twenty trees were struck by light- ning within a radius of a few hundred yards. An- other curious, and to me unaccountable phenomenon, attended this and the other storms of the same day. I have said 1 was on a high mountain of the Harney group. At least three of these storms were, in differ- ent directions, within four miles of me in a direct line, the clouds being, probably, five hundred or a thousand feet below me. Though I could see the vivid and incessant flashes of lightning, not a sound 62 THE BLACK MILLS. of the thunder could be heard. Every one of the party with me noticed this very remarkable fact, and we all spoke of, and tried to account for it. None of the explanations were or are satisfactory, and I pre- sent the fact to the scientific world in the hope that a satisfactory solution of the problem may be arrived at. Throughout the Hills the number of trees which bear the marks of the thunderbolt is very remarka- ble, and the strongest proof of the violence and fre- quent recurrence of these storms. The electric cur- rent acts in the most eccentric way. In some eases it will have struck the very top of a lofty pine, and passed down, cutting a straight and narrow groove in the bark, without any apparent U! effect on the tree, which remains green and flourishing. At other times the tree will be riven into a thousand pieces, as if with the blows of a giant axe, and the fragments scattered a hundred feet around. The woods are frequently set on fire and vast damage done. There are many broad belts of country covered with the tall straight trunks of what was only a short time be- fore a splendid forest of trees, now charred, dead, and useless. The largest of these fires occurred on the head waters of Box-elder Creek. What was evi- dently a beautiful body, of timber fifteen miles long by at least five broad, is now only dead trunks, some Standing, but by far the larger portion prostrate, THE BLACK HILLS. 63 being in every conceivable direction on and across each other, and making travel through them a trial sufficient to test the skill, patience, and Christian for- bearance of any explorer, more especially as the standing trunks, partially decayed, are swayed with every breeze, and seem " just tottering to a fall." The " park " country already spoken of is almost wholly due to fires. A forest is destroyed. In a few years another fire destroys the young growth which may have sprung np. This happening several times at intervals of a few years, effectually destroys both roots and seeds, and converts pine forests into parks. As if to neutralize to the explorer the effect of the fierce and vivid lightning, the rainbow of the Black Hills is a marvel of perfection and beauty. Two or three times wider than the rainbow of the States, it forms a complete and perfect arch, both ends being sometimes visible to the beholder, and one so near and distinct that there would be little difficulty in lo- cating that traditional " pot of gold." Unfortunately the bow is only a " bow of promise " with reference to water. Very frequently the rainbow is doubled, and sev- eral times I saw three distinct arches, the third and higher being, however, a comparatively faint, reflex of the brilliant colors of the lower. That curse of the plains, windstorms, are not of by Google 64; TEE BLACK EILL8. frequent occurrence in the Hills proper. The thun- der-storms are Sometimes preceded or accompanied by a violent gust which, however, is soon over, Old ^olns apparently contenting himself with one vigor- ous blast. Though we had in the whole summer no practical and unpleasant experiences of their power, we yet had ample proof of how vigorous these blasts can be, in swaths of uprooted trees, in broken branches, and wrenched-off tops. Owing to the broken, irregular nature of the ground, and the num- ber of high points of hills and mountains, these tor- nadoes, however violent, do but little damage. They ' cannot sweep for miles over the surface, destroying everything in their path, as such storms often do in the middle and western States, but are broken into eddies, turned and twisted through the hills and over the gorges, touching only here and there, and soon expend their force and power. In the wider portion of the Ked Valley, which is only a slice of plains sandwiched between the two great masses of the '• Black Hills," these tornadoes have full sway, and are very destructive. The edge of one touched a portion of our camp one afternoon. This edge was so sharply defined, that though our mess-tent, in which we were taking dinner, received a rough but not noteworthy shake, the hospital tent not a hundred yards away was completely wrecked in an instant, and the "red beds" rendered more TEE BLACK HILLS. 65 ) by the outpouring cf a large quantity of jalaps and salts, and other compounds with which' doctors shorten our lives. The doctor himself was, I believe, the only mourner over this calamity, and I am afraid that our quartermaster positively rejoiced, as he was saved the further transportation of a great quantity of totally useless stuff.
Besides the triple rainbows, there is the interesting deflection of sounds in the Black Hills. The Hills apparently cause the sound of thunder to change direction, much like a ricochet. This effect was noted in the Civil War in battles not being heard when people were in proximity to a battle, and others further out could hear the conflict.
There are no answers in this to the summer of 1875. There is only fascinating in noting conditions which for some reason have vanished for the era or perhaps appeared then, only for the moment.