Skip to main content

Letters to the Editor

Did Hurricanes Save America?

October 2020

Editor's Note: We published interesting new research in our cover story in the September issue, Did Hurricanes Save America?, with supporting data in British Ships Lost in 1780 Hurricanes.

Here are some of nearly 200 comments we received from readers. Don't forget to sign up to follow us on our Facebook page, where we constantly publish new material.

Weather has always influenced history

"Weather, and weird turn of events have always influenced history. Of course the victors rewrite it as destiny or god’s plans. Similar to the battle of Bulge. If the weather had not broken, the Germans while not able to win the war could of tried for a cease fire or a delay." --Charles Snyder

'Divine Providence'

"There were several events where weather put its thumb on the scale in favor of the colonials during the Revolution. The escape from Long Island, where for days an unseasonable northeasterly kept the sail-driven UK fleet from closing the door behind Washington's battered army, followed by a thick fog that settled in and lingered after sunrise long enough so that the entire army was safely evacuated before the Brits had any inkling. Or the weather that allowed Washington to cross the Delaware and surprise Princeton/Trenton. Or the fierce thunderstorm that ruined Cornwallis' planned desperation escape from Yorktown to Gloucester on the north side of the James, his last throw before having to surrender. Those are just the first four I can think of. The colonials' frequent answer to these weather impacts on the war was that 'Divine Providence' was clearly backing their cause." --Mike Condray

Little Ice Age

"A very interesting weather note about the Revolution is that it was during the Little Ice Age when temperatures were colder. Historians thought the picture of Washington crossing the Delaware pushing away ice chunks was hyperbole. Then after this little ice age data became known, they realized that the Delaware did freeze over at that point. In fact, New York harbor froze over one time in this era. it also explains why Valley Forge was so brutal when it was only Pennsylvania not Hudson Bay." --Bill Debbie Pendleton

One factor among many

"While the triple hurricanes might have contributed to helping the French fleet, it can hardly be called the only, even primary reason. In looking at the whole campaign, it can hardly be understated how much the British infighting, political backbiting within the services and even within each service (Hood and Graves), missed opportunities (Sir Rodney preferring to count his booty instead of pursuing De Grasse which would have proved catastrophic), and over cautious moves when the situation called for bold moves at both of the naval battles contributed to the British losses leading to Yorktown... they seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Also lost to history are the incredible and brilliant maneuvering that a Spaniard named Saavedra performed behind the scenes to pretty much make the French fleet in the Chesapeake a reality."  --Joe Sefcik

Hurricane in Washington, D.C. 

"I have heard that a hurricane saved Washington D.C. during the British invasion in the War of 1812. Interesting to see that the British were impacted during the Revolution by a hurricane. It just wasn't meant to be for them to have colonies in North America." --Anthony Stavenski

God's will blows both ways

"Interesting discussion. I just read a delightful little book, Henry Knox's Noble Train by Hazlegrove, built on a single fact -- Knox's efforts to get 65 tons of antiquated armaments to Washington at Boston. God's will, in my opinion, as does the weather, blows both ways. The future is sealed by the will of the people and a series of butterfly strokes, some call God and others call Fate." --Rhett Bickley

British power doldrums

"Between victory in 1763 and victory in 1815 Britain sometimes hit a kind of power doldrums in which the leaders, politics, royal authority, budget, organization, communication, and strategy just weren't firing on all cylinders. History is not rich in French naval victories over Britain and this hurricane certainly helped France and America." --Brian Erskine

Class 5 hurricanes

"Growing up in the Virgin Islands there are few things more impressive than a Class 5 hurricane. It is like being gored by a rhinoceros. You do not just dust yourself off and walk away in one piece." --Josh Nichtern

Bovine flatulence

"I thought hurricanes were caused by global warming, I mean climate change. Must have been more farting cows back during the Revolutionary War because there were no automobiles." --Bob Apfel

9/11

"It was absolutely perfect weather on 9/11 — ideal flying conditions for the hijackers to accomplish their deadly goals. Where were the holy hurricanes when we could’ve really used them?" --Steve MacDonald

Saved by hurricanes

"We have a disastrous Hurricane in Washington right now, hopefully it saves us again!!!" --Robert Donovan

We hope you enjoyed this essay.

Please support this 70-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate