Shoot Out the Rain

Shoot Out the Rain Hidden Language

Jay tells us about concussionism, a once widely held belief that we might literally shoot rain from the sky. If that mix of unwarranted optimism and alarming violence seems perfectly American, well, you’re right. But how might that relate to our response to climate change?

MUSIC: Rain and Thunderstorm at Lallgarh Palace, Bikaner by Samuel Corwin

MUSIC: Cold Summer Landscape by Blear Moon

JAY: On June 20, 1864, The Compiler, a newspaper out of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, published an article called “Storms After Battle” which noted an odd pattern: strong rain and thunderstorms almost always followed Civil War battles. The Compiler looked back at three years of a brutal war to prove, anecdotally of course, that the theory was true: brutal clashes at New Market, Malvern Hill, Shiloh, both meetings at Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Murfreesboro, and Gettysburg were all followed by torrential storms.

Alfred R. Waud, January 21, 1863,  Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

The French, too, had noticed something similar during the Napoleonic Wars fifty years prior. The French Academy of Science studied the phenomena and, lacking any hard evidence as to why, simply declared that yes, storms usually followed massive battles.

The belief that the energy produced by an extreme, violent combustion would ascend into the sky and return as precipitation was then commonplace. There are stories of American farm communities stockpiling brush and wood. Then, during periods of drought, they lit the whole heap ablaze and prayed that their fire would replicate whatever metaphysical force clashing armies sent into the air and bring rain.