Time-keeping in the Civil War

Determining when various events took place during the war is, naturally, extremely important in ascertaining what actually happened and why. Standard time zones were not introduced until later in the century, when the requirements of the railroad companies demanded them.

Until then, local time ruled. And the unsynchronized setting of timepieces was further exacerbated by their inaccuracies. Ulysses Grant started the war with a watch that was up to an hour off. Astutely, he had his subordinates synchronize their watches before making an assault on the Vicksburg fortifications.

To establish the local time of sunrise, moonrise, sunset, and moonset–which participants and spectators often mentioned in writing about the incidents of the war–it seems that the data provided by the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory supply the best solution.  By adding or subtracting the difference between “Sun transit”  (local noon) and twelve o’clock, the standardized times for the moon’s and sun’s actions can be translated into their Civil War equivalents.

Is there anything wrong with this methodology? Is there anything more to consider in dealing with this issue?

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