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Aug 5th: Gettysburg (re-enactment)

August 7, 2007

285 miles driven, 106 photographs taken, 3 Americano Grande’s drunk, 0 Starbucks City Mugs acquired.

Accomodation: Caliente Tropics Resort (good)

Picture: There was a re-enactment advertised and I will admit I expected something spectacular. We tracked it down to a small group demonstrating rifle fire. A quick dash up the slope of a nearby hill produced the right angle to link the group with a road sign ….

Sunday morning started early in order to get to Gettysburg for brunch and a full battlefield tour before making Dulles Airport in time for the flight to Los Angeles. That late departing flight was followed by a scary, will I stay awake? drive to Palm Springs arriving 0100 Monday. I was first introduced to Civil War battlefields during my DARPA project days, and that whole period of history has become a fascination to rival 13th Century Britain. Gettysburg is a great place to drive home the horror and the heroism of war and it was a pleasure to take a 15 year old around and listen to his reflections. We had the benefit of a CD guide that we played as we drove around. It told us what had happened and provided both the grand narrative of strategy, but also the personal stories of some of the players on that day.

Its also a great place to think through the counterfactuals. What if the assault on Cemetery Ridge had been reinforced? What if Chamberlain had arrived at Little Round Top minutes later? What if Jackson had not died after the victory at Chancellorville? What if the South had won, or at least fought the north to a standstill, possibly gaining British and French support? How would the world have panned out? Expect a serious post on counterfactuals sometime this month, I am reading up on the subject and also plan some experiments. They are a great sense-making tool. Making sense of war is another matter, but it brings out the best and the worst in human kind.

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