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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo supposes that most friends of the decanter are well aware that this past weekend – specifically July 1 through July 3 – was the 150-somethingth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  I didn’t post anything about it  because I kind of burned out on historickal postings a couple years back, feeling I was becoming boring and repetitive, and decided to take a break.  Something tells me that I will soon be ready to plunge back in to such things [Ed. – you mean going back to being boring and repetitive?  Quiet, you!] , but I’m not quite there yet.

Anyhoo, I mention it now because I am currently on the back porch of stately Port Swiller Manor in the quiet evenfall, listening to the rain come down and the occasional distant rumble of thunder, and something just now wandered back into what Ol’ Robbo likes to think of as his braim.

You see, on the night of July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle, there was a hell of a thunderstorm over Gettysburg.  It thoroughly drenched the poor wounded scattered all over the battlefield (and probably killed many of them), and hampered both Lee’s efforts to beat a speedy retreat, and Meade’s efforts to chase him down.

Now, the day’s fighting, which had culminated in Pickett’s Charge, also featured a mass cannonade by both sides – the Confederates first trying to soften the Union center, and the Union replying against the Confederate guns and then blowing holes in Pickett’s lines.  And what wandered into Robbo’s braim was a memory that he had read somewhere of an apparently widespread belief of the time that cannon-fire somehow provoked thunderstorms, and that many were not surprised by the deluge that night.

Of course, correlation does not prove causation.  And the odds of getting caught in a thunderstorm anywhere in the American East during campaigning season are, well, pretty good.  Indeed, Central Pennsylvania in particular gets bulls-eyed on an almost constant basis during the summah.  On the other hand,  empirical observation is not to be completely ignored, and I sometimes wonder whether there might actually be anything to it.

No, I’m not going all AlGore here.  I’m talking about a localized phenomenon: all other conditions being satisfied (temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, etc.), could a massive discharge of the chemicals contained in gunpowder change the atmospheric balance in a very limited area to produce an isolated weather event?  I remember the Old Gentleman back in the day looking up at baby cumulo-nimbus clouds and remarking that “one more torque of energy” could turn them into thunderheads.  Could such a discharge supply that additional torque?

Beats the hell out of me, but I enjoy wondering about it.

 

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