Guest post by Michael Grasso, Environmental Studes 13′
Geographic Information Systems can be used recreate a landscape that no longer exists. Historians can use this technology to help explain confusing, or even previously unexplainable, events that took place in the past. For example, General Robert E. Lee issued a series of orders (Pickett’s Charge) that directly caused the Confederates to lose the battle of Gettysburg and inevitably the Civil War. If anyone stood today where General Lee stood that fateful day they would be able to clearly see the fortified, superior Union force waiting for the charge – and wonder why Gen. Lee made the decision that he did. However, the landscape has dramatically changed in the 150 years since the Civil War. Using historical maps and other documentation, geographers and historian were able to re-create the landscape that General Lee saw and to determine that – from his position 150 years ago -one could not see the eastern end of the battle field where Union forces were amassing.
This is a link to an article explaining how G.I.S. was used to answer questions be recreating historical landscapes such as the Battle of Gettysburg, the 1930s dust bowl, and the Salem Witchcraft Trials.