Gettysburg Witness Tree Falls  

TOPIC: Gettysburg 'witness tree' falls

== 1 of 3 ==
Date: Sun, Aug 10 2008 11:07 am
From: Kirk Johnson

It says there are only "three other witness trees that still stand in the
heart of the battlefield," but I've walked to the top of Big Round Top, and
it seems like there are a number of trees on that hill alone that were
likely to have been alive at the time of the battle. There are several trees
in the cemetery that seem pretty old too.

Kirk Johnson

Gettysburg 'witness tree' falls

GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Standing just 150 feet from the platform on
which President Lincoln delivered his most famous speech, one of the few
remaining "witness trees" to the Battle of Gettysburg has been severely
damaged by a storm, National Park Service officials said.

A park historian knows of only three other witness trees that stand in the
heart of the battlefield.

The huge honey locust tree on Cemetery Hill fell Thursday evening.

"The top of it is totally broken off, and [the storm] severely damaged 70 to
80 percent of the tree," Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Jo
Sanders said. "That means there's not a whole lot left of it. But it didn't
kill the tree."

The tree, which stood on the right side of the Union lines, "was there as a
silent witness -- to the battle, to the aftermath, to the burials, to the
dedication of the cemetery," park historian John Heiser said.

"I have no doubt that Union soldiers sat under it for all three days of the
battle," he said.

Park maintenance officials will decide what to do with the remains of the

"When it's something this bad, it's highly doubtful that a tree like that
can survive," Heiser said.

Heiser said he knows of only three other witness trees that still stand in
the heart of the battlefield.

"It's a shame when you lose the last living entities on this battlefield,"
he said. "Nothing lives forever, unfortunately."

== 2 of 3 ==
Date: Sun, Aug 10 2008 1:17 pm
From: "Will Blozan"

Hey all,

Is honeylocust even native there? What is the possibility that someone way
back then brought it there and planted it? I know the species was probably
moved around as a livestock food plant. Seems odd to have planted such a
spiny, messy thing on that site- but maybe not. Any ideas?


Will F. Blozan
President, Eastern Native Tree Society
President, Appalachian Arborists, Inc.


== 3 of 3 ==
Date: Sun, Aug 10 2008 8:09 pm
From: Randy Brown

hmm. just barely?

I imagine it was the only thing the livestock wouldn't eat. I've seen
a few reverting pastures/open woodlots in NW ohio. Spiny hawthornes
are the first thing you notice (the farmer gets tired of mowing them
down right before he gives up altogether) before the oaks, walnuts,
ashes and elms move in. Not the same species I suppose but the same
general idea.
Seems like honeylocust follows the streams pretty closely. I guess
because the pods float. They pop up pretty commonly in the drainage
ditches and then a couple times a decade the herbicide squad comes
along and they all abruptly drop dead. I have seen one or two in a
streamless woodlot though.

== 2 of 5 ==
Date: Mon, Aug 11 2008 10:35 am
From: Beth Koebel


As for livestock not eating honeylocust, I hate to be
the one to tell you that cows just love honeylocust
seed pods. The only problem arises when the seeds
come out the other end whole and with "built in"


"Information is moving--you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it's also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets."
Washington DC, May 2, 2007 George W. Bush

== 3 of 5 ==
Date: Mon, Aug 11 2008 11:26 am

Adds new meaning to 'scarifying'...;>}

== 4 of 5 ==
Date: Mon, Aug 11 2008 3:57 pm
From: pabigtrees


Honey Locust was discovered in 1700. It does grow in Pa up to Central
Pa, naturally. It tends to be short lived though. It could very well
have been planted, but it could still have been a witness.

The Park official said it was one of a few left within the
battlefield, I bet he is thinking about where Pickett's charge
occured in the open fields. I bet there are hundreds of witness' on
little round top for sure!! FIX BAYONETS!


== 5 of 5 ==
Date: Mon, Aug 11 2008 5:55 pm
From: "Edward Forrest Frank"


There are many trees that bore witness to the Battle at Gettysburg, but only a few stood on the battlefield itself. I know Dale has a pending trip report on te site. In the book "Old Growth in the East - a Survey" by Mary Byrd Davis there are some old-growth patches reported in Gettysburg national Military Park, including sections of Big Round Top. These include some of the stunted oaks growing among the boulders.
There are several specific patches identified:

Big Round Top, 70 acres, White Oak, Northern Red Oak, White Ash, and
Tulip Tree surround Big Round Top. Grazing and cutting of fuel wood probably took place, but boulders in the woods forestalled logging for agriculture.
Culps Hill, 10 acres, The stand is dominated by White and Northern Red Oak. Boulders surround the hill.

Philzer Woods, 10 acres, Selectively cut old growth are located in the woods. White Oak dominates.

Gettysburg National Military Park, 10 acres, Scattered through the Park.

The park has been undergoing an effort to try to restore the landscape to what it was like during the battle. Missing forested areas are being replanted, overgrown fields are being cut back, old roads are being restored. There are photos of many of these areas dating from the 1860's taken because of the battle, so we could see some of these trees as they were 145 years ago. Much of this information has been compiled as part of the battlefield restoration effort.

This past summer a series of Battlefield tours led by Tour Guides on the anniversary of the battled were broadcast on a television program on PCN. One tour on Big Round Top showed two giant trees flanking a series of step leading to the top of the hill from the 1890s. Since then one of these trees has fallen, but the other still stands. I emailed one of the registered guides, Tim Smith about a question I had concerning the forests there. Here is part of his reply:

I think most of the areas of woods on the battlefield are much different today then they were at the time of the Civil War. There are photographs taken after the battle that show the woods without undergrowth. And an expert might be able to identify the types of trees in the photograph. I am sure that the species are quite different. I am not sure how many trees still stand that were her at the time, but I will bet it is not many. The area of Culp's Hill saw heavy fighting and the trees died off in great numbers in the space of a few years following the battle. Big Round Top, where the fighting was not as severe, probably retained more of its Civil War appearance, but once it became a National Park, little has been done to keep it the way it was.

I would guess that the use of wooded areas as woodlots had alot to do with their appearance at the time. Farmers clearing trees for lumber and heating material, or for the making of furniture. In many areas, livestock grazed in the woods further eliminating the underbrush. And of course, I loved what you said about the canopy of an old growth forest as opposed to a young growth forest.

Also, through a study of Photograph from the time of the Civil War, it appears that the trees at the time of the battle were shorter, all over the field. I am not really sure what that means. Different species, perhaps?

If a tree falls down today the NPS just leaves it lay. This simply would not have happened at that time. Today the woods on the battlefield look nothing like they did at the time of the Civil War. Felled trees are everywhere and underbrush is out of control. I am sure that the park has some sort of plan, but I am not sure what it is.

Tim Smith

On the American Forests website, the honey locust was one of the trees whose offspring were offered for sale as part of their historic tree program:

Gettysburg Address Honey Locust On a somber November morning in 1863, Abraham Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg , Pennsylvania . He was to take part in dedicating the new "Soldiers Cemetery", graves of over 3,500 souls from the July battle there. While Lincoln 's speech lasted only minutes, its words still evoke the sadness of a nation torn by war.


The last I heard the Park Service was trying to decide whether to try to [reserve the remaining portions of the tree or to remove it entirely. I would like to see the tree saved, even without its top. "The top of it is totally broken off, and [the storm] severely damaged 70 to 80 percent of the tree," Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Jo Sanders said. "That means there's not a whole lot left of it. But it didn't kill the tree."

There is a photograph of the fallen tree at this site:

Here is an interesting aside. Friday, Sept 7, 2001 Journal for orchestral work about Gettysburg. by Steve Heitzig of the Philadelphia Orchestra: 12:05 pm EST "I would like to compose a movement about the honey locust trees and other trees at Gettysburg that survived and witnessed this battle. Lincoln loved trees he has a famous quote about humans as trees. It is said that he sometimes preferred the company of trees over people. Perhaps a movement of just percussion and wood sounds for this."

Ed Frank

TOPIC: Gettysburg 'witness tree' falls

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 13 2008 4:28 pm
From: "Dale Luthringer"


== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 13 2008 4:28 pm
From: "Dale Luthringer"


There's definitely trees there today that saw that battle, and more than
just a handful. I've got a post in the works concerning trees in
Gettysburg National Military Park that looks at some exceptional tree
heights along with ring counts from trees that were recently cut in
various parts of the battlefield. We definitely were able to get some
counts of various oak species that were there ~20-40 years before the

I couldn't answer the honey locust planting question. I'm not sure when
that was brought into the area, but a large part of the battlefield was
farmland before the battle. So it wouldn't surprise me if it was
planted by someone on one of the old properties before the battle took


TOPIC: Gettysburg 'witness tree' falls

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 20 2008 7:09 pm
From: "Darian Copiz"

I've seen honeylocust growing along Rock Creek at Gettysburg that appear to
be in a pretty natural setting. They were growing near large hackberries
and were decently sized themselves. They definitely didn't appear to be
planted, but at the time I figured they may have spread from plantings.
Looking at the range map though, I being swayed into thinking they may occur
naturally in the area.