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A severe thunderstorm during the first
week of August has severely wounded another of Gettysburg’s witness
trees – in fact, one of its most famous. A honey locust tree in the
National Cemetery, which is the oldest tree on Cemetery Hill and the
only witness tree extant in the Soldiers National Cemetery, was broken
by strong winds and heavy rain. About 80% of the large tree was
destroyed. Fortunately, a portion of the historic tree still stands.
The term “witness tree” is used for trees that existed during the famous
Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The ravages of time has claimed many in
the recent past, including the tree that marked General Reynolds’ death
site on McPherson’s Ridge, the “old veteran” that once stood near
General Longstreet’s headquarters on South Confederate Avenue, and one
of the “Twin Sycamores” on historic Baltimore Street.
The locust tree in the National Cemetery is significant as it is the
only witness tree remaining on Cemetery Hill. Many trees were planted
after the battle to beautify the final resting place of so many
soldiers, and many mature trees remain. The old locust tree, which
chronicles the passing of many years and many visitors over the past
sesquicentennial of its existence, is an irreplaceable part of
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