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Witness Tree

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 Gettysburg history.

 

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