Update on Gettysburg’s Witness Tree Damaged in Storm on August 7
On the afternoon of August 7, 2008, a sudden storm caused severe damage to a Honey Locust tree in the Soldier’s National Cemetery, within Gettysburg National Military Park. The tree is one of many “Witness Trees” within the park – so called because they have been living since before the 1863 civil war battle and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
“The good news is that – despite some reports to the contrary – the tree was not entirely destroyed,” said park Superintendent John A. Latschar. “Some of the main trunk and several living branches were unharmed. The Honey Locust is a resilient tree, and we have high hopes that it will live.”
A number of Witness Trees on the Gettysburg battlefield have been well known and frequently pointed out for years during battlefield tours. In addition, a number of previously unknown Witness Trees have been identified by the National Park Service during preparatory work for the park’s battlefield rehabilitation efforts.
When the park removes nonhistoric trees on the battlefield in major battle action areas to return areas to their 1863 appearance, we preserve Witness Trees. Park employees use a chart developed by the International Society of Arboriculture that identifies a tree’s approximate age by using a measurement of the width of the tree trunk (diameter at breast height) for each tree species at Gettysburg. Park surveys have identified a number of additional Witness Trees throughout the Gettysburg battlefield and there are probably many more in areas where the park has not conducted surveys.
The National Park Service has donated wood from the Honey Locust’s storm damage to the park's non-profit partner, the Gettysburg Foundation. The Foundation is exploring ways to use the wood to raise money for Gettysburg battlefield preservation. To learn more, visit the Gettysburg Foundation’s website: www.gettysburgfoundation.org
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