August 10, 2008

Gettysburg ‘Witness Tree’ Felled By Storm

One of the last living "witness trees" to the decisive Civil War battle in Gettysburg, Pa., has been felled by a storm, National Park Service officials say.

The tree, a honey locust situated on Cemetery Hill in the Gettysburg National Military Park, split and crashed to the ground during a severe storm last week, leaving only three such "witness trees" remaining, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday.

Historians said the tree was only 150 feet from the platform where U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863, five months after the Battle of Gettysburg, in which 50,000 soldiers died as Union forces turned back the last Confederate push into the North.

"(The tree) was there as a silent witness -- to the battle, to the aftermath, to the burials, to the dedication of the cemetery," John Heiser, a historian at the park, told the newspaper.

The witness trees stand out because Park Service officials have largely cleared post-Civil War foliage from the battlefield in an effort to recreate the views as seen by soldiers in 1863.