147th Pennsylvania Tree

What This Tree Witnessed

As morning broke on July 3, the Confederates still held the fortifications of Lower Culp’s Hill. In mid-morning, Brig. Gen. George H. Steuert was ordered by division commander Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson to attack the Federals across the meadow today known as Pardee Field. Steuert protested, but was informed the attack must take place. As the rebels emerged from the woods north of Spangler’s Spring onto the meadow, they were met with a fusillade of fire from the 147th Pennsylvania and 5th Ohio regiments waiting for them on the north side of the meadow. The slaughter was, as Bradley Gottfried wrote, “indescribable.” (1) As the few unscathed survivors retreated back to their entrenchments, Gen. Steuert wept over this massacre of his boys.


This witness tree was first photographically identified by Greg Gober, using the early 20th century image of Figure P-1, as well as a few other photographs not reproduced here. Identification of the trees in the photographs of Figures P-2, P-3 and P-4 was by the author.

(1) Gottfried, Bradley M. Brigades of Gettysburg. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012. P. 556.

Lt. Col. Ario Pardee, Jr. (147th PA) Witness Tree

Figure P-1: The Lt. Col. Pardee Witness Tree stands clearly behind the oft-photographed star-shaped monument to the 147th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The early photograph, which was dated by the National Park Service, was taken by William Tipton.

Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 71.5”
Diameter: 22.77”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 9-15 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 220+ years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 6-10”
GPS: 39.81584N, 77.22050W

Rising behind and above the much-photographed star-shaped monument to the 147th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment on Geary Avenue is perhaps the most distinctive witness tree in Gettysburg. Though a small tree, this white oak possesses a spectacular “crook” – a series of short bends, in a smoothed-out oxbow shape, about 20 feet above the ground on its main stem, or trunk. As a result, the tree is impossible to miss as you compare then-and-now photographs of the 147th PA monument.

Figure P-2: the 1909 image, taken by J.I. Mumper, was published in a 1909 picture album of Gettysburg. The picture’s lack of sharpness is due to its having been blown up from its original 1.5-inch size height on page 62.

The various old photographs (see Figures P-1 to P-4) do not give a highly consistent picture of the tree’s growth rate, other than that they all suggest the growth rate is extremely slow. Some of this inconsistency is largely due to the inaccuracy of the dating of the pictures. Photographs of monuments that appeared in old photo albums (as in Figures P-2 and P-3) were oftentimes taken many years before the publication date of the scrapbook. However, a conservative analysis suggests the growth rate of this witness tree to be at least 10 years to grow an inch of diameter on the main trunk (the calculation based on the Tipton photo of Figure P-1, in which I conservatively assume the date of the photo to be 1910, returns a rate of 15 years per inch of diameter), and the age of the tree to be at least 220 years, though it may be much older. Its diameter in 1863 was likely at least 6 inches, and perhaps as high as 10.

The witness tree is named for Lt. Col. Ario Pardee, Jr., commander of the 147th Pennsylvania, and the man after whom Pardee Field was named. Pardee, a native Pennsylvanian, was a 21-year-old Philadelphia resident when he enlisted in the army in 1861. He was rewarded with regular promotions throughout the war, reaching brevet brigadier status in 1865. Pardee died in 1901, and was buried in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. 


Figure P-3: The magnificent crook of our witness tree, visible in the far upper left of the then-an-now photographs, was much more dramatic in 1890. The early image is reproduced here courtesy of the Boardman Photographic Collection.

Figure P-4: the right-hand Tipton image appeared in a photo album of Gettysburg published in 1911.