29th Pennsylvania Tree

What This Tree Witnessed

On the morning of July 3, 1863, orders were given to Confederate Brigadier Generals Junius Daniel and George H. Steuert to leave the safety of the entrenchments on Lower Culp’s Hill, and to attack the Union troops deployed along the base of the saddle between the two summits of Culp’s Hill and on the north side of Pardee’s Field. The officers protested the orders, but their concerns were brushed aside: the attack must go on. 

The North Carolinians of Gen. Daniel had been handled roughly on July 1, and now prepared to meet what would be a certain repulse by the 12th Corps troops before them. Daniel’s men poured out of the woods to the east and, as expected, were stopped in their tracks. The left flank of the brigade was held by the 43rd North Carolina, which likely advanced as far as the witness tree described here.

After about an hour of fighting, Daniel pulled his troops back to where they started, with not much to show for their efforts.


This tree was first photographically identified by Greg Gober, using an image not reproduced here. Identification of the tree using the 1909 image in Figure P-1 was by the author.

Col. Thomas S. Kenan (43rd NC, CSA) Witness Tree

Figure P-1: The Col. Thomas S. Kenan Witness Tree is a large white oak which stands right alongside Slocum Avenue on Culp’s Hill, just to the north to the monument for the 29th Pennsylvania. The lower image appeared in a picture album published in 1909 by J.I. Mumper.

Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 109.5”
Diameter: 34.9”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 5.7 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 200 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 6-7”
GPS: 39.816602N, 77.218495W

This large white oak tree seems to be a faster grower than its neighbor witness trees by the 111th PA monument. The ratio of its diameter 1909:2023 of 0.43, which allows us to calculate a growth rate for this tree over the past century and a quarter of about 5.7 years to grow each inch of diameter. This tree is thus about 200 years old, and its diameter in 1863 would have been in the 6-7 inch range.

A wartime photo of Col. Thomas S. Kenan, 43rd North Carolina (CSA).

This witness tree is named for Col. Thomas S. Kenan of the 43rd North Carolina Infantry regiment. Kenan, born in Kenansville, NC, in 1838, graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1857, practicing law afterwards until 1861. In 1859, Thomas and his brother James formed a local militia company, which they called the Duplin Rifles. Three days after the first shots were fired at Ft. Sumter, the Duplin Rifles entered Confederate service as Company C of the 12th NC, a six-month regiment. Thomas was appointed captain of his company.

After the six months expired, the Duplin Rifles re-entered the army as Company A of the 43rd NC, of which Thomas soon became colonel, and his brother James captain of Company A. The 43rd joined the Army of Northern Virginia in June 1863, in time to accompany Lee in his invasion of Pennsylvania. On June 3, the 43rd was called on to bear the left flank of an attack of Brig. Gen. Junius Daniel’s assault on the Union 12th Corps.

It was in this fight that Thomas was shot in the thigh, and was forced to retire from the field. Riding in a hospital wagon, the colonel was captured during Lee’s retreat to Virigina. After convalescing first in Frederick, MD, and then in Baltimore, Thomas spent almost the remainder of the war in the federal prison at Johnson’s Island, Ohio. Perhaps in anticipation of the nearing end of the war, Kenan was sent to Richmond in March 1865, and paroled in May, after which Kenan went home to Kenansville, where he was elected to serve in the state assembly, and practice law for the rest of his life. Col. Kenan died in 1901, and was buried in Kenansville. (1)

A detailed biography of Col. Thomas Kenan can be found here.

(1) All biographical information for this article adapted from the website www.ncpedia.org. Retrieved May 11, 2023: https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/kenan-thomas-stephen.