3rd Wisconsin Group
The “MIA Units” Trees
The 13th New Jersey and 3rd Wisconsin monuments are located along the loop formed by Colgrove and Carmen Avenues, but not much happened here. The mixed-state collection of regiments – representing Massachusetts, Indiana, New Jersey and Wisconsin – of the 3rd Brigade (1st Division, 12th Corps), led first by Brig. Gen. Thomas Ruger, then by Col. Silas Colgrove, were deployed in this section of McAllister’s Woods on July 2 and 3, as is evidenced by the variety of flank markers that can be found amongst the trees.
Consequently, we dedicate the three witness trees located near the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry’s monument to those units who, through no fault of their own, went “Missing in Action” at crucial moments during the Battle of Culp’s Hill.
Witness Tree #1
The Candy-Kane Brigades (USA) Witness Tree
Tree Species: tupelo (blackgum)
Circumference 2023: 58.5”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 10.8 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 200 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 3.5-4”
GPS: 39.812387N, 77.215828W
Near the 3rd Wisconsin monument on Colgrove Avenue is one of the most shocking witness trees on the battlefield: a 200 year old tupelo tree with a diameter of only 18.6 inches.
Is this possible? It sure is. Tupelo (also called blackgum) trees are amongst the slowest growing trees anywhere. When the Park Service cut down 59 trees on Little Round Top in February, 2022, they sent cross-sections of the trees to a lab to count the rings. Three of the trees were tupelos. Their growth rates were found to be stunningly slow – 12.1, 14.2 and 16.4 years to grow a single inch of diameter respectively!
In comparison to the trees on the rockier Little Round Top, this tupelo is a drag-racer, growing at a rate of less than 11 years per inch of diameter. With a diameter ratio 1905:2023 of 0.42, we calculate the age of the tree to be 200 years, and its diameter at the time of the battle was in the 3.5-4 inch range, within sapling range.
…Yes, two of the brigades of the 2nd Division (12th Corps) were commanded by men named Candy and Kane; the third brigade of the division was led by a man named Greene. Call it “The Christmas Division” if you like.
The three brigades of the 2nd Division were sent to man Culp’s Hill overnight on July 1-2. After spending the morning digging entrenchments and building fieldworks, the men rested. In the late afternoon, as fighting crescendoed on the Union’s left flank, the brigades of Col. Charles Candy and Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Kane were pulled off of Lower Culp’s Hill to assist in the fighting at the Wheatfield.
Unfortunately, division commander Brig. Gen. John W. Geary got completely lost as he tried to lead the men towards the fighting west of Taneytown Road. Instead, the two brigades somehow ended up on the east side of Rock Creek, somewhere near the area of McAllister’s Mill. Completely missing the crucial battles for the Wheatfield, Little Round Top, and Emmitsburg Road, the two brigades were recalled in the middle of the night of July 2-3 to return to Culp’s Hill, where the Confederates had finally begun to attack late in the evening of July 2. (1)
The two brigades, comprised of veteran soldiers, completely redeemed themselves of course in the vicious fighting on Culp’s Hill on the morning of July 3.
(1) Gottfried, Bradley M. Brigades of Gettysburg. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012. Pp. 378-9
Witness Tree #2
The 1st Maryland Eastern Shore Witness Tree
Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 99”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 6.4 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 200 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 6-6.5”
GPS: 39.812066N, 77.215716W
This oak with the distinctive bend – as if frozen in the act of taking a bow – is typical of our white oak witness trees, sporting a growth rate of over 6 years to grow each inch of diameter (calculated based on a diameter ratio 1905:2023 of 0.42), and is likely two centuries old. Its diameter at the time of the battle was probably in the half-a-foot range.
Though two years in existence at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, the 1st Maryland Eastern Shore regiment, which had been posted for all that time in the Delmarva Peninsula, had seen no fighting as yet. The 500 men of the regiment were thus as green as could be, and when they were sent into the fight on Culp’s Hill on the morning of July 3rd, they responded – ineffectively. (2)
From the Baltimore Pike, where they had spent the night of July 2-3, the Marylanders were ordered east to support the 3rd Division brigades who were busily repulsing the Confederate assaults up the eastern slopes of Culp’s Hill. Harry Pfanz writes that the regiment, unfortunately, split into two halves during its march along Spangler’s Lane. The five right-hand companies, accompanied by their Maryland slave-owner commander, Colonel James Wallace, with a yell charged to the front, arrived just at the right moment to witness a fresh rebel charge, and fired wildly at the enemy, right over the heads of the veterans of the 111th Pennsylvania, disconcerting the latter and not bothering the former. (3)
What happened to the four companies who veered towards the left is not exactly certain, but none of the evidence is complimentary. Bradley Gottfried, accepting the account given in the regimental history of the 149th New York, writes that the entire regiment was sent to relieve the 149th NY from the front line, but when it arrived, the men shot wildly over the New Yorkers’ heads – or perhaps at them – before running away. When the Marylanders were finally collected and sent back to the front, the 149th formed behind them to keep them from fleeing again. (4)(5)
The first experience of the troops of the 1st Maryland Eastern Shore regiment did not impress those who watched them. The notable monument to the unit sitting just below the crest of Upper Culp’s Hill belies the ineffectiveness of the boys from this border state, as is evidenced by the after-action reports of Brig. Gen. George Greene, who failed to mention at all the regiment, and Gen. Geary, who “disposed” of the service of the entire brigade to which the 1st MD belonged, “with five lines”. (6)
(2) Pfanz, Harry W. Gettysburg: Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1993. PP. 307-8.
(4) Gottfried, Bradley M. Brigades of Gettysburg. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012. P. 392.
(5) Pfanz includes this information in a footnote. In his main texts, he more circumspectly observes that the four left-hand companies mixed with the regiments who were defending Upper Culp’s Hill, and, when their ammunition began to run low, started to “drift away” from the front, despite the efforts of the officers to convince the men not to abandon their front. See p. 308.
(6) Ibid., p. 309.
Witness Tree #3
The Walker Brigade (CSA) Witness Tree
Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 112.5”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 5.9-6 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 210 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 8-9”
GPS: 39.812016N, 77.215734W
This larger white oak tucked about 50 feet behind the wood line where Carmen and Colgrove Avenues meet near the 3rd Wisconsin monument is larger than the one nearer the road, sporting a diameter of a full yard. Based on a diameter ratio 1905:2023 of about 0.44, we calculate that, over the past century and a quarter, it has, on average, taken 6 years to grow each inch of diameter. Likely over 200 years old, the tree’s diameter in 1863 was probably about 8 inches or so.
The Confederate division of Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson spent the afternoon of July 2 deploying to the east of Rock Creek below Culp’s Hill. In the meantime, a grand opportunity presented itself to the rebels, when the two Union brigades protecting Lower Culp’s Hill were pulled out and sent south to help with the fighting on the Union left flank. Unfortunately, Johnson dithered away the chance to take the completely undefended hill, until late in the evening, when he sent three brigades up the entire length of Culp’s Hill.
Brig. Gen. George H. Steuert had the good luck this day to attack Lower Culp’s Hill, and he was able to take possession of the fieldworks that had been built earlier in the day by the brigades of Col. Charles Candy and Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Kane. However, thanks to the last moment of arrival of Federal reinforcements to the saddle area between the two crests of Culp’s Hill, Steuert could make no further gains.
And where was the Stonewall Brigade of Brig. Gen. James Walker all this time? Forming originally on the left, or southern, flank of Johnson’s Division, Walker should have been supporting Steuert, but instead he had drifted off with his men to Brinkerhoff Ridge, on the east side of Rock Creek, completely missing the action. Bradley Gottfried wrote of Walker that “His presence was sorely missed and might have tipped the scales in the struggle for the wooded heights.” (7)
On July 3, Walker was finally sent to charge up Upper Culp’s Hill – the final combat on Culp’s hill – but, unsupported, the attack sputtered quickly. (8)