Witness Tree #3 (north)

Lt. Col. Michael Nolan (1st LA, CSA) Witness Tree

Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 111.5”
Diameter: 35.5”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 6.8 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 200-240 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 10-12”
GPS: 39.818531N, 77.219596W

Figure P-3: The Lt. Col. Nolan Witness Tree is a bit tricky to pick out in these photographs, but the distinctive curve of the trunk beginning about 50 feet off the ground makes matching the trees possible. Please see Figure P-3a for a close-up of the tree, with the curve highlighted to facilitate identification. The older photograph was published in a 1932 work by retired LBG supervisor William Storrick, Gettysburg: the Place, the Battles, the Outcome.

This white oak witness tree is the largest of the three witness trees standing alongside the western edge of this stretch of Slocum Avenue. With a circumference of 111 inches and diameter of 35.5 inches – nearly a full yard – this tree is easily over 200 years old. The tree can be seen in a 1932 photograph that appears in a book on Gettysburg written by William Storrick, originally a forester for the park, then a licensed battlefield guide, and eventually supervisor of the LBGs, before he retired in 1931 (see Figures P-3 and 3a). It can be seen in the reproduced then-and-now photographs that the tree has not grown very much in the last 90 years; a careful comparison of the tree’s diameter 1932:2023 is about 0.62, suggesting a typical average growth rate over the past century of about 6.8 years to grow each inch of diameter. The diameter of this monster was likely at least 10 inches, and perhaps a foot, in 1863.

This witness tree is named for Lt. Col. Michael Nolan, commander of the 1st Louisiana Infantry. Nolan, an immigrant from Ireland, was a New Orleans merchant before the war. He enlisted with the army at the outbreak of the war, and by June 1862 was commanding the 1st Louisiana. Wounded at Antietam, Nolan was with the 1st LA as it prepared to attack Culp’s Hill along with the other Louisiana regiments of Nicholl’s Brigade. As soon as the regiment had crossed Rock Creek, Nolan was killed, his body destroyed by a 12-pound ball. His remains were never identified. (1)

(1) Antietam on the Web Website. Retrieved May 17, 2023: https://antietam.aotw.org/officers.php?officer_id=603.

Figure P-3a: I have highlighted the distinctive curve of the upper trunk of Nolan Witness Tree, as it appears in this cropped version of both the 1932 and modern photographs.

The Lt. Col. Michael Nolan Witness Tree, standing opposite and a bit north of the monument to the 78th and 102nd New York Volunteer Infantry, commemorates the commander of the 1st Louisiana Volunteer Infantry who was killed just to the west of Rock Creek, and whose body was never identified.