Knap’s Battery Trees

What These Trees Witnessed

On July 2, the eastern slope of Culp’s Hill up here at the summit was defended by the men of the 60th New York; and, thanks to the fieldworks the men had constructed that same morning, the regiment was able to single-handedly repulse an attack by the entire Virginia brigade of Brig. Gen. John M. Jones late in the evening. Jones was wounded in the assault, and he lost almost a third of his brigade in just a few hours.

Earlier in the afternoon, cannon from Knap’s Battery and Kinzie’s U.S. Battery had taken part in the duel between Union guns placed on Steven’s Knoll and Cemetery Ridge, and Confederate artillery on Benner’s Hill, to the southerners’ disadvantage.

Col. Charles Candy’s mixed brigade of Pennsylvanians and Ohioans arrived overnight to support that of the 3rd Brigade’s commander, Brig. Gen. George Greene, with the 66th Ohio taking the left flank. Lt. Col. Eugene Powell, commander of the 66th, was ordered to take his brigade over the breastworks, and deploy them in a roughly east-west line, perpendicular to that of the main Union line. General Greene worried that the 66th would be “swallowed” up, but his fears were unfounded, as the advanced position allowed the Midwesterners to pour a devastating fire into the morning’s further Confederate attacks on Upper Culp’s Hill, while taking relatively few casualties themselves. (1)

The V-Shaped Tree Formation

Here we have another pair of adjacent trees growing away from each other, so as to form a V-shaped outline when viewed from a short distance away. The eastern tree of the two is significantly larger than its sibling – its diameter is a third wider – yet the two trees, which appear in multiple turn-of-the-century photographs (see Figures P-1, P-2 and P-3), were about the same size in 1900. Calculations confirm that the eastern tree has been growing at a much faster rate than the other, and might possibly even be the younger of the two trees! 


These trees were first photographically identified by Greg Gober, using the 1907 image shown below in Figure P-3. The identification of the trees in the photographs of Figures P-1 and P-2 are by the author.

(1) Gottfried, Bradley M. Brigades of Gettysburg. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012. P. 381.

Witness Tree #1

Figure P-1: The white oak witness trees rest a few yards beyond the monument to Knap’s Battery (properly Battery E of the Pennsylvania Light Artillery, commanded by Lt. Charles A. Atwell) on the crest of Upper Culp’s Hill. The 1899 image was published in a picture album entitled Gettysburg: America’s Greatest Battlefield.

Lt. Col. Eugene Powell (66th OH) Witness Tree

Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 74”
Diameter: 23.5”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 9.1 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 200-215 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 6”
GPS: 39.820161N, 77.219961W

A close study of photographs of the tree closer to the peak of Culp’s Hill reveals a consistent ratio of the diameter of the tree 1900:2023 of about 0.41-0.44. This allows us to confidently calculate a very slow growth rate for this witness tree of near 9 years to grow each inch of diameter over the past century and a quarter. The tree is likely a little over two centrues old, and probably sported a half-a-foot diameter during the battle.

Figure P-2: The 1903 photograph was downloaded from the Library of Congress online collection.

Witness Tree #1 is named for Lt. Col. Eugene Powell, commander of the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The Delaware, OH, native was working as a machinest, when, in 1860, he purchased, with a partner, a factory which manufactured steam engines, stoves and plows. When war commenced in 1861, however, Powell sold his interest in the firm to his partner, and went on to recruit a company for what would become the 4th Ohio. (2) In December, he was appointed major of the newly formed 66th Ohio, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in May 1862. Powell was wounded in the face and neck at Antietam. (3)

Powell was promoted to colonel in March 1865, and was soon after brevetted Brigadier General, dating from March 13. (4) An 1880 publication (History of Delaware County and Ohio) quotes from the July 14, 1865, Delaware Gazette, in which the following commentary appeared: “Col. Eugene Powell, of this city, formerly of the Sixty-sixth Regiment, has been promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. No more deserving young man entered the service from our State, and none has better discharged his duties than he. We rejoice to know that his merit has been recognized and rewarded. The Brigadier’s star is most worthily bestowed in his case and he will wear it with home, to himself and to the service.” (5)

After the war, 66th’s commander returned to Ohio, and pursued various business interests before dying in 1907. Powell’s remains were interred in Columbus in Green Lawn Cemetery.

(2) History of Delaware County and Ohio, 1880. P. 355.
(3) Antietam on the Web website. Retrieved May 19, 2023:
(4) Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals, and Soldiers. 1895. P. 981.
(5) History of Delaware County and Ohio, P. 294.
(6) Antietam on the Web website.

Witness Tree #2

Brig. Gen. John M. Jones (CSA)

Figure P-3: The 1898 image is by William Tipton.

Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 100”
Diameter: 31.8”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 6.1 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 190-200 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 5.5”
GPS: 39.820161N, 77.219961W

Witness Tree #2 appears to have been only slightly larger than its neighbor at the turn of the 20th century, though now it is significantly greater in girth, suggesting it has been growing at a faster rate than its fellow. A conservative estimate of the ratio of its diameter 1900:2023 is about 0.37-0.40, which allows us to calculate a growth rate for this tree of about 6.0-6.1 years to add each inch of diameter over the last 125 years, a rate shared by a number of other (though not all) witness tree white oaks on Culp’s Hill. This tree is about 190 years old – perhaps younger than the much smaller Witness Tree #1 – and its diameter in 1863 was likely around 5.5 inches.

Brig. Gen. John M. Jones, killed in 1864 at the Wilderness.

This witness tree is named for Confederate Brig. Gen. John M. Jones. Jones, a Charlottesville, VA, native, graduated West Point in 1841, and, in the years leading up to the Civil War, served as instructor at his alma mater and captain in the 7th Infantry. Joining the Confederate army at war’s start, Jones was repeatedly commended for his courage in the early battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, in which he served in various staff positions for various generals. Jones was promoted to brigadier after Chancellorsville, and led a brigade of Virginians at the Battle of Gettysburg. (7)

During his brigade’s attack on July 2 up the steepest part of Culp’s Hill, Jones was wounded in the thigh, his leg bleeding so much that he had to be carried off the field. Returning to field command in November, Jones was subsequently killed in the opening battle at the Wilderness while trying to rally his men. (8) General Jones’ remains were returned to his hometown, where he was buried in Maplewood Cemetery.

Read more about John M. Jones and his brigade here at the website

(7) Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Grey. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996. P. 164.
(8) Welsh, Jack D. Medical Histories of Confederate Generals. Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1995. P. 122.