19th Indiana Tree #2

What This Tree Witnessed

This tree stands a few yards behind the position of the 19th Indiana and 24th Michigan regiments, who had just driven Brig. Gen. James J. Archer’s brigade out of Herbst Woods, and were now awaiting a renewal of the Confederate attack. When Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew’s all-North Carolina brigade came crashing through the forest, the men of the 19th Indiana knew they were in trouble, as the right flank of the rebel line extended well beyond the bluecoat left flank. The Iron Brigade troops began a deliberate fighting retreat, and the result was a holocaust of slaughter in these woods for both brigades – the 24th Michigan lost 73% of its men on this morning. The Confederates eventually took the woods, and went on to press the Union 1st Corps troops back to Seminary Ridge.

Colonel Henry Burgwyn, Jr. (26th NC, CSA) Tree

Figure P-1: Witness Tree #2 is located on the north side of Meredith Avenue, across the street from the 19th Indiana monument. Photographing an exact match for the earlier image is complicated by the fact that the monument was given a new base in 1905, a process which not only increased the height of the monument, but may have possibly shifted its location by a few feet. The older photo appears courtesy of the Boardman Photograph Collection.

Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2022: 100”
Diameter: 31.8”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 6.4 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 200 years.
Estimated diameter in 1863: 6”
GPS: 39.83406 N, 77.25392 W

Thanks to the tangled mesh of scrub, thorns and vines growing behind the 19th Indiana monument, getting an exact match for pre-1895 photograph shown in Figure P-2 is both tricky and a bit painful. However, this old white oak growing across the street from the monument, on the north side of Meredith Avenue, can be easily matched up in the old and new photographs.

Dating the older photograph also poses a bit of a problem. The photograph is part of the collection of Licensed Battlefield Guide Sue Boardman, and is undated. However, the cardstock – the piece of cardboard or stiff paper to which the photograph is attached – tells us that the photograph was from the studios of Levi Mumper. Levi is thought to have taken most of his battlefield photographs in the 1870s and 1880s, before selling his studio in about 1895 to his son J.I. Mumper, who distributed photographs with his own name imprinted on them after that date.

So, it is extremely likely the photograph dates from pre-1890; however, to be conservative, if we assume the picture dates from 1895, we find that the tree still comfortably calculates to be a witness tree.

This witness tree can easily be found by its location behind the gutter across Meredith Avenue from the monument to the 19th Indiana.

A careful comparison of the old and new photographs (the latter taken at least as far away as the old) demonstrates the ratio of the diameter of the tree c.1895:2023 to be about 0.37. If we assign a late date of 1895 to the Mumper image, we calculate a growth rate of 6.4 years to grow each inch in diameter over the last 128 years. This comports very nicely with white oaks all over the battlefield.

Col. Henry Burgwyn, Jr., 1841-1863.

The tree is named after Col. Henry Burgwyn, Jr., commander of the 26th North Carolina. Born in 1841 in North Carolina, Burgwyn attended UNC, then graduated from VMI in 1861. When war broke out, Burgwyn went to Richmond (perhaps travelling in the legendary caravan to the Virginia Capital with Professor Thomas J. Jackson) with other cadets to serve as drillmasters. Burgwyn, commissioned a major, was soon thereafter sent to Raleigh, where he was put in charge of a camp of instruction, to continue training newly formed regiments. (1)

In August 1861, Burgwyn was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 26th North Carolina Infantry, a unit which he had just completed training. Raised to colonel in August 1862, he led the 26th at Gettysburg in July 1863. (2)

The Tarheel regiment was toe-to-toe in Herbst Woods against the Iron Brigade’s 24th Michigan. When the twelfth man to carry the 26th’s colors this morning was shot down next to Burgwyn, the colonel grabbed the flag and shouted “Dress on the colors!” and began to move forward. (3) Unmarried and only 21 years old, Colonel Burgwyn was mortally wounded as he was about to hand the flag over to Pvt. Frank Hunnycut, shot through the lungs or side. (4) Henry Burgwyn’s remains were returned to North Carolina for burial.

(1) Allardice, Bruce S. Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2008. P. 62.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Pfanz, Harry W. Gettysburg: The First Day. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Pp. 282-3.
(4) Pfanz wrote side, Allardice lung.