Candy’s Brigade Tree
TREE of DISCREDIT and REDEMPTION
This sector of the battlefield, along the north edge of what is now Sedgwick Avenue, did not see much action of any sort for the trees to be witness to.
However, there is a witness tree standing adjacent to the monument to the brigade of Col. Charles Candy (1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 12th Corps). This tree we dedicate to a special case of discredit and redemption: the saga of the 71st Pennsylvania’s Col. Richard P. Smith.
This tree was first photographically identified by Greg Gober, using the image appearing in Figure P-1 below.
Col. Richard P. Smith Witness Tree
Tree Species: pignut hickory?????
Circumference 2023: 65.5”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 9.7 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 200 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 4-4.5”
GPS: 39.797524N, 77.234273W
A straight-forward find, this pignut hickory has been standing about 6 feet from the Candy Brigade monument for about two centuries. William Tipton fortuitously, if unconsciously, included this tree in the photograph he took of the tablet in 1905 (see Figure P-1). As is the case with all hickories on the battlefield, the circumference (65.5″) is modest, and the tree a slow grower. The ratio of the diameter of the tree 1905:2023 is 0.42, which suggests an average growth rate over the last century of almost a decade to grow each inch of diameter. The tree, with a likely diameter of around 4-4½ inches in 1863, was just entering its mature phase at the time of the battle.
The tree is named for the commander of the 71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Col. Richard Penn Smith, who led his brigade to potential disgrace on July 2nd on Culp’s Hill, only to redeem himself during Pickett’s Charge on the 3rd.
Richard Penn Smith, whose father was a famous playwright of the early 19th century, was born in 1837 in Philadelphia. Smith Jr. joined the 71st Pennsylvania (called the California Regiment, due to the fact that its founder was Senator Edward D. Baker of California, though its soldiers were Pennsylvanians) shortly after the commencement of war with the south. Promoted from Captain to Major in November 1862, Penn was subsequently promoted to colonel of the 71st after the Battle of Chancellorsville.
July 2, Gettysburg: Culp’s Hill
On the evening of July 2, three Confederate brigades attacked Culp’s Hill, which was defended by a single Union brigade, that of Brig. Gen. George S. Greene. With Confederate Brig. Gen. George H. Steuert’s brigade of 2000 men climbing the southern, or lower, hill practically unopposed, disaster faced the Federal side. Several regiments were sent from Cemetery Ridge to stem the tide, including Smith’s 71st Pennsylvania.
As the California Regiment marched into the saddle of Culp’s Hill, they began to take fire from Steuert’s men. Smith, confused in the darkness, inexplicably turned his men around and departed Culp’s Hill. As he was marching back to Cemetery Ridge, Smith was met by Greene’s adjutant, Capt. Charles Horton. Bradley Gottfried writes, “Horton rushed up and demanded an explanation. Smith angrily told him he would not have his men murdered, and that he had orders to return to his former position.” Smith, who was in fact without any such orders, was lying. (1)
July 3, Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge
On Cemetery Ridge, Brig. Gen. Alexander Webb placed the 71st Pennsylvania at the Angle as the hordes of Confederates approached from Seminary Ridge. Elements of several Confederate regiments soon reached the position of the 71st PA, which engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the rebels. Eventually, overwhelmed, the 71st fell back, their places at the Angle taken up by the charging 72nd Pennsylvania. (2) The 71st had lost more than a third of its men in the fight, and had captured (according to Bates) four Confederate banners. (3)
Promotions were quick due to the wounds suffered by the officers of the 2nd Corps, and Col. Smith assumed command of the 2nd Brigade, which he led until the Battle of the Wilderness, where he apparently suffered wounds which kept him from combat for the remainder of the regiment’s term. Smith mustered out with the rest of the 71st in July of 1864. (4)
Smith, only 50 years old, died in 1887 on Staten Island, NY, where he was buried.
A colorful history of the 71st Pennsylvania’s experiences at Gettysburg can be found here in Samuel Bate’s “History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers.”