On the west side of West Confederate Avenue, right alongside the pavement, and just about opposite from Cannon d2 of Crenshaw’s Battery, stands a medium sized pignut hickory tree. Like all of our website’s hickory trees, this unimposing tree will surprise the casual observer with its witness tree status. But there is no doubt that this member of a very slow-growing tree species was mature and very much present during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Amazingly, this tree appears in two of our four old photographs of Pegram’s Battery taken in the early 20th century, one in a 1903 (or earlier) image which appears on a postcard from the Rotograph Company (see Figure P-2), and the other in William Storrick’s 1932 book Gettysburg: The Place, the Battle, the Outcome (see Figure P-3).
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Pvt. Jordan W. Grant (9th VA, CSA) Witness Tree
Tree Species: pignut hickory
Circumference 2023: 73”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 11-12.6 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 250+ years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 8-11”
GPS: 39.8202003 N, 77.246699 W
This pignut hickory witness tree with a modest diameter of 23 inches stands opposite Crenshaw’s Battery on West Confederate Avenue. We estimate the ratio of its diameter 1903:2023 to be 0.48, and for 1932:2023 to be 0.67. This suggests the tree’s growth rate for over a century has been about 11-12 years to grow each inch of diameter, and its age consequently to be 250 years old or more. Its diameter in 1863 can be conservatively estimated to have been in the 8-11 inch range.
We employ this witness tree to remind all of our readers that just because a soldier was not killed on the battlefield at Gettysburg, does not mean that he survived the ordeal begun in Adams County, PA, to return home to the south. We select as an example of such a Confederate, Private Jordan W. Grant, for whom we name this witness tree. Private Grant was a 23-year-old ship carpenter when he enlisted in Portsmouth, VA, in April 1861. (1) A member of Company G of the 9th Virginia Infantry, Grant was captured during Pickett’s Charge, and sent to Point Lookout Prison located on the southern tip of the Maryland Peninsula. Here Grant languished for half a year, before dying on January 1, 1864. (2)
In his book Pickett’s Charge, Phillip Thomas Tucker quotes from a heartbreaking letter written by this prisoner of war to his mother, in which Grant grieved, “I am sick with Diarhhoea have had it five months…[I am a] mere skeleton [and] am unable to help myself, there is no medicine here…they say I cannot last the winter.” Tucker reports that 15 other members of the 9th Virginia who were also captured on July 3, 1863, were to meet their maker in various northern prisons. (3)