Tree #8

The Pender Witness Tree

There are two enormous white oaks rising on either side of the Pegram Battalion tablet, shown as Trees #08 and “B” in the map to the left. Both have been identified by tradition as the “Pender Tree”: see, for example, this video from the American Battlefield Trust, which identifies #8 as the Pender Tree, and this old article from the Gettysburg Daily website, which labels “B” as the Pender Tree. We follow the ABF, granting Tree #08 “official” status as the “Pender Tree”.

Tree B is without doubt a witness tree; however, it has managed to avoid appearing in any yet-discovered old photograph by which we can estimate its growth rate. As a result, we do not include it in our list of confirmed witness trees. It is a fascinating tree, though, because it does have a bronze inventory tag on it, and it also one of the few remaining trees from which a lighting suppressor cable still hangs. Finally, the tree was struck by lightning in the summer of 2010, and was saved by the lightning suppressor system, a story told in the Gettysburg Daily article referenced above.

Read more about Tree “B” here.

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Witness Tree #8 – The Pender Tree

Maj. Gen. William Dorsey Pender (CSA) Witness Tree

Figure P-2.

Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 122”
Diameter: 38.9”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 7.1 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 250+ years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 16”
GPS: 39.82028 N, 77.246351 W

Treen #8, with its distinctive double-stem (ie. a forked trunk; see Figure P-2), is the most easily recognizable of the West Confederate Avenue witness trees. This large white oak, with a diameter of well over a yard, was captured in the c.1903 photograph released by the Rotograph Company as a turn of the century postcard. The ratio of its diameter 1903:2023 is about 0.56, which suggests a growth rate over the last 122 years of about 7.1 years to gain each inch of diameter. The tree is very likely over 250 years old, and probably sported a diameter of about 16 inches on the day of Pickett’s Charge in July 1863.

In an ill-starred battle for the Army of Northern Virginia, in which Robert E. Lee lost many more top officers to death and debilitating wounds than he could afford, the demise of the promising Maj. Gen. W. Dorsey Pender, whom Ezra Warner called “perhaps the most outstanding of the younger generals of the army”, was one of the bitterest pills for the commanding general to have to swallow. (1) Born in North Carolina in 1834, Pender was appointed to West Point at the age of 16. Upon graduating, Pender served in the west, mainly fighting Indians. When the Civil War erupted, Pender resigned from the old U.S. army and entered the new Confederate army as the colonel of the 3rd North Carolina Infantry. In June 1862, Pender was promoted to brigadier general. After Chancellorsville, Pender was raised to major general. (2) Before Gettysburg, Pender had been wounded four times, though never too seriously. (3)

Maj. Gen. William Dorsey Pender (1834-1863)

On July 2, at Gettysburg, Pender was “struck in the thigh by a two-inch-square shell fragment” while inspecting his lines. Unable to ride a horse, Pender was forced to ride in an ambulance during the army’s retreat from Pennsylvania. With an artery having been severed, and bleeding persistent, the leg was removed by surgeons on July 18. But Pender was already too far gone at this point, and he died shortly thereafter. The general’s remains were buried in Tarboro, NC. (4)

Further details on the life of General Pender can be found here at the websites of the American Battlefield Trust.

(1) Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Grey. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997. Pp. 233-4.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Welsh, Jack D. Medical Histories of Confederate Generals. Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1995. Pp. 166-7.
(4) Ibid.