Trees #13 and #14

The Storrick Photograph

Witness Trees #13 (rear, leaning heavily) and #14 (foreground) on West Confederate Avenue.

It was easy to recreate with good precision the photograph of West Confederate Avenue which appeared in William Storrick’s 1932 book, Gettysburg: The Place, the Battle, the Outcome, once we recognized Tree #13, which leans heavily toward the avenue, peeking out from behind Tree #14 (see Figure P-3 below).

<– Return to Tree #12                              Go to Trees #15 and #16 –>

Witness Tree #13

Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead (CSA) Witness Tree

Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 105”
Diameter: 33.4”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 6.4 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 215 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 8-8.5”
GPS: 39.819892 N, 77.246702 W

Figure P-3.

Witness Tree #13 is a medium-sized white oak (diameter 33.4 inches) which, standing directly adjacent to gun d4 of Crenshaw’s Battery, leans noticeably towards West Confederate Avenue. In fact, by comparing the image of the tree as it appears today to how it appeared in a 1932 photograph (see Figure P-3), one can see that the angle at which the tree is leaning is greater now, as it has gained weight and girth since 1932.

The ratio of the diameter of this tree 1932:2023 is approximately 0.58. which corresponds to a growth rate of a little over 6 years to grow each inch of diameter over the past 90 years. The tree is certainly over two centuries old, and likely had a diameter of over 6 inches, perhaps as large as 8 inches, at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Witness Tree #13 is named for Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead (middle name Addison), who famously led his brigade of Virginians across the stone wall at the Angle on Cemetery Ridge during Pickett’s Charge, before being cut down, mortally wounded. Born in 1817, Armistead, a New Bern, NC, native, attended West Point for two years, before, “as the story runs, [he] was dismissed for breaking a mess-hall plate over the head of Jubal Early.” (1) In 1839, Armistead was appointed to the regular army, where he remained for his entire adult life. Breveted twice in Mexico, Captain Armistead resigned from the U.S. army in 1861 and joined that of the Confederacy as colonel of the 57th Virginia Infantry. In April 1862, he was promoted to brigadier, and led a brigade General Pickett’s division from the time of the Peninsular campaign until Gettysburg. (2)

Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armstead (1817-1863).

On July 3, 1863, Armistead’s brigade was placed behind those of Brig. Generals Richard B. Garnett (on the left) and James L. Kemper (on the right). During the artillery duel that preceded the charge, “Armistead was almost killed by a shell that exploded nearby, wounding several men standing near the general, and destroying a small hickory tree. (3)

“Lo” Armistead’s final moments on earth were also his finest. Acting “like a man possessed”, Armistead led his dwindling brigade on foot across the fields from Seminary Ridge, across the Emmitsburg Road, and up the slope of Cemetery Ridge. With Kemper and the mounted Garnett shot down, and Pickett hiding behind the Codori Barn, Armistead was now the division’s highest-ranking officer to cross the stone wall at the Angle. A gap had opened up behind the wall, as the defending Pennsylvania troops had begun to fall back, and Armistead, his black slouch hat raised on his sword, charged into the breach.

The number of Confederates now approaching the upper reaches of Cemetery Ridge was still substantial – 4500 men from Pickett’s Division, and 1000 from Pettigrew’s. (4) Jumping on the stone wall (only three feet high near the Angle), Armistead yelled, “Come forward, Virginians! Come on, boys, we must give them the cold steel; who will follow me?” (5) Despite taking bullets in the chest and arm, Armistead, with 300 men immediately behind him, charged further up the hill: his goal now was to reach the four guns of Cushing’s Battery, located about 100 paces east of the wall. (6) (7)

But the Union defense had been too furious, and too many southern men had fallen; just as Armistead reached the cannon of Lt. Alonzo Hersford, the conspicuous general – who until this moment had miraculously escaped injury in war – was shot multiple times, and fell. At battle’s end, the general was carried to the 11th Corps Hospital at Spangler’s Farm, where he died on July 5. (8)

General Armistead was buried in St. Paul’s Churchyard in Baltimore, next to his uncle, Major George Armistead, who commanded the defense of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 when the British unsuccessfully attempted to bombard the fort into submission, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner.

(1) Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Grey. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997. Pp. 11-12.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Tucker, Phillip Thomas. Pickett’s Charge. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2016. P. 67.
(4) Ibid., p. 277. Tucker notes that Pickett’s Division had lost about 1300 men during the charge so far.
(5) Ibid., p. 278-9. The wall was more difficult to climb over a little further south down the line, where it stood 4-5 feet high, a greater barrier for Garnett’s men to pass over.
(6) Welsh, Jack D. Medical Histories of Confederate Generals. Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1995. Pp. 10.
(7) Tucker, p. 316.
(8) Welsh.

Witness Tree #14

Col. John B. Magruder (57th VA, CSA) Witness Tree

Tree Species: white oak
Circumference 2023: 102.5”
Diameter: 32.6”
Calculated Average Growth Rate: 5.5-6.3 years / inch diameter
Estimated age: 190-210 years
Estimated diameter in 1863: 5-7”
GPS: 39.819864 N, 77.246772 W

The nearness of Tree #14 to the camera makes judging its size in 1932 a bit tricky: however, a conservative estimate of the tree’s diameter 1932:2023 of about 0.53 suggests that the tree’s growth rate over the past century was in the range of 5.5-6 years to grow each inch of diameter. The tree is probably around two centuries old, and its diameter at the time of the Civil War was likely in the range of 5-7 inches.

Witness Tree #14 is named for Col. John B. Magruder (middle name Bowie), commander of the 57th Virginia Infantry, a regiment of Armistead’s Brigade in Pickett’s Division. Born in 1839, the Scottsdale, VA, native attended the Albemarle Military Academy before graduating from the University of Viriginia. Magruder appears to have attended VMI briefly in 1861 “to learn tactics” before entering the army in July 1861 as captain of Company H of the 57th Virginia. (9)

Magruder rise in the army was rapid, culminating in his promotion to colonel in January 1863. An article in Confederate Veteran magazine relates what happened to Col. Magruder at Pickett’s Charge: 

“Col. John Bowie Magruder fell mortally wounded within twenty steps of the enemy’s cannon, shouting: “They are ours!” He was struck by two shots – one in the left breast and the other under his right arm, which crossed the wound in his breast. There where he fell he was made a prisoner of war, carried to the hospital in Gettysburg, where he languished, and died July 5, 1863, aged twenty three years. He was a member of Epsilon Alpha Fraternity, and a frater caused his remains to be encased in a metallic coffin, and, with all of his personal effects, sent by flag of truce to Richmond in October 1863.” Magruder was buried at the family farm, “Glenmore”, in Albemarle County, VA.

(9) Allardice, Bruce S. Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2008. P. 279.