Nov 10

Sickles’ Witness Tree

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Sickles witness tree

Underneath this tree, Major-General Daniel Sickles established his headquarters on July 2, 1863. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 5:00 PM on Monday, November 10, 2008.

One of the best known Witness Trees on the Gettysburg Battlefield is the Swamp White Oak near the Trostle Farm. Major-General Daniel Sickles established his headquarters here on July 2, 1863. The tree still appears to be in good shape despite being in the area of one of the most intense actions of the battle.

See our previous posts on Gettysburg Witness Trees:

Pender Witness Tree Area on April 30, 2008,
Gibbon Witness Tree on May 27, 2008,
Honey Locust Tree Damage on August 10, 2008,
Sickles Witness Fence Damge on August 12, 2008,
McPherson Woods Witness Trees on August 16, 2008,
Arkansas Monument Witness Tree on August 27, 2008.
Farnsworth Charge Witness Tree on September 8, 2008.

Did the National Park Service Cut Down a Witness Tree on October 19, 2008.

See our post on the Abraham Trostle Farm on March 25, 2008.


Sketch of Major-General Sickles under the tree

Bugler Charles Wellington Reed of the Massachusetts Artillery sketched Major-General Sickles and his staff under this tree. This view was sketched facing west on the afternoon of July 2, 1863.


West view of the witness tree

Captain Bigelow of the 9th Massachusetts Battery described the scene: “A spirited military spectacle lay before us; General Sickles was standing beneath a tree close by, staff officers and orderlies coming and going in all directions…” This view was taken facing west at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Southwest view of the tree

Bigelow continued “…at the famous ‘Peach Orchard’ angle on rising ground along the Emmetsburg [sic] Road, about 500 yards in our front, white smoke was curling up from… the deep-toned booming of [Union] guns…while the enemy‚Äôs shells were flying over or breaking around us.” The sun is disappearing behind the Peach Orchard. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Witness tree and Trostle Barn

Charles W. Reed later wrote: “at the foot of the hill…were Maj. Gen Sickels headquarters under a tree. we halted…a few minutes giveing [sic] me time to take a scetch [sic] of him. one of his Aids was already wounded by a piece of shell in the back and the surgeon was doing it up.” The Trostle Barn is to the left of the tree. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Sketch of the 9th Massachusetts Battery

Soon orders came for the 9th Massachusetts Battery to advance from the Trostle Farm to the Wheatfield Road. Sickles and his staff are underneath the witness tree shown to the right of the battery. This view was sketched facing northwest on the afternoon of July 2, 1863.


Facing north towards witness tree

Confederate artillery shells flew toward the Trostle Farm. Sickles was wounded at the marker on the rise to the left (west) of the barn. An artillery shell placed a very famous hole in the barn. The hole in the tree at the same level as the hole in the barn is not from an artillery shell. This view was taken facing north at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Hole in the witness tree

That hole is from where a limb fell off the tree. This view was taken facing north at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Close-up of hole

Really, it is. This view was taken facing north at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Bark of Sickles Witness Tree

The bark on the Sickles Witness Tree is too thick to properly hold a spike and a War Department tag as do other Gettysburg Witness Trees. This view was taken facing south at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Location of 9th Massachusetts Battery

The 9th Massachusetts Battery retreated back to this location. As they were preparing to pull out, they were ordered to stay and sacrifice themselves so that a new line could be formed behind them on Cemetery Ridge, where the fields meets the woods in the background. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Facing southeast towards the tree

The 9th Massachusetts (Bigelow’s) Battery fired from left to right against Confederates attacking from the high ground near the Emmitsburg Road. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Sickles witness tree next to Trostle Barn

The Confederates shot the horses on purpose so that they couldn’t pull the cannon back to Cemetery Ridge. The Confederates did finally capture Bigelow’s Battery. The Sickles Witness Tree is the one to the right of the road (United States Avenue). This view was taken facing east at approximately 4:30 PM on Friday, November 7, 2008.


Dead mules/horses at the Trostle Barn

The Sickles Witness Tree is out of view (to the left) in this picture of the dead horses and mules from Bigelow’s Battery. This view was taken facing northwest on July 6, 1863.


Far way view of Trostle Barn and Sickles Witness Tree

Bigelow’s guns were later recovered in a countercharge by Union infantry. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 5:00 PM on Monday, November 10, 2008.


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