There are maybe half a dozen “witness trees” in Gettysburg – trees documented to have been alive on the days the Civil War came to town.
One stands at the top of the rockpile known as Devil’s Den. Confederate sharp-shooters hid amid its boulders, picking off Union soldiers on the hill above them, known as Little Round Top. The Union soldiers fired back, with cannons as well as rifles, as bodies filled the small space between the lines. The flat spot to one side of the white oak is known as the “Slaughter Pen.” To the other side is the “Valley of Death.”
It’s a wonder anything stuck in this haunted place survived, but the little oak did.
For those who care about history, the value in visiting a battlefield comes from being able to put great events in human scale. Here you can see how close the opposing soldiers were to each other, imagine how terrifying it must have been to charge up that hill, understand how vulnerable every soldier was.
Here are a few pictures from that corner of this sprawling battlefield.