Wednesday, August 10, 2011

News--July 1863: Bullets Miss Soldier, Kills Tree 149 Years Later

Workers Find Civil War bullets In Gettysburg Tree: Park Maintenance Crews Make Historic Discovery, Tim Prudente, Evening Sun, August 9, 2011.

A gnarled oak tree that had fallen on the Gettysburg battlefield was overlooked for years by visitors and park staff. Now, it's the center of attention after maintenance crews discovered two Civil War bullets lodged in the trunk. Last week, crews were cutting through the tree on Culp's Hill when a chain saw struck lead. "One hundred years ago it was commonplace to find bullets in Gettysburg trees but this is a rarity today," said Bob Kirby, superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park.

It was the first time in more than a decade that bullets have been found in a tree on the battlefield, according to park staff. The discovery also proves the fallen oak tree witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg and an arborist has since identified the tree to be more than 200 years old. "Not only is the bullet an artifact but the tree is too," said Museum Specialist Paul Shevchuk.

The discovery was made Thursday and one of the bullets is believed to be a 54 caliber, the other a 58 caliber. Crews were working to remove a section of the trunk that threatened a nearby marker. The rest of the fallen tree will remain on the east slope of the Culp's Hill summit, near the marker for Union Maj. Joshua Palmer. Two sections of the trunk containing the bullets were taken to the Museum and Visitor Center, where they will be frozen for three days and vacuumed to remove any insects or mold. Then, the sections will be stored alongside hundreds of similar sections of trees that have been found to contain bullets or shrapnel.

Gettysburg National Military Park boasts a collection or more than 1.6 million relics, the world's largest, and likely most valuable, assortment of Civil War artifacts. Only about 2 percent of this collection is on display for the public, though. Staff only select artifacts for display that illustrate the story of the Civil War. t's not surprising the discovery was made on Culp's Hill, an area that saw some of the heaviest fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg.

On the morning of July 3, Confederate forces launched the second of two attacks on Union troops occupying Culp's Hill. The Rebels, though, were ultimately repelled - after seven hours of fighting - largely due to an artillery bombardment from Union forces perched on Powers Hill. Soon after the battle, Culp's Hill became a popular picnic area for tourists who were intrigued by the bullet-riddled trees. Few of these trees survive today, though. Historians say most literally died from lead poisoning.

Top Caption: A replica bullet is shown next to a Civil War slug found lodged in an oak tree on the Gettysburg battlefield. Crews discovered two historic bullets last week while working to clear trees from the summit of Culp s Hill.

Bottom Caption: Gettysburg Museum Specialist Paul Shevchuk shows sections of an oak tree from the Gettysburg battlefield that contain bullet fragments from the Civil War. The artifacts were found last week when crews worked to cut a fallen tree on Culp s Hill.

Text and Image Source: Evening Sun, August 9, 2011.

No comments: