Gettysburg Battlefield Culp’s Hill discovery: ‘Not only is the bullet an artifact but the tree is too’

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Work clearing trees on Culp’s Hill at the Gettysburg National Military Park uncovered two Civil War bullets in an oak tree. Here, a replica is compared to a Civil War slug. (See additional photo below.) Also of interest: Years after Civil War, (a) Longstreet steps onto York County soil and Unsung farmhouse loud symbol of a shaping moment for York and All Civil War posts from the start.
For Civil War enthusiasts, you can’t read enough about the discovery of slugs from the Gettysburg battle in an old oak tree.
What’s interest, too, is that the oak was a witness tree.
Many trees did not survive, dying, as one battlefield spokesman said, from lead poisoning.
Here’s the Hanover Evening Sun’s (8/9/11) piece on the discovery last week:

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.
It’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.

Also of interest
Yorkblogger Scott Mingus writes about the newly found slugs.
See coverage of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War at Civil War Echoes.
Big local event next week: Civil War Road Show.
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A Gettysburg National Military Park museum specialist shows pieces of the oak tree that show bullet artifacts.
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*Photos courtesy Hanover Evening Sun.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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