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The Gettysburg sycamores.

Survivors of an epic battle, witnesses to an impassioned speech, this trio is today providing seeds for the future.

Visitors to Gettysburg, making their way up bustling Baltimore Street on a hot summer day, may breathe a sigh of gratitude for the shade cast by three large sycamores near the curb. But few will realize these trees are living witnesses to the great battle that raged in this once-sleepy Pennsylvania town--and to perhaps the most famous speech in American history, the Gettysburg Address.

Today's trio of old-timers were mature trees that show in photographs taken November 19, 1863, as a procession including President Lincoln marched up Baltimore Street. Its goal was a hilltop cemetery newly set aside for the thousands of Union soldiers killed in the battle five months earlier.

The trees doubtless bore scars of their own that day. They stood between the front lines of the two armies throughout the three-day fight, and were subject constantly to fire from skirmishers and sharpshooters. A board fence next to the trees was so riddled with musket fire that a section of it is displayed today as a curiosity in a battle museum.

But today the trees' wounds have been smoothed over by a century's growth. And the landscape around Gettysburg, devastated by the battle and its long aftermath, has long since recovered its wooded glens and groves.

In fact, deforestation was one of the most notable effects of the Civil War on the American landscape. Whole woodlands were felled to satisfy the tremendous demand for firewood--especially when armies of tens of thousands camped for months in the same places. Still other trees were cut down for temporary shelters--huts, complete with stone chimneys, that served as winter homes. Woods were often clearcut to provide fields of fire for the artillery. More usefully, wood was used to move masses of men, horses, guns, and material over corduroy roads, rail beds, and bridges.

Today the Gettysburg sycamores can help us recall the desperate days of battle in a divided country, and the message of healing that Lincoln spoke over the fresh graves at the top of Baltimore Street.

Thanks to AMERICAN FORESTS' Famous and Historic Civil War Trees project, anyone can plant a piece of this history in the backyard. Young trees grown from the seeds of the three sycamores are available for purchase--and to help preserve our Civil War heritage. Twenty dollars of the cost of every $50 tree will go to the nonprofit Civil War Trust, to save land at important battlefields that might otherwise be lost forever to development.

The sycamores are among a number of Civil War trees in AMERICAN FORESTS' inventory. They and their stirring history live on through this program.

Information on acquiring a Gettysburg sycamore or any of the other trees in the Famous and Historic Civil War Trees program is available by calling 800/677-0727, or writing Famous & Historic Trees, 8555 Plummer St., Jacksonville, FL 32219.

Deborah Fitts is the director of communications for the Civil War Trust, headquartered in Washington, DC.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Fitts, Deborah
Publication:American Forests
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:507
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