Civil War Bullets Found Inside Tree Cut Down At Gettysburg National Military Park

Bullets from a Civil War battle at Gettysburg 148 years ago turned up inside a fallen oak tree that park crews were sawing up for removal. NPS photo.

Stories of the fierce fighting at Gettysburg during the Civil War continue to emerge 148 years later. This time, though, the story revolves around bullets found inside an oak tree at the national military park.

Park crews were sawing the fallen tree on Culp's Hill when their chainsaw bit not only into wood but also into bullets.

"Culp's Hill is one of the areas on the Gettysburg battlefield that saw intense fighting in July 1863," said Gettysburg Superintendent Bob Kirby. "One hundred years ago it was commonplace to find bullets in Gettysburg trees but this is a rarity today."

The discovery was made on August 4, as maintenance employees cut the fallen tree that was resting on a boulder next to the Joshua Palmer marker on the east slope of Culp's Hill summit.

Two sections of the tree trunk where the bullets were discovered have been moved to the park's museum collections storage facility. As a relic of the Battle of Gettysburg, the tree sections with bullets will be treated to remove insects and mold and then added to the museum collections at the national military park.

Due to the steep slope, most of the fallen tree was left in place and will remain there, according to National Park Service officials.

A number of 'witness trees' -- trees that stood during the fighting -- on the Gettysburg battlefield have been well known and frequently pointed out for years during battlefield tours.

In addition, Park Service employees often identify previously unknown witness trees during preparatory work for battlefield rehabilitation efforts, a program where the park re-opens historic meadows and farm fields to restore the historic integrity of the 1863 battlefield and to improve the visitors' understanding of what happened during the fighting of the epic Civil War battle.