An historic woodlot that gave a measure of shelter to beaten and battered Confederate soldiers during the battle at Gettysburg is being trimmed a bit to maintain a balance of mixed age timber, according to officials at the military park.
The 42-acre Herr's woodlot, which stands in the northwest section of the park much as it did in July 1863, will undergo some "health cuts" in the coming six weeks as tree experts strive to reestablish an even balance of younger, middle-aged, and older trees, the officials say.
While any down trees in 1863 would have quickly been removed from the forest floor for fuel or other uses, park officials say those trees cut in the coming weeks will be allowed to slowly decompose to return nutrients to the soils.
"The woodlot now referred to as Herr Woods was actually co-owned in 1863 by Frederick Herr and Joseph Wible, whose property lines subdivided the woods that supplied lumber and fuel to land owners as well as shelter for grazing livestock," says John Heiser, historian for Gettysburg National Military Park.
"On July 1, 1863, the woods offered shelter of another kind for refugees of Brigadier General James Archer's brigade after they had been repulsed and thrown back in disorder by the Union 'Iron Brigade' under General Solomon Meredith," he adds. "Within an hour, North Carolinians under Brigadier James J. Pettigrew deployed in battle line in these woods and sent forward a skirmish line to contest ownership of the Harman Farm with skirmishers from Meredith's brigade. The southerners were subjected to small arms fire and the occasional artillery shelling before moving out from the woods at 1 o'clock to attack the Union troops arrayed along McPherson's Ridge east of Willoughby Run.
"Most likely the saddest use of the woods came soon after when wounded Confederates stumbled their way into the shade of the trees where they waited for ambulances to remove them from the battlefield," added Heiser.
For more information about battlefield rehabilitation efforts at Gettysburg, visit this site.