Gettysburg Sentinels sources our wood from the trees that dot the landscape of the Gettysburg battlefield. Part of our mission is to preserve our history, which is why we only obtain our wood in a responsible and sustainable manner.
Why do we take the trees we use and the way we source them so seriously?
Today, I want to spend time honoring what makes these trees the amazing specimens they are, and share with you how we source them in a fully sustainable and responsible way.
What are witness trees and battlefield trees?
Gettysburg Sentinels is built around the proud tradition of our materials. That comes down to two main sources - witness trees and battlefield trees.
Witness Trees: These are old and wise trees that were present for the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. These have stood the test of time, bearing witness to this event that shaped our nation’s history and the many changes that have visited us since.
Battlefield Trees: Though these aren’t as old as witness trees, battlefield trees have grown out of the soil of the battlefield. They may not have seen the Civil War, but they’ve risen to take their place on the field of combat.
The connection between these two kinds of trees and the history of the United States is incredible. It works its way down to the grain of the wood, reminding us that living memory stretches out much further than we might imagine.
When you hold an item created from one of these trees, you can feel the weight of that history. There is something deep in the material that you can’t measure, but you know it’s there.
Why are trees from the Gettysburg Battlefield removed?
Everything for sale at Gettysburg Sentinels is made out of trees harvested at the battlefield. But we never contribute to a single tree being cut down at this historic site.
How can that be?
There are many reasons that trees have to be removed at Gettysburg. Whenever they are, we try to secure as much of it to be immortalized in one of our hand-crafted products.
Below, you can learn about the five most common reasons trees are removed from Gettysburg.
Controlling the spread of tree diseases is a critical task for preserving the battlefield. Limb removal is often required to make sure that diseases don’t spread throughout Gettysburg’s forests and the surrounding areas. In some cases, entire trees need to be removed.
Luckily, none of it has to go to waste. The resulting wood is perfect for our products.
Trees are living beings, and they eventually reach the end of their life cycle.
When they do, arborists are brought in to safely remove them, making sure that space is made for young saplings to reach their full potential.
Like anywhere else, storms blow through Gettysburg from time to time. When they do, they often take down trees.
These downed trees are then removed, and we put them to use by turning them into beautiful, artisanal-crafted items. The Longstreet tree is a great example of this.
IV. Historical accuracy
Maintaining the historical accuracy of the battlefield requires continual upkeep. The Park Service wants to maintain Gettysburg so that visitors today see it much as it was in July of 1863.
Professionals are sometimes brought in to eliminate newer trees to maintain clearings that were present at the battle.
V. Accessibility and safety
There are also times where the Park Service has to remove trees to improve accessibility and preserve the battlefield as a place for public education.
Similarly, some trees get to the point where they pose a threat to visitors and monuments. In those cases, they need to be removed to keep the park safe.
Verifying Witness Trees and Battlefield Trees
Gettysburg Sentinel always verifies the wood we use. For us, the source of our material is everything. This is what connects our craft of woodworking to our commitment to honor the sacrifice that our soldiers make.
Witness and battlefield trees hold the connection between the tradition of our handiwork and the legacy of sacrifice for the greater good. So we do everything we can to know exactly where the wood comes from.
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Protecting the stories of the trees
Gettysburg Sentinels does everything in our power to protect that part of our heritage captured inside our trees. Sometimes we do that by crafting pieces out of a witness tree that stood amid the chaos of warfare. Other times, it’s by using wood from a tree that drew life out of the ground where so many met their death.
These trees are central to everything we do. That’s why we make sure each and every tree we use can be verified. And we only use trees that are already being removed from Gettysburg.
If you find this wood as inspiring and important as we do, check out our shop where every item is lovingly crafted out of a witness or battlefield tree.