Tree Clearing at Gettysburg’s Powers Hill

While in Gettysburg yesterday, I took the time to stop at one of the least visited locations of the battlefield – Powers Hill.  There are several reasons to revisit this location, even if you are a Gettysburg Grognard.  The Gettysburg National Military Park included Powers Hill in the ongoing treeline restoration efforts.  Furthermore recent preservation efforts secured adjacent properties, allowing demolition of 20th century structures and even more treeline restoration.

The tree clearing started mid-way through last year.  Gettysburg Daily has provided updates on the progress.  We are probably due for another update, but pending that posting I’ll submit a photo taken from Blacksmith Shop Road.

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In addition to the tag “one of the least visited,” I would also tag Powers Hill as one of the least appreciated points on the battlefield.  Conveniently located off the Baltimore Pike and near cross routes to the Taneytown Road, Powers Hill became an assembly point for artillery in particular.  The Army of the Potomac’s ammunition trains sat nearby.  And of course, as monuments to three Federal batteries attest, the hill became a platform by which artillerymen could support the Federal right flank.  In the early morning of July 3, 1863, gunners on Powers Hill opened fire on Confederates in the vicinity of Spangler’s Spring and Culp’s Hill.

Edwin Forbes sketch of the fighting at Culp's Hill with Powers Hill to the left

The treeline clearing at Powers Hill, taken with similar efforts at the James McAllister Farm and Spangler’s Spring areas, offers the chance to better interpret the battlefield.  Most readers have stood at the “Angle” on Cemetery Ridge and appreciated the artillery placement.  On that relatively wide open space, even a novice can recognize the best locations for artillery.  “Put the guns here and fire at the enemy over there.  Simple right?”  But over on Powers Hill one can fully appreciate the tactical prowess of the Yankee gunners.

Long range fire on Powers Hill effectively shielded the Federal right flank.  However, in the past that story was hard to relate because we saw the forest AND the trees.  While several modern dwellings (and a miniature golf course) will remain in the line of sight after the tree clearing is done, visitors can better appreciate the prominence of Powers Hill over that sector of the field.

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One better – realize that the crest of Powers Hill is only about 1200 feet, give or take, from the parking lot at the Gettysburg Visitor Center.  Yes, closer in proximity than Meade’s Headquarters.  If the park is not planning a walking trail out that way, they are missing a great opportunity.

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