A managed woodlot along East Berlin Road (S.R. 234) in Adams County, Pennsylvania, not far from the June 30, 1863, campsite of Jubal Early’s division of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Click on the photo to enlarge it for a better look.
In a recent Johnny Reb 3 game, the conversation turned to the rules for light woods versus heavy woods. I mentioned that, at least here in south-central Pennsylvania and central Maryland, during the 1860s many farmers practiced controlled management of their woodlots. The above photo is a view I snapped today during a drive out to Gettysburg along the exact route Early’s men took to reach the battlefield. Farmers would allow cattle to graze in their woodlots, which would tramp down and munch on the underbrush. Deadfall, lower limbs, etc. would be used for kindling for fireplaces, and landowners would thin out the trees to allow spaces in the canopy for more sunlight.
Postbellum view of McPherson’s Woods at Gettysburg at approximately the place where Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds of Lancaster, PA, was shot and killed. Note how similar it looked to the modern photo of the East Berlin Road site.
Most of the woods on the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863 would have been similar to the photograph, or perhaps even cleaner and less dense. Have a look at period photos of the McPherson Woods (then the Hersbt woods). The recent movement by the Park Service to cut back nonhistoric woods does not include any provision or funding to return one of the woodlots back to this managed style. It would be nice if they would do so for the McPherson Woods so trampers and tourists could have an idea of what the terrain may have looked like.