Star Trail

Star TrailMiraculously this white oak tree survived the Battle of Gettysburg, witnessing some of the Civil War’s most violent fighting at Devil’s Den in 1863. The nearly 200-year-old tree was used by Harvey Munsell of the 99th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, who was the flag bearer for the regiment, which was recruited from Philadelphia and Lancaster County at the war’s onset. Munsell won the Medal of Honor Award after the war, bestowed by the U.S. Congress for his valorous service on the battlefield. He remarkably survived the war, carrying the flag in 13 different battles for the 99th.

He was one of 63 soldiers to win the prestigious medal, though after the battle, he admitted that he feigned his death by this tree as Confederates from Texas and Arkansas attacked and pushed the Pennsylvanians off the igneous rocks that make up Devil’s Den.

Ironically, Devil’s Den was also witness to a sharp Native American battle dubbed “Battle of the Crows,” that was fought there a century before the Civil War and before this magnificent tree was born.

This image was taken during the recent Advent season featuring 150 30-second exposures – merged into one file to create the star trail effect around the North Star – Polaris – which actually is a three star complex that remains stationary in the heavens as the celestial north pole. The yellow supergiant star is the 50th brightest star in the heavens, and is nearly 433 light years away from Earth. It still is used as a navigational guide to sojourners worldwide.

By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

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