Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is There Any Other "Copse" of Trees?

Mention the copse to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Civil War and that person will know precisely to what you are referring. The copse...or rather, Copse of Trees is of course the culminating point of Longstreet's famed assault - known to most as Pickett's Charge - on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg...what many believe was the turning point of the Civil War.

But why copse? Why not "patch" or "grove" or "thicket" or something like that? It seems that the word was selected for this particular growth of trees by historian/artist John B. Bachelder back in 1870 - in a book detailing a painting on the repulse of Longstreet's Assault (at least that is the earliest reference that I am aware of). And the name stuck. As the Battle of Gettysburg ascended higher and higher again into American lore and legend, the copse became The Copse of mythic proportions.

So by my estimation, this little stand of trees has ruined the word for any other copses out there. That is all well and good, I suppose. I mean, no one really uses the word any more to refer to other trees...so what's the trouble with having only one copse? Maybe other small groves of trees should go by the term "coppice." It's almost the same and such a reference won't confuse any Civil War enthusiasts who happen to be nearby.



  1. I wonder how the "copse" is maintained? These can't all be witness trees, obviously. Does the park plant a tree there every once in a while to fill out the "copse"?

  2. I have often wondered that myself. They don't appear to be witness trees so why do they fence it off? To keep the myth that they are? I remember sometime hearing there were only around 4-5 witness trees left... I believe that was even after lightning took out the one (I was in town when that happened).