Witness Tree


The term "witness tree" was new to me when we visited the Antietam Battle Field in Maryland. I knew there were trees around the world that, having lived for centuries, were present for major world events, but I had never heard them called by that name. It is an appropriate title!

The tree to the left of the Antietam Creek Bridge in the picture above is called the Burnside Sycamore. During the very long afternoon of September 17, 1862, General Ambrose Burnside and his Union troops battled three hours against dug-in Confederate positions on this very spot, hoping to take control of the bridge. At this location there were more than 600 casualties that day in what went on to be the bloodiest day of the Civil War. I shot this photo not knowing the tree's history until a guide at the bridge explained it. How it boggles the mind to think this tree, present for the battle, lives on and flourishes into a second new century, even though so many engaged in the fight that day died on the spot.

In Time-Crossed Wedding the Battle of Antietam is mentioned briefly in the lead up to Lawrence, KS scenes. Think of doctors and medics trying to keep their troops alive through this kind of horrific battle. That men survived to go home is perhaps the most amazing part. Many, however, went home with wounds so severe it might have been kinder if they had died because there was no help or rehabilitation waiting for them. Many could not resume their lives as before, so the carnage lived on well past the battle.

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