Living Witnesses to the Civil War

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Living Witnesses to the Civil War

Big Trees survived conflict and are still standing tall

 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – If trees could talk the state’s oldest ones could recount West Virginia’s 149-year history, beginning with its birth during the Civil War. Two of those trees, which are species champions on the state’s Big Tree Register, could relate stories of the land before it was an independent state. They could tell of the conflict itself: roaring cannons, divided loyalties and heartbreaking defeats – all elements rooted in the creation of West Virginia, the 35th state.

The yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava) that grows at the General Lewis Inn saw frontline action during the Battle of Lewisburg. In the early morning hours of May 23, 1862, Confederate forces attacked Union troops in an effort to retake the town. Brigadier General Henry Heth, stationed high above Lewisburg’s eastern border, bombarded the town with artillery and unleashed 2,300 troops on Union forces. Union Colonel George Crook and his men held Lewisburg and forced the Confederates to retreat.

The Battle of Lewisburg, which accounts say lasted little more than an hour, was a deadly one. Eighty Confederates were killed, 100 were wounded and 157 were taken prisoner. Although the Union held Lewisburg, it also lost men: 13 killed, 53 wounded and seven listed as missing.

Lewisburg’s historic yellow buckeye tree is 109 feet tall, has an average crown spread of 56 feet and is 168 inches in circumference. It is the second largest yellow buckeye on record in West Virginia and is featured in the West Virginia Big Tree Register,

www.wvcommerce.org/BigTrees.

 

A 92-foot tall swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) stands along Rattlesnake Run near Shepherdstown, W.Va., a silent witness to the devastation of the bloodiest one-day battle in American history. Across the Potomac River from Sharpsburg, Md., the oak grows along the route Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his men used to evacuate after the Battle of Antietam.

The battle began at dawn on Sept. 17, 1862, and lasted for 12 hours, during which more than 15,000 soldiers were killed or wounded. After spending the next day gathering their wounded and burying their dead, the Army of Northern Virginia evacuated Sharpsburg on the evening of Sept. 18, crossing the Potomac into what is now West Virginia. Along the evacuation route, people opened their homes to care for the wounded and dying; soldiers are said to have rested where the swamp white oak grows still today.

The tree stands 92 feet tall, has an average crown spread of 72.5 feet and is 210.2 inches in circumference. This swamp white oak is a co-champion for the largest of its species in West Virginia, and is included in the West Virginia Big Tree Register,

 

www.wvcommerce.org/BigTrees.

 Both of these historical trees grow on private property, but there are plenty of other Big Trees people can visit in public areas. For a list of Big Trees growing in public areas, visit http://www.wvcommerce.org/resources/forestry/big_tree/publicareas/default.aspx

Both of these historical trees grow on private property, but there are plenty of other Big Trees people can visit in public areas. For a list of Big Trees growing in public areas, visit http://www.wvcommerce.org/resources/forestry/big_tree/publicareas/default.aspx

To find out more about the Big Tree Register, ongoing effort to locate, measure and record the largest trees in the state, log on to

 

www.wvcommerce.org/BigTrees .

 

For more information about the Division of Forestry, visit

 

www.wvforestry.com.

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Contact: Leslie Fitzwater, Public Information Specialist, 304-957-9342 or 304-541-8102, Leslie.C.Fitzwater@wv.gov